Slow down with Dr. Susan Pataky
A common theme Dr. Susan Pataky hears in her yoga studio at the Community House is that people are stressed. Unsurprisingly, stress is an epidemic in our society. To help students cope, Pataky is placing a large emphasis on how to de-stress during her one hour yoga sessions.
Pataky said that because of the never-ending bombardment of phone alerts and the constant connection to social media, people are almost always in a flight, fight or freeze mode.
“You have access to all of this stuff so there is constant hyper-stimulation. One of yoga’s gifts is the ability to switch off the sympathetic and turn on the parasympathetic nervous system,” Pataky said.
The sympathetic system activates the flight or fight response while the parasympathetic system slows down the heart rate and conserves energy. It also increases intestinal and glandular activity. Practicing yoga helps awaken the parasympathetic system.
Pataky tailors the class to each person’s physical and emotional needs.
“I always ask what’s going on so I can weave in specifics. From a holistic perspective, we are one of a kind. No two people are the same. No two diseases are the same. One size does not fit all,” Pataky said. “The goal is to offer people in the classes personal solutions.”
Pataky received her doctorate degree in naturopathic medicine at the University of Bridgeport in Connecticut. From there, she completed her thesis at Yale University.
One of the de-stressing techniques she teaches is diaphragmatic breathing which is also known as belly breaths. She said deep belly breaths allow a moment of simply just being.
“It’s a deeper, slower breath. It promotes parasympathetic dominance.” Pataky said. “It massages all the contents in the belly. It massages the heart as well.”
In addition to massaging vital organs, it’s an abdominal muscle exercise as well.
“You’re stretching, expanding and then contracting. The difficulty is letting it go, letting it balloon out. The idea is to imagine that the air is going into the region where your hands are, like a balloon, it will fill and expand. On the exhale as you let go, the muscles contract; that’s strengthening the abs and helping the lower back,” Pataky said.
Belly breaths are also great for menstrual cramps, digestive issues and upset stomachs. She recommends doing 10 deep breaths when you wake up and before you go to bed.
“It makes a positive impact on your health. How you start and end your day matters,” she said.
Pataky said for some people, it may take some time to get acquainted with so it’s important to be patient.
“There’s a disconnect. When muscles aren’t used for a long time, accessory muscles kick in and the actual muscle, it’s as if it forgets how to work.
Another technique she uses in her class are mudras which are hand gestures that help facilitate pathways of energy in the body.
“If you need to ground (yourself), you turn your palms down and if you’re sending energy, the palms can be up,” she said.
Mudras are a great way to help calm the nervous system. Pataky also said that practicing meditation and mantras are also a great way to keep a sound mind.
“What you do during the day for self matters. We can all take 30 seconds to get off the ride and relax,” Pataky said.
Pataky’s all level yoga takes place at the Community House from 10 to 11 a.m. The drop in rate is $20 per class, cash only. For Community House members, the cost is $18. For more information, go to sanibelcommunityhouse.net/calendar or call (239) 472-2155.