Stress is the cause of 80% of our disease. Disease=Dis Ease, Dis Ease with ourselves, our bodies, our work, our relationships. Stress was a grand thing to have when we needed it, but that was a few million years ago when we were being chased by marauding beasts. Nowadays we have replaced the wild with the office, the home or our relationships.
The body is very intelligent. It can handle a bit of stress but after a while it will start to send you messages. The problem is we don’t often see them as being a sign of our stress. The niggle between the shoulder blades, the mysterious rash, the racing heart beat, the forever cold or the constant low grade head ache are signals. Stress can contribute to type 2 diabetes, depression, osteoporosis, heart attacks and strokes. A study in Health Psychology found that overweight children were often more stressed.
Unless you have addressed the underlying cause of it and taken action then going to the Doctors will only be a band aid.
Here is what happens to your body when you feel stress.
- Your body detects stress and injects adrenaline and cortisol (a hormone) into your body. Cortisol release has been linked with stress-related eating.
- This hormone activates the Sympathetic nervous system which is responsible for the flight or fight reaction.
- Blood clots more easily in case you cut yourself
- Your blood pools in the extremities taking valuable supply away from the organs ( again so you can run fast)
- Your heart rate speeds up
Everyone feels stress but some people seem to feel it more than others. This may have something to do with our conditioning and how we learn to react to things. You may either be the white knuckle stress person, you internalise your stress and it pops out like a sore on your body somewhere or you have a classic break down. You may be the wide mouth stress person, ranting, raving and shouting, getting it all out there.
However you deal with it there are some key principles that yoga can help understand.
1) Mental tape loops. These are the thoughts that go around in our mind all day long. When we do yoga practice what we do is learn to turn down the volume of these internal utterances. This allows us to get in touch with a quieter place within us and this in turn helps us realise that what we are worrying or stressing about is not that big a deal after all.
2) Being in the moment. If we constantly listen to our mind we will see that it rarely thinks about the present. It is past and future. We relive conversations and we practice future events as if they were actually real. They are not real they are the past and the future. The principle of flow is that when you do something you are truly absorbed in then you will return to what is the present moment. The present moment has no time and flows with ease. There is no struggle anymore. The yogis refer to this as ‘still mind’ of Samadhi. It is something that is built into us but we need to learn how to access it.
A tool for this: Do something that absorbs you. Painting, dancing, gardening, tinkering. Note after this how do you feel?
3) Breathing: Breathing in a dysfunctional way can be both a cause and a consequence of stress. Yoga practice teaches us to use slow and steady breathing and to take out any of the bumps in our breathing. I watch my partner as soon as he is stressed he breathes through an open mouth. A slow long exhale relaxes the nervous system which calms the mind.
A tool for this: Breathing exercise. Sit comfortably or lie down and inhale and exhale through the nose. Don’t make any effort to change how you breath is just notice how you breath. Notice how each breath enters and exits the nose. Do this for 2-5 minutes.
Practice for today; Recognise stress in its smallest guest appearances. Maybe a little anxiety or conflict comes your way. Make a commitment to try one of the exercises at the first sign of stress.