You've heard the drill: it's important to reduce stress, stress isn't healthy, stress is a risk factor for heart disease, cancer, even the flu. And maybe, like many of my clients, you've grown numb to such warnings, thinkings something like, "Oh sure, I'll get rid of stress, I'll quit my job, stop worrying about my responsibilities like kids, parents, mortgage, school, work, voting and groceries. That'll work out greeeeeeeaaat."
Of course trading the stress of broke for the stress of responsibility is no choice at all. But this is a misunderstanding of how stress damages us, of what stress reduction really calls for. The Stress Management Society's website defines stress as, "... primarily a physical response. When stressed, the body thinks it is under attack and switches to ‘fight or flight’ mode, releasing a complex mix of hormones and chemicals such as adrenaline, cortisol and norepinephrine to prepare the body for physical action."
Stress is any condition that provokes a response. Some stress is necessary for simply maintaining structure - bones are modeled and remodeled according to patterns of stress. Some stress can actually strengthen. Too much provocation is what switches the body to fight or flight (or sympathetic nervous system activation); that one more rude interaction than you can handle gracefully, one more request, one more close call in traffic - the one more than simply strengthens you.
The reason those stress hormones - adrenaline, cortisol, norepi - are deleterious is that they are built from the same building blocks all your good life hormones are built from. If you only experience this once in a while and the reaction is limited, you probably won't suffer from lack of the good stuff. But if you have a close call or provoking interaction every day, or even more, you have no time to recover, nor does your hormonal balance. You begin to make so much of the stress hormones you don't have the raw material for everything else you need.
But the body has a built in brake, if you know how to pull it: the relaxation response (parasympathetic nervous system). There are straight forward techniques of breathing, posture and imagery that can invoke your relaxation response. But you have to practice to have them available when you need them, and if your balance is already off, you need extra doses to bring the system back into balance.
Yoga is chock full of these practices and techniques for invoking your relaxation response and reducing cortisol already in the body. A daily practice gives you the familiarity to remember a helpful thing or two instead of giving in to the rapid retort or knee jerk response in alcohol, smoking, food or whatever your vice of the moment is.
Restorative yoga is like the reverse of a hard day at the office. Every so often you need a little extra bump of restorative: maybe a little every night or an hour every week. My favorite combo for nearly nightly, pre-bed reset? Queens Pose (Supta Buddha Konasana) + Legs Up the Wall, 5-15 minutes each.
You have an opportunity for a nearly total reset on Saturday, May 7th, 2016 from 12-2:30pm: Restorative Yoga with Reiki treatments from a master in an experiential workshop at Badlands Yoga. Know anyone who could use a real break? A grad or a mom, or maybe even you. Click the link and reserve one of the last spots today. You'll be happy you did.
Can't make it? Keep stopping by this blog for tips on how to include more yoga in your day, more restorative practices, more on strong practices to stoke your awesome and meditation to keep you in the zone. Leave a comment below about what stresses you the most and what helps you reset. One person will receive a personally designed weekly practice template to inspire their #HYP!
It happens to all of us and for so many reasons: we haven't moved enough this week, or yesterday we did too much; yesterday we had too much sugar, one too many glasses of wine or not enough water or even sleep.
For me, this morning, it was the insistent soreness of the epic hike our daily romped turned into when I found a new warren of trails in my wayworn stomping ground. The foothills I usually take one by one beckoned me to take them groups at a time, and with the smell of desert phlox beckoning I blissfully wandered over hill and cactus dale - until I took my phone out to take this pic and realized I had a meeting in less than an hour online!
Needless to say, the return hike was brisk and I took a few short cuts, so ended up on my behind down some scree. But I made it back with 8 minutes to set up the computer and go!
At nearly 50, I think I've used up more than my quota of butt sled rides down granite scree. I woke up a little creaky this morning. And the story in my head sounded like the one my clients tell me that makes me cry, "I'm sore... maybe I should just lay here a little longer. Maybe I should move less today..." There it was, unbidden but clear.
Don't get me wrong - if you're really sleep deprived and could get more sleep by staying put, then by all means. Sleep trumps almost everything in my book (and in any good healer's book). But if you're really just lying there awake, marinating in your stiffness, then this post is for you. And me. And anyone who occasionally overdoes the things they love in life.
If you've ever watched Gil Hedley's "Fuzz" speech (he's a ground breaking anatomist), you know what this feeling comes from and that it's pretty accurate: metabolic and functional byproducts of living, moving and doing what we do get a little stagnant overnight and seemingly glue our insides together. Hence we wake up feeling like the tin man without an oil can.
Here's the kicker, though: that story? It's just a story. The best thing you could possibly do, all else being equal, is trundle out of bed, drink a couple glasses of clear water as you roll out your mat and begin to practice. I know it's a shocker but the answer is still.... yoga. Maybe you move a little slower, focus even more than usual on breathing and the gentle joy of movement, start with sacral pumps and let the water and breath do their work. Or maybe you start to feel like you again and go for the sweaty Sun Salutations. Whichever way you go, you'll be glad you did.
As the man said, "Practice and all is coming." Life, breath, joy, wholeness amidst all of life's fragments, inspiration, tears and above all, presence. All.
I'm off to take my own advice. See you on the mat _/|\_ Christine
Sometimes you roll out your mat and daydream until you realize you only have 5 minutes left. Sometimes you feel like you have to choose between yoga practice and brushing your hair.
We all have those mornings - sometimes strings of them together. Invariably, when I feel least like getting on my mat, when I finally get there and get past Up Hands, all of the sudden a string of poses I simply *must* do wells up inside of me and I realize I have time for maybe 2. Okay 3 if I don't salt the hard boiled eggs before throwing them in my bag for breakfast while I drive.
While I love combo yoga all the time, it's particularly applicable on these mornings. If you've been in class lately, you've been introduced to one of my favorite go-to combos: Kapalabhati (bulb syringe breath) in Fierce Pose. What I love most about these combos is that it reveals all yoga poses are "combo:" you inhale as you raise your hands, you exhale as you forward bend; you inhale as you lengthen, you exhale as you go into or deepen the twist. Sun Salutations? The ultimate combo for 360 wellness (just notice how you feel in Savasana afterward!)
So what it really comes down to is that even one yoga pose, when you attend to and coordinate the breath, when you feel it out to your toenails and hair, this pose is a practice some mornings. True, other days need to be complete classes for this to really be effective, but the difference between the days with no morning practice at all (morning for me, may be different for you) and the days of even a single pose - that difference is epic, meaningful, crushing and uplifting.
So you don't know what to do "next" - big deal. Do one now, breathe it, reach out through your fingers and toes, reach in to your real core, the place where you resonate. Your you will be better for it. One pose, a world of being.