“The music is not in the notes, but in the silence between.”  

-Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

We live in a world where individuals are constantly surrounded by some kind of noise. Whether it comes from traffic, advertisements, music, podcasts, TV, movies, or conversations; the external world is saturated. Something is always begging for our attention which could create experiences of sensory overload and anxiety among individuals. People sleep less today compared to just a decade ago and nervous systems remain in active states.

Specifically, the sympathetic nervous system remains on, and in the ready-to-react state for learning, social interaction, alertness, and fight or flight. If an individual remains in this state without the ability to rest, then anxiety, anger, restlessness, panic, and hyperactivity can result. Due to these feelings of restlessness, anxiety, and so on, we find ourselves in a loop. We continue to use noisy distractions to mask the depleting emotions. In turn, we constantly stay engaged and active, leading to feelings of anxiety and the like, then masking them with distractions. The loop continues.

As individuals have come to use noise as a distraction from their internal world, much of society is unsure of how to sit in stillness and silence. The emotions feel heavy, out of control. The mind can feel like a tornado of thoughts, also out of control. When we use distractions, we feel in control and safe. Although we may feel safe, these constant distractions are causing harm by keeping the body in the physical state of hyperarousal. Without the aid of external distractions, we may feel naked, vulnerable, restless, and uncomfortable sitting in silence. Out of our comfort zone.

As we come to practice sitting in stillness and silence, the body taps into the complementary parasympathetic nervous system. This contrasting nervous system is the state of rest and reset. Research suggests sitting in silence physically changes our bodies. Our blood pressure drops, heart rate slows, blood circulation to the brain improves, and cortisol adrenaline levels reduce. In a 2013 study on mice, researchers found silence for two hours a day increased brain cells where learning and memory functions are primarily located, in the hippocampus.

Although the first few times sitting in silence can feel uncomfortable, it’s the first step in emotional healing. The silence allows for internal reflection and mindfulness. It allows the emotions and thoughts that have been suppressed to rise to the surface and be acknowledged. That can sound scary. Just know, it’s ok. Psychology shows that when we acknowledge fear or uncomfortable emotions, they tend to subside and become less. When we practice sitting in silence as the observer of our internal world, we can bring understanding and compassion to ourselves.

Naturally, the human body is equipped with yin and yang in the form of a parasympathetic and sympathetic nervous system. These systems have opposite functions and support each other through their differences. Staying in one state vs the other can result in harmful effects to the physical, emotional, and mental body. The key to a healthy life is playing in and with the balance of activity and rest. There is no right or wrong way to do it. Through reflection and compassion, we find our own unique symphony of sound and silence.

By Shannon Potter, February 2023

Exclusive vs. Inclusive

When I began practicing yoga in 2000, yoga seemed exclusive. Certain styles of yoga offered “their” way as being the only way. Some studios catered to a certain audience that didn’t necessarily include me.  Athletic, thin, affluent,  mostly white and  female. I hadn’t participated in anything athletically physical in all my adult life. On that note, very little in my childhood as well. I was working an 8-5 to make ends meet. I did fit into the white and female categories. Things like yoga tribe and good vibes only are things I would hear and see, still do, associated with the practice.  I don’t subscribe to those channels. 

I went to studios near and far to learn the physical practice. I thought that was practice. When I attended studios that were inclusive. Studios that served old, young, all genders, races and  physical levels and that weren’t teaching “advanced postures”. I thought it wasn’t yoga. To say the least, I was in yoga preschool. Oohhhh, how I longed to do a handstand in the middle of the room. 

I met a teacher in 2012 that ROCKED MY WORLD! I left her class crying. Something I’m not accustomed to doing. She didn’t teach advanced postures. Her class included an African American man in his 90’s, people with physical limitations and an array of health issues. 

She was teaching Ayurveda this particular weekend that I was there and I began to learn some of the fundamentals of yoga. Some of the things I had been teaching weren’t accessible to my audience. 

This was an eye opener! I began to let the “advanced postures” go. They aren’t necessary. This allows more people to participate. I strive to make my classes inclusive so that all bodies can participate. It can be a challenge as some students have been practicing for years, some are there for physicality, all of our bodies are put together differently, so we can’t all make the same shapes. However, we can all breathe and as long as we’re doing that together, mindfully, we’re practicing yoga.

February 8, 2023 By Jody Reece


Community by Shannon Potter

“My life amounts to no more than one drop in a limitless ocean. Yet, what is an ocean but a multitude of drops?” –Cloud Atlas David Mitchell

Communities would not be possible without the single droplets of individuals. Although, in the last decade with the rise of technology and social media, surveys have found people increasingly feel more like a single droplet that is not a part of an ocean. Engaging in communities, such as the yoga community, could be a relief for those struggling with loneliness.

In 2017, the former U.S. Surgeon General declared an epidemic of loneliness. The following year, the U.K. appointed a Minister of Loneliness so the rising number of lonely individuals can reach out to access information and resources to feel less lonely. As social media has gained popularity over the years, loneliness has grown in correlation. Could it be that observing others’ connections via social media contributes to the feeling of being alone? Although social media insinuates community, connections are rooted deeper than solely relying on surface connections through the screen. As we have broader access to lives across the world, our ocean expands to limitless ends, and we comparatively feel smaller and less significant. Without engagement in a community through the physical world, we feel shallow connections to life in general.

Research supports that involvement in communities contributes to a person’s physical, mental, and emotional wellbeing. Participation in a community can offer an extra sense of meaning and purpose to a person’s life through contribution and social interaction. When the feeling of fellowship with other lone souls occurs, that is community. Where we come together to share experiences and ideas, to challenge and be challenged, and to acknowledge one another. Communities give us the sense that we are not alone. Through even the smallest connection, we feel we are a part of something bigger. Engaging in communities in the physical world in addition to the online communities, we feel connected and supported. We embrace our small droplet and coincide with the view, energy, and presence of others to become a part of a communal body of water.

Drifting through the door at a yoga studio, a community is found. Where individuals come together for different reasons; whether it be to open the body, heal the heart, or calm the mind. Those differences create tides of energy felt through the room as individuals move, breathe, and find stillness together as a whole. Yoga itself is a tool to open and heal the body, heart, and mind. When practiced with others in the community, benefits can be felt tenfold. Involvement in the local yoga community can look like simply taking a class for the first time, following the teacher, and not knowing what to expect. It can also look like taking classes weekly, saying hello to a few familiar faces, and exploring poses you’ve come to know. Whether it’s the first class or the fiftieth, one may notice changes such as the  body and heart opening, the mind a bit more at ease, and possibly a feeling of belonging.

We invite you to be a part of our community at Inside Out Yoga in Downtown Winter Haven, Florida. We have all kinds of classes every day with a variety of teachers that could be suitable to your uniqueness. New students can enjoy unlimited classes for two weeks for twenty dollars. We invite you to open your heart to explore the mysteries of your internal world and embrace the vibrant ocean that surrounds you.