Yoga and Self-Regulation
A middle-school student chooses not to experiment with cigarette smoking, increasing the odds of avoiding recreational drug use—and making her dream of joining the varsity team a reality.
A schoolteacher leads the class in yogic three-part breathing, helping students to focus and do their best as they complete an exam.
A counselor in a locked-down juvenile rehabilitation center allocates a few moments at the start of a group session for everyone to recline in rest pose, creating an atmosphere in which the discussion can proceed calmly and openly.
A corrections officer remembers to use a yoga-based tool for riding the wave of emotions after dealing with an aggressive altercation between inmates, and is able to let the experience of vicarious trauma go.
A nurse sets aside two minutes at the start of a shift for the staff to set an intention to bring mindfulness to patient care and to give themselves permission to take short breaks every so often for their own self-care.
Self-regulation is the critical capacity needed for success in any endeavor. In fact, self-regulation is a greater predictor of success than intellect. And a growing body of scientific study points to self-regulation as a key outcome of yoga practice, as observed at the cognitive, emotional, behavioral, and physical levels. Our research has informed the development and delivery of Kripalu Approach programming that teaches yoga-based tools for self-regulation.
Lack of self-regulation is implicated in a variety of hurdles to full potential, including any disease that has a stress-related component. These include burnout, anxiety and depression, suicide, substance abuse, violence and criminal behavior, obesity and diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. When we are not well self-regulated, we focus only on short-term threats or opportunities, emphasize self rather than community, and lose the capacity to engage in executive functioning.
When we are self-regulated, we can be our best selves, act in alignment with our highest intentions, access inner and outer resources to serve a goal, and engage our executive functions. Self-regulation allows us to access all the critical aspects of executive functioning, including the ability to think strategically, empathize, collaborate, and innovate.
Yoga is a comprehensive practice of self-regulation, one that facilitates change not only mentally but also behaviorally. Yoga provides both “top-down” tools (that is, tools that impact the mind) as well as “bottom-up tools” (tools that impact the body), and it is this synergistic effect, unique to yoga, which creates the most impact.