Monday, February 1, 2010

Stress, Health & Yoga

It always surprises me when I meet someone who has not heard about the effects of stress on health... it shouldn't, but it still does. So, in case you or your loved ones haven't heard, here is the deal with stress: it's a necessary part of our existence. You need stress to grow and strengthen. When it becomes damaging to your health is when the stress is chronic. Here is a very simplified explanation.

Our bodies are amazing machines, and they are constantly taking in sensory input to determine how to operate. If it determines that there is some threat, your nervous system will initiate the "flight or fight" sequence of events. These events are automatic and will occur whether the threat is real (a car is about to hit you) or imagined (you have a nightmare). If our threats are simple and our responses are simple - get out or get ready to battle, then the responses use up the hormones, muscular contraction and other effects of the fight or flight reflex, so the end result is that our bodies return to normal mode. However, when the process is not completed - for example, you get yelled at by your boss, but it's not appropriate to fight or flee the situation, then the body does not return to normal and all those tensions and hormones are still around. If this happens chronically, then the body cannot fully restore itself to its normal healing modes. This is how chronic stress can open you up to disease.

There are many ways to reduce the effects of chronic stress. Yoga is a well-advertised form of stress-reduction, but not the only one out there. There are also many forms of yoga. Which one brings about your return to relaxation depends on your nervous system. When I first began yoga, I studied the Iyengar method, a very detailed system that taught me about the pulleys, levers, gears, pumps and valves of my body. I then moved into Vinyasa yoga, which taught me to move and breath and sweat the effects out of my system. As my levels of chronic stress reduced, I moved into more static forms of yoga: Yin and Restorative. These forms allow me to access the effects of my stress in very subtle ways and has brought me into my best form of relaxation: meditation.

Please share this information with anyone who doesn't understand the connection of stress and health. Be well.

What we are practicing now...
Parvritta trikonasana (revolved triangle pose) is one of those poses we all detest. But, like leafy greens, it is good for your health and worth making friends with. Click here for instructions on how to get into the pose. Remember to use a block under your hand if you cannot reach the floor while keeping your back flat.

Schedule updates and events... see for complete schedule:
  • Mondays Restorative Yoga at Soula Power Yoga in downtown San Jose will continue! This relaxing class meets each Monday night 7:00-8:30pm for gentle stretching and long, luxurious poses draped over props. For more info:
  • Sunday, February 7th, 1:00-2:00pm: introduction to yoga for the Willow Glen community. This FREE class is open to anyone new to yoga and will be held at Willow Glen Yoga. Send your friends along who are interested but reluctant to join the yoga craze!
  • Sunday, February 7th 2:45-3:15pm: introduction to restorative yoga for the downtown San Jose community. This FREE class is open to everyone and is part of Soula Power Yoga's open house to introduce their healing modalities to the community: acupuncture, Ayurveda, massage and Restorative Yoga. Come on down and check it out!
  • Coming soon... Yoga enCHANTing, a yoga and chanting workshop... stay tuned for details.