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!