Tag Archives: breaking habits

Re-training your body’s stress response through yoga practice

There are so many benefits of yoga that are scientifically proven. So why is it that many people don’t “get-it”; don’t stay with it long enough to get real benefits?

One main reason is that it takes time to “see” results. Allowing enough  time to get to know the subtleties within your own being.  Initially the changes are subtle and experienced within your mind and life, long before they are seen!

Another reason people often don’t stay with yoga is not finding the right class at the right level and where they have trust in the  teacher.   Be an empowered student, ask questions. Try several  classes, until you find the right one for you, and then practice at home also.

 I highly recommend reading this recent article from Psychology Today Magazine…

Yoga: Changing The Brain’s Stressful Habits,  by Alex Korb, Ph.D.

“Yoga can supposedly improve depressive symptoms and immune function, as well as decrease chronic pain, reduce stress, and lower blood pressure.  These claims have all been made by yogis over the years, and it sounds like a lot of new age foolishness. Surprisingly, however, everything in that list is supported by scientific research.

As a neuroscientist, despite my initial incredulity, I came to realize that yoga works not because the poses are relaxing, but because they are stressful.  It is your attempts to remain calm during this stress that create yoga’s greatest neurobiological benefit.

Your brain tends to react to discomfort and disorientation in an automatic way, by triggering the physiological stress response and activating anxious neural chatter between the prefrontal cortex and the more emotional limbic system.  The stress response itself increases the likelihood of anxious thoughts, like “Oh god, I’m going to pull something,” or “I can’t hold this pushup any longer”.  And in fact, your anxious thoughts themselves further exacerbate the stress response. The physiological stress response means an increase in heart rate, breathing rate, muscle tension and elevation of cortisol and other stress hormones.

The fascinating thing about the mind-body interaction is that it works both ways.  For example, if you’re stressed, your muscles will tense (preparing to run away from a lion), and this will lead to more negative thinking.

Relaxing those muscles, particularly the facial muscles, will push the brain in the other direction, away from stress, and toward more relaxed thoughts.

Similarly, under stress, your breathing rate increases.

Slowing down your breathing pushes the brain away from the stress response, and again toward more relaxed thinking.

 

After going back to my Dad’s yoga class a few times, I eventually came to the realization that not only can you practice yoga in real life, but, conversely, you could go to a yoga class and not really be doing yoga…. focused on something else entirely.  Without the sustained intention of focusing on the present, and calming the mind, going to a yoga class is literally just going through the motions.” Alex Korb, Ph.D.

Enjoy your practice!

Namaste, Christina

 

Walking is the most underrated exercise!

Walking is the most under-rated exercise!!!

I was fortunate to grow up in a small town where we walked: to friends, to the park, to ice skate, for picnics on the grass.  I also walked several blocks to school.  Walking is great for many reasons, such as; focusing the eyes on sights at various distances, (vestibular functioning & eyesight) enjoying nature, trees, the sky,  fresh air, and using systems of muscular integration to propel the body forward and remain balanced.

Even if you are very active, if you are not walking regularly, you may not be resetting the body in an important natural way.

Humans were meant to walk. Walking is one way our body resets its natural alignment.  It is weight bearing exercise. Walking is natural movement that involves moving all of your muscles and tissue, increasing metabolism, lubricating the joints, increasing blood flow and oxygen to all the cells of the body, nourishing our physical being.

Walking energizes the body, as well as relaxes the mind: walking can even be a meditation. Walking can also be calming for the emotions, through appreciating beauty, nature, fresh air, sunshine, rain, seeing the people of your neighborhood; all this can lift your spirits.

Recently, I overheard a conversation between young people (mid 20’s) talking about numerous ailments, medications, and procedures, which hadn’t brought relief.  One young woman said “I wish I was in shape to exercise”, another responded “me too”.  I wondered if they considered a walking as a possibility.

I work with older people (up to 102 years old) some who don’t spend any time talking about ailments and medicine; because they are busy living life! They stayed active, they do daily walking.

In the past, (and for many people currently), our bodies are the primary tool of transportation, used with care and awareness for survival and longevity. Sedentary wasn’t an option! Now, the many conveniences of modern life: cars, furniture, chair-toilets, and media are enabling many people to be less mobile, less flexible, less connected and less aware.

Walking is enough to change the whole paradigm of the sedentary lifestyle.

A brisk daily walk, 30-45 minutes, is sound, healthy, preventative medicine.  It is that simple, yet not easy; breaking habits & starting new habits requires determination, commitment and an open, flexible mind).  Who knows, after this is a habit, you might find yourself enjoying yoga, dance, or a long hike!

It can be a real challenge to begin! Creating time may mean letting some things go…let them go!!! Invest the time to nurture personal health and peace of mind.  How does your self-talk, activity and lifestyle affect starting and continuing your walking routine??? Notice who are your allies for healthy Living??? Having walking buddies increases success! Who could be your walking buddy