We'd both just come out of our japanese class and Valerio turned to me and stated
"you know, I always go into the class really stressed ...."
(he has to dash home from work at wonderfully yet ridiculously early time)
"......... yet when I come out I feel totally relaxed."
Usually, personally I come out of the lesson feeling like my brain has been fried due to the effort made by my overly dormant linguistic neurons which are taking their time at re-awakening. However, apart from the pure cognitive up-hill struggle, I have to say I too feel the same.
Valerio carried on:
"I think it's because it has to do with the fact that for a period of time I am totally concentrated on only one thing. Japanese."
And I think he has hit the nail on the head. We do not need to sleep to feel refreshed we simply need to concentrate on one thing at a time. And to breathe :-) People tend to block their natural breathing pattern, sucking in their abdomen and creating as little movement as possible causing (along with all the difficulties big and small that the day presents one with) the body to become rigid and the mind to be in stress mode. But anyway...going back to Japenese....
Doing more two or more things at once is not clever, it's bloody tiring. And cognitively speaking we are doing ourselves no favors. Just because you are physically able to perform two tasks at once doesn't mean you should. What you are in fact doing (as I have mentioned before in my post on multitasking) is DIVIDING your attention. You cannot put 100% attention on two tasks - you have to divide it. It has been proven that if you try to learn something whilst performing another task (listening to the ipod for example), your ability to recall what you have learnt later on will be far diminished. As Norman Doidge states in his book "How the brain changes itself" "When we want to remember something we have heard we must hear it clearly, because a memory can only be as clear as the original signal". Which explains why I can never remember to buy those little honey throat sweets that every morning Valerio pleads me to get, or to remember to iron the shirts (sigh - yes yoga instructors are human beings too) not because I am The Anti-Wife in persona, but because I have has to receive his message through a blanket of noise whilst task performing ; kids screaming, cats meowing, whilst plating melitta's hair and eating my cornflakes.
SO why do you feel good after your yoga session? Apart from it being finished :-) perhaps you feel good because you have been concentrating on one thing, and one thing alone. Yoga in this case. This in itself brings about a state of inner calm. We are also (as in the case of learing Japanese for Valerio) in what Csikszentmihalyi calls a "state of flow" - a state in which you are so concentrated on what you are doing than time no longer has meaning (time flies without you noticing) you feel completely at one with what you are doing, there is a loss of ego, a sense of accomplishment, satisfaction, you feel positively productive and perfectly at your ease (well...at least I hope you do at least some of the time on your yoga mat!) . The good news is that yes yoga does or can help induce a state of flow but even better, simply concentrating FULLY on one thing at a time should also get you in the right direction.
Going slowly and paying undivided attention IS relaxing - no matter how much you have to do. Try it.
Ma-ta-ne! ("see you later" in Japanese - but actually I have no idea how to spell it!)