Think Like a Zebra (Part 2)

Emergency Dismount

Theme song: U2’s I Will Follow. Enjoy the 1980 throwback here.

In Think Like a Zebra the point is that it can take a real toll on your body to stress out about something that you have no control over. For example, zebras may hang out at a water hole with a lion nearby- but they’re not going to run from the predator until it is actually chasing them.

In the above video, you’ll see that when zebras do need to get moving, they do so in a pretty ordered fashion. That is, they follow one another along a known path. No sense wasting energy taking off in separate directions, over unknown ground. They have a plan.

It’s what I call an Emergency Dismount. When I was a girl, I took riding lessons from an old leathery faced woman named Mrs. Stephens. This little, soft spoken woman would have all of us kids riding our horses around the ring and then suddenly yell, “Emergency Dismount!” And we would all have to jump off our horses. A training exercise to teach us how to fall off. A plan.

I would ride through the fields on my horse with my arms raised high in delight- all because I knew how to fall off.

One way to ‘live in the moment’ is to have an Emergency Dismount.

Drink

Theme song: All I Need by Radiohead. Listen to an incredible version here.

In all my years watching and working with wildlife, I have never seen an animal stop eating to take a drink. Drinking is an event in itself.  And it’s fascinating. Watch the lion in the above video. He spends a good 30 seconds swallowing water. (And it’s so cool the way he just glances at us in the truck, while the cameras are clicking away.)

It makes sense that a trip to the water hole is an entirely different excursion than hunting or gathering your food. What naturally follows is that our bodies just seem to work better if we don’t mix up the two processes. Even Ayurvedic medicine recommends not drinking while eating- read about it here.

Vibrations

Theme song: Listen to the visceral sounds of forest elephant rumblings here.*

When shooting video, you quickly learn how critical sound is. The video above of the elephants is just so peaceful to me- I just love the ambient sounds…the birds, wind in the grasses. So many of my videos have clicking cameras and truck engines in the background. The animal behavior can be spectacular but the background noise will just mess with the feel of it.

Audio is 51% of video. 

Why?

According to Naad Yoga there are two types of sounds. Ahad sounds are the vibrations heard when you pluck a guitar cord. Anahad refers to the primal creation of sound that makes up the universe. Even rocks have a frequency.

It’s this primal frequency that I feel when I listen to the elephant rumblings. There’s just something that stirs inside that I interpret as soulful but there must be something else. Elephants can even communicate at frequencies so low we cannot hear it. This infrasonic communication allows them to ‘talk’ several miles away. *A Cornell study looks at this in forest elephants: Elephant Listening Project.

And just this weekend I saw a male alligator displaying a typical mating posture for this time of year: his back raised up, you could see all his scutes and then his snout pointed up to the sky as his tail raised. Gorgeous. Usually this is accompanied by a similar infrasonic sound that sometimes causes the water to dance. Check it out here.

As much as I did not want to admit it- I felt a similar energy field when I participated in a group chant during yoga teacher training. I’m not much of a group-sing type of person but there was just something about the energy of the vibrations that connected us. Hmm.

Think like a Zebra.

Theme song: Pearl Jam’s  Just Breathe

Humans have a hard time turning the “off” switch. We have the ability to lie in bed, perfectly still and cozy away from harm, and yet our heart can race because of our thoughts. Think about it. Just a thought  can change the functioning of the cells in our body.

For zebras, this stress response is saved for the 3 minute lion escape across the savanna. They’re not going to waste it on something that’s not going to kill them RIGHT NOW. In the 24s video above notice only a few seconds when the zebras react in a WTF? manner to our clicking cameras.  Then, it’s over. They get back to business.* That’s living in the moment. They don’t waste precious energy and we shouldn’t either.

sapolsky-robert-baboon

Robert Sapolsky is awesome. He’s a neuroscientist & primatologist. Watch this video explanation of his work in  Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers.

If you or anyone you know suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder, you get it: combat, abuse, and sadly many other forms of chronic trauma can actually have a shrinking effect on the hippocampus. For those of us lucky ones without PTSD, daily stressors can still screw with us. There is support  for the health benefits of deep breathing techniques. You can actually feel it affect your vagus nerve as you slowww down your exhale.

Om Gam Ganapataye Namaha.  Om Ganesha Sharanam

I’m no Sanskrit scholar, but was told this loosely translates into: When the shit hits the fan, where do you go for shelter? (Thank you, Michael Johnson. Watch his asanas while he explains the essence of yoga.) Essentially, we should be more like zebras. Wait until the shit really hits the fan- then just breathe through it.

*Fun Fact: When zebras are together in a herd, they’re usually facing different directions to watch for danger. Asses in the middle, eyes out & around.