Above, left to right: Live Be Yoga Tour ambassadors Taylor O'Sullivan and Tarah Stuht at Miraval Wellness Spa & Resort.
"Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and freedom."
- Viktor Frankl, neurologist and psychiatrist, 1905-1997
While visiting the Miraval Wellness Spa & Resort in Tucson, Arizona, the Live Be Yoga Tour team had the fortunate opportunity to meet Anne Parker, an Emotional Intelligence (EQ) expert and psychotherapist who has been influencing the guests of Miraval for years. EQ is defined as the ability to recognize one’s own and other people’s emotions; to discriminate between different feelings and label them appropriately; and to use emotional information to guide thinking and behavior. What this means is we're all exposed to the way certain emotions affect us, but we don’t have to react the way we've practiced throughout our lives. In other words, using our EQ reminds us that emotions are a choice, not just a reaction.
Anne explained to us that physiologically, when we become stressed, angry, nervous, or sad, the prefrontal cortex in the brain closes and we reduce what she refers to as our Optimum Performance State (measuring OPS is a method of determining the level of our EQ). OPS is a mentality that allows us to act with the highest level of performance, and it can be measured using a level of "coherence," or clarity of thought, speech, and emotional composure. So how do we measure our coherence level to determine whether we are functioning at our OPS? Anne gave us a special application called Inner Balance (created by HeartMath.org) that measures Heart-Rate Variability or heart-rhythm patterns (HRV), which reflects heart-brain interaction, neurocardiac function, and autonomic nervous system activity. HRV is very sensitive to changes in emotional state, and using the Inner Balance earlobe sensor, you can actually see the emotions you are feeling on the screen, no matter how subtle they might be. The application shows three colors: red (when you are uneasy), blue (if you are calming down), and green (if you have reached coherence). Characteristics of coherence include:
-heightened clarity of awareness
-fully present in here and now
-ease even with exertion
-mentally focused but not overthinking
-mentally and emotionally agile
-efficiency in physiological functioning
-resonating with positive emotion
Benefits of achieving coherence are:
- you're in charge of your emotional response
- intuition is activated
- increased vitality, energy, and mental clarity
- quicker reaction times
- improved concentration and memory
- improved impulse control
- greater emotional and physical resilience
- decreased anxiety and fatigue
- improved sleep
The Inner Balance app helps us recognize our emotions through standard scientific research methods that anyone can benefit from. Personally, it was challenging for me to reach coherence because I had to control my thoughts in order to get the green color to appear (when I was calm and focused, I would see green, but the moment I became anxious, I'd see red). I compare this experience to meditating because when I meditate, I am trying to reach this same level of peace and clarity within. For those of us who have a difficult time grasping our emotions, this application is great training tool. Achieving coherence, as Anne explains, "isn’t about figuring it out, but about looking inward and choosing to reflect on life differently.”
Want to follow us on the best yoga tour ever? Visit us on Facebook @LIVEBEYOGA, Instagram @LIVEBEYOGA and Twitter @LIVEBEYOGA for the latest stories from the road. Connect with us @YogaJournal and @Gaia + share your photos with #LIVEBEYOGA.