Where would we be without books? I love reading. I am so grateful to my parents for encouraging me to read from a young age. Surely it is one of the best gifts we can give our children. The ability to read, to imagine, to dream, to tell stories, all so important for development and health. I was delighted to receive some wonderful and much desired books for Christmas. And it’s been a joy to have a week off to indulge in early morning reading with a cup of tea in bed. I hadn’t realised how much I needed the rest.

One of these books is ‘When the Body Says No, The cost of Hidden Stress’ by Gabor Maté. Maté is a Hungarian-born, Canadian doctor specialising in mind-body health among other things. The book discusses how emotional stress is a major cause of physical illness. So often however, our emotional state doesn’t even come into consideration. The book is not for everyone and may evoke a strong response, depending of course on our own existing belief systems.

For my part, I am still surprised when I hear people separate mind and body health. So much has been written, studied and researched about this. In the Western world however, we still seem to struggle to appreciate that this separation surely exists more to simplify to understand rather than to separate. When we take the time to understand how the brain and body systems are intimately connected with our hormonal apparatus, the nervous system, and in particular the immune system, mind-body is clearly one entity. Everything is linked and this is as relevant for our processing of emotions as it is for our ability to fight or flee from a threatening situation.

My dear friend Liz and I were discussing how we feel and what we’re experiencing right now as we enter a new year, all wanting reassurance that things can only get better. We talked about how we both feel there is a ‘social anxiety’ in all of us before we even get out of bed living through a global pandemic. Maté shares that research has identified three factors that universally lead to stress: uncertainty, lack of information, the loss of control. Sound familiar?

Given that Covid and perhaps how different governments, groups and individuals are responding  to it, it is no surprise that stress-related illnesses/disease are significantly increasing. Across all ages.  If we cannot change these stressors right now, we surely must look at our own stress responses in order to boost our immune systems and stay well, on all levels.According to Maté, healing starts with acceptance and awareness.

Yoga of course, can be a great teacher and thankfully helps me with both. To ‘work on’ accepting things as they are, even if I don’t like them. And awareness to pick up, to really listen to my own physical, mental and emotional cues depending on how present I can stay to my practice. And it’s not easy.

So if you need a good reason to come back to or start Yoga in 2021, let it be this. Let your yoga be one of the tools to help you through this uncertain and scary time for as long as is needed. Until we can celebrate with conviction that Covid is well and truly behind us all.