The Football World Cup propels me back to the ground, gravity, feet, balance – themes that I have explored in many blogs and which you can access via the Archive menu on insideyoga.blog. Whilst engaging with Yale’s Happiness online course, the set exercises have encouraged my mind to pass the ball” back and forth whilst scrutinizing habits and behaviour. From the “sidelines” came a reference (stored in drafts) to a research study published that found a link between anxiety and walking. There I had it and after a spot of “dribbling” I found that I could take a “shot at goal”. Here’s the “ball” – I hope that it is not a “dummy”.
In 2016, Kent University Psychology School published the results of research that linked activity in the brain’s two hemispheres with a shift in people’s walking trajectories. The headlines read as follows:
- Why anxiety makes people veer to the left
- Feeling anxious? You’re more likely to lose your way and TURN left, researchers say.
- Anxiety can affect your walking direction
The researchers found evidence that blindfolded individuals who displayed inhibition or anxiety were prone to walk to the left, indicating greater activation in the right hemisphere of the brain. I was slightly knocked off course by this since I was not familiar with the terms “inhibition” and “approach”. The Kent University study indicated that:
………the brain’s two hemispheres are associated with different motivational systems. These relate on the right side to inhibition and on the left to approach…….
The Behavioural Approach System (BAS) and the Behavioural Inhibition System (BIS) formed the basis of Gray’s Biopsychological theory of personality In the 1970s Jeffrey Gray hypothesized that these two systems controlled behavioural activity. A behavioral approach system is believed to regulate appetitive motives, in which the goal is to move toward something desired. A behavioral avoidance (or inhibition) system is said to regulate aversive motives, in which the goal is to move away from something unpleasant.
The findings of the Kent study were based upon 80 right-handed participants. Some data was lost, leaving the final sample of 78 participants (60 females, 17 males and 1 other gender). The data corroborated previous studies. Charles Carver and Eddie Harmon-Jones ‘ research in 2009 found that anger relates to an appetitive or approach motivational system, whereas anxiety relates to an aversive or avoidance motivational system.. Importantly, however, the Kent University study found that inhibition (anxiety) contributed towards leftwards walking bias irrespective levels of BAS. It seems that behavioural inhibition has a more central role in the orienting bias than previously assumed. The findings helps us to understand a little more about human motivation – about how we respond to challenges, changes, how we adapt and grow.
How do I link such profound research with yoga teaching/practice? …..Cautiously, one would suggest. My last blog was entitled “..Why are we doing yoga?..”
Whilst examining my own motivation and that of teachers and students close to me , I recognize how a regular practice of yoga/meditation can have a very positive impact upon stress. I have also been struck by some who prefer a more rigid approach than Scaravelli-inspired classes often offer – they want to be “told what to do” in a yoga class and find the process of exploration and choice to be too much to handle. Some have, on occasions, become quite angry. I can also understand this. At some junctures, structure is all-important. Thus the shape of a yoga pose provides support, holding the pose demonstrates strength. This in no way undermines such practices.. Regular yoga practice is the key to begin to make changes to our habits – to begin to discriminate between helpful and unhelpful patterns of movement and attitudes.
This brings us back to finding balance. Last week we explored balance and breath with curiosity . We identified our footprints and noticed our breathing – the movement of the diaphragm, the balance between ribs and pelvis in quiet standing (tadasana). We explored a one-legged balance ( some moved towards tree pose, some explored the movement of the unsupported leg in the hip socket and the stability of the pelvis) and we returned to quiet standing and the breath. We repeated this with an exploration of Warrior 1 and Warrior 3 – we noted how we, as individuals find support. Some students moved into other spaces of their own accord – ardha chandrasana, for example. We compared controlled breathing with our natural breath and noticed whether our breathing adapted to movement – to change.
I wobbled more on my left leg than my right – so there you are. But, there is hope. Lionel Messi has a very powerful kick from his left foot, but (apparently), he also shoots better with his right than most other left footers. Christiano Renaldo’s “weaker foot” , his left, seems to be as good as his right when scoring goals. One writer notes, of Renaldo that “You can tell he doesn’t have quite the same power as his right foot but the precision and accuracy are still there….
With practice, I will find my way, it may be slow – too slow for some – but I’m beginning to believe that it will really work. Perhaps it’s more than my feet that is finding balance.
See some of you next week for the “post-match analysis”.