Sunday, February 24, 2013

Stress, Health & Yoga, Part 2

Almost exactly three years ago, I wrote a post about stress. I'm revisiting this topic with more information this time around. On a daily basis, I work with people who are weeding cancer from their bodies, or are learning to manage chronic pain, and the common topic that I always talk about is


As I mentioned in the 2010 post, stress isn't all that bad. We need stress to grow, but the stress-relaxation responses that are wired into the most ancient parts of our brains were meant to be in balance, like the yin-yang symbol. Once the cycle of stress is complete, we need to


in order to regain balance. Look closely at these the stress response cycle:

First, our brain perceives a threat, either through our senses (sight, sound, smell, touch, taste) or internally from the brain itself (thought, dream, vision).

Then, our fight or flight response is activated, releasing adrenaline, noradrenaline and cortisol hormones in order to:
  • Increase heart rate and breathing for quicker oxygenation of the tissues in support of physical activity
  • Release Fats and Glucose into the system to be used for quick energy consumption
  • Divert blood flow from non-essential areas of the body (including reproduction, digestion and elimination organs) to muscles and the brain
  • Increase perspiration to support physical activity
  • Suppress immune system response
All of this is for our own survival, or so our brains and bodies believe.

Finally, when the threat is removed, another chemical called acetylcholine is released, which is a modulator for the nervous system, slowing heart rate and reducing other fight-flight reactions. Adrenaline, noradrenaline and cortisol are used during the physical release, which also expends physical tension, so the system returns to normal.

That's the way it's supposed to work, but the response gets hijacked sometimes, and we end up in

chronic stress,

a place where balance and normalcy don't exist, no matter how hard our brain, nervous system and body tries.

Over time, chronic stress begins to erode our own ability to heal. When cortisol, for example, isn't able to regulate the level of inflammation in the body, we become more susceptible to
Balance Restored: Lorien om-ing on top of a mountain
in Sedona, a very relaxing moment after a long hike


If our pain response is triggered, that feeds the stress response, and the chronic stress situation may not be able to sort circuit the pain response, so the two keep feeding each other until we are in

chronic pain.

Which is why I am always talking about stress management!

Whether you are tending to a small patch of cancer or pain weeds in your personal garden, or you are overhauling the entire "back 40", it's important to use the right tools. The correct application or yoga, breathing, chanting, meditation, acupuncture, massage, energy work, diet, mental, emotional and social support can make a big difference in your internal environment and ability to find the necessary balance between stress and relaxation.


Please see the Events page for more information about these upcoming special programs:

  • Sunday, March 31 (Easter): OM for Peace
  • Saturday, April 7 - Sunday April 8: Yin Yoga 14-Hour Immersion
  • Saturday, April 7 - Sunday April 8 AND Saturday, April 13 - Sunday April 14: Yin Yoga Teacher Training
  • Sunday, April 28: Yin Yoga 1-Day Workshop