Stress Stress Stress
Not all stress is created equal. Stress is necessary for life. Stress you experience when a truck is hurtling towards you at 80kms helps you get out of the way fast! This instinctive response occurs in an area of the brain that is primarily concerned with our survival and without it the human race would be long gone. Mild forms of stress are good for you assisting with learning, creativity and your survival.
When stress overwhelms your nervous system your body is flooded with chemicals that prepare you for “fight or flight”. While the stress response can be lifesaving in emergency situations where you need to act quickly, it wears your body down when constantly activated by the stresses of everyday life.
Stress and the body
The stress response in the body is a system that prepares the body to deal with an acute crisis. The body responds to a perceived physical threat by diverting energy away from bodily functions such as digestion and reproduction mediated by the parasympathetic nervous system.
The body under the influence of the sympathetic nervous system releases stress hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol. These hormones influence the heart and lungs as they increase speed of the breath and increase your blood pressure and heart rate. The sympathetic nervous system revs up, increasing blood flow to the large muscles that help you defend yourself or run away. (Fight or Flight) Your blood sugar is mobilized for fuel and the ability of blood to clot increases in case you are injured.
The stress’s of our contemporary lives are quite different from those of confronting the beasts of the jungle in earliest human societies. However our physiological abilities to deal with stress hasn’t evolved beyond that of our ancient ancestors. Our technological world has changed so rapidly evolution hasn’t unfortunately evolved beyond that of our ancient ancestors.
In our contemporary lives we can be continually at a heightened sense of stress, working long hours, trying to meet endless deadlines, driving in never ending traffic, job pressures, trying to deal sensitively with relationship and family issues. Mortgages, mounting bills, the list goes on………..
Our challenges extend over a period of time. The stress’s we face today in our lives are not in the realm of immediate physical survival often they are social or psychological challenges. We need skills and abilities beyond those given to us at birth to deal with stress.
When our nervous system has lost its equilibrium this heightened state of stress can lead to a myriad of health complaints. As cortisol and adrenaline designed to deal with acute stressful events continues to flow through our stressed bodies we are at risk of blood clots and high blood pressure increasing our risk of heart attack or a stroke. Cortisol in high levels is linked to depression, osteoporosis, overeating and weight gain.
How yoga can help!
The antidote to stress is relaxation. All is not lost, with the magic of yoga, a range of relaxation techniques can help bring our bodies and minds back into a balanced state activating the relaxation response.
Yoga has quick and easy techniques of Pranayama (breathing techniques) that you can use to bring immediate effects to more in depth practice and visualisations for deep relaxation and personal and spiritual growth.
A simple technique for relaxation is the yogic breath.
• To begin take a moment and notice your breath. The sensations as you breathe in and the sensations as you breathe out. The rise and expansion of your inhalation and the fall and release of your exhalation.
• The yogic breath, a calming and relaxing breath to begin send your breath deep and low into your belly, then lengthen and expand into your ribcage and then soften and float your breath into the underarms, chest and back. Completely filling the torso like you have an internal balloon expanding in all directions and then releasing and softening with the breath out.
• Find a steady comfortable rhythm for your breath. Allowing the breath to feel like waves of motions that begin in the belly, expand and lengthen into the ribcage and soften float into the underarms, chest and back.
• Continue for another 10 breaths. You can do this seated or lying on your back in a comfortable position. The effects are immediate. An instant chill pill!
The secret to achieving and maintaining a state of relaxation to help reduce stress is practice. It’s a skill that takes time to develop.
Our ultimate aim of relaxation is to slow our brain cell electrical activity to the Alpha State where we are relaxed but awake. In the alpha state your mind can only think of one thing at a time. The Alpha state is focused attention, of imagination, creativity and day dreaming. Stress reduction takes place in this state. Beautiful yogic relaxation practices such as yoga Nidra and bodily rotation of consciousness access the alpha state easily and effectively.
Relaxation helps decrease tension, lower blood pressure and strengthen immune system. “Relaxation research shows that breathing techniques can help ward off disease by making people less susceptible to viruses and by lowering blood pressure and cholesterol levels. When we breathe in a relaxed fashion we move from a destructive metabolic state to a constructive one. This shift from operating in a chronic stress mode to a mode of relaxed alertness can affect the synthesis of protein, fat and carbohydrates, increase the production of cells for immune system activation, promote bone repair and growth, as well as enhance the cellular, hormonal and psychological processes.”(taken from study of relaxation from P.B.F Nixon, “Human Functions of the Heart” in D.Seedhouse and A Cribb eds. “Changing Ideas in Health Care”. (New York 1983 :37)
Time take to relax, make time to relax and enjoy the lushness of life that is your birthright!
Rachel has an upcoming relaxation workshop on Sunday 25th September from 3pm – 5pm at Kundalini House.
In this luscious workshop you will learn techniques to relax instantly and indulge in some practices to take you into a divine, alpha state to experience the fine art of relaxation.
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