Let’s talk stress! Stress is such a huge epidemic and killer in today’s fast paced modern world. Our trusty fight or flight response, which has helped us humans to survive all these hundreds of thousands of years, is now actually killing us!
Now don’t get me wrong, it’s necessary that we have this built in response, as it can save your life if you are in real danger. It’s truly amazing what your body does when this fight or flight mode a.k.a your ‘sympathetic nervous system’ is activated.
Your heart rate increases and blood pressure rises as adrenaline and cortisol course through your system. All functions that are deemed unnecessary at that point are shut down such as your digestion, reproductive and immune systems. Your liver releases glucose to give your muscles energy to run or fight and your blood becomes thicker in case you get injured.
If this system only went off at times when you were in real danger, then there would be no problem. The problem is that this system is being switched on all the time. Stress is the perception of danger and today that ‘danger’ can be anything from being stuck in a traffic jam, to having a tight deadline at work, to not getting enough likes on Facebook!
A large majority of us are constantly in stress, and this can lead to diabetes, digestive issues, heart disease, reproductive issues and getting ill in general if your immune system is low. So what can you do about it?
Luckily, just as you have an inbuilt stress response, you also have an inbuilt relaxation response or the ‘parasympathetic nervous system’. This system can be turned on just as easily as the other one through the number 1 tool in your stress busting tool kit – your breath.
Your breath can change your internal state very quickly. When you are stressed, your breath is high up in the chest and very rapid. Simply by switching to long slow deep breaths (‘diaphragmatic breathing’) that fills up the whole chest and inflates the belly will calm you down.
Yoga and meditation are the best prescription for stress as breathing is a huge part of both of these practices. Yoga releases tension from your body and meditation allows you to take a step back from your thoughts and witness them, without reacting to them.
It’s not the world that’s stressful; it’s your perception of the world that’s the problem. Yoga and meditation allow you to see and change that perception. If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.
A simple breathing exercise you can practice is called ‘box breathing’. This is when you in inhale for a count of 4, hold the breath for 4, exhale for a count of 4 and hold for 4. This only takes 16 seconds and will instantly interrupt that stress response and start to calm you down. I have even read that the Navy Seals use this breathing often as a tool.
A Yin Yoga pose that is very good for stress and for giving your diaphragm muscles a workout at the same time, is Crocodile Pose as shown below:-
- Lie on your stomach
- Spread your legs wider and point your toes to the left and right so your feet are on the inside edges
- Make a pillow with your hand and rest your head on top on them
- Adust the neck so that it’s nice and long and your shoulders are relaxed
- Relax and breathe!
If you want to de-stress further then you can join me on Sunday 29th July @ 2.30 for some Yin Yoga for stress. We will breath, meditate and practice Yin Yoga together for 90 minutes. Book below.
Hope to see you there!