Stress comes in many forms: short lived and acute or long-lasting and chronic. There are many contributing factors to stress and a wide range of symptoms and diseases due to stress.
First, we must discern between acute and chronic stress. When we have to meet a deadline, like file our taxes, study for an exam, or have an accident we experience acute stress and it helps us deal with the situation and then is released.
Chronic – long term stress is felt over an extended period of time. This could be a personal continued living situation like a chronic illness, being caretaker, or be as broad as the current political environment effecting your state of mind. When we live with chronic stress the body continues to produce stress hormones as well as other substances that help deal with stress but they are not used up and are often stored in the body to our detriment.
In a recent study published in The Lancet* researchers have linked the resting amygdalar activity and cardiovascular events.
In brief, the Amygdala is part of our brain that plays a primary role in emotional reactions. When under stress, the Amygdala signals to your bone marrow to produce more white blood cells. The white blood cells are in charge of fighting infectious diseases and repair. The production of white blood cells ceases when the situation is over.
However, we are more often under a chronic stress load and the Amygdala sends a continuous message to the bone marrow to produce higher levels of white blood cells. The researchers concluded that this ongoing overproduction of white blood cells can form plaques in your arteries which in turn can cause cardiovascular disease.
“In this first study to link regional brain activity to subsequent cardiovascular disease, amygdalar activity independently and robustly predicted cardiovascular disease events. Amygdalar activity is involved partly via a path that includes increased bone-marrow activity and arterial inflammation. These findings provide novel insights into the mechanism through which emotional stressors can lead to cardiovascular disease in human beings.”
— Tawakol, et al
6 Ways to Manage & Release Stress with Yoga
Keep Track of Time by Setting a Timer
1) 5 Minute Breathing Practice: sit or lie down comfortably, focus your attention on your abdomen and feel it rise with each inhale and fall with each exhale. Imagine you are breathing in and out of your belly. Put an easy count to your breath, matching the length of your inhale to the length of your exhale, breathing rhythmically. After a few rhythmic cycles lengthen the exhale by one count and continue breathing in this rhythm. Imagine and feel with each exhalation that you are releasing the stress from your body. At the end, notice how you feel and continue with your day.
2) 5 Minute Meditation: sit comfortably, relaxing the jaw, neck, shoulders, chest, and abdomen. Imagine your mind is a camera lens in narrow focus on your daily activities. As you gradually zoom out of focus the objects start to lose their shape, form, and definition. As you continue to zoom out you gradually start to lose the colors, as you continue to zoom out eventually horizon and ground merge, continue zooming out – what do you see? Vast, infinite, empty space – nothing. Allow for the mind to rest here in this vastness. At the end, notice how you feel and continue with your day.
3) 3 Minute Restorative Back Extension Pose: roll a towel or blanket and place it underneath your shoulder blades, use a pillow or second blanket as head support. Drape the torso over the blanket roll, bring the arms out into a t-line over the top edge of the shoulder blanket and allow for your head to rest into the support. Let the body relax into the shape, feeling the gentle stretch across the chest and front shoulders. Enjoy the way the breath flows freely in and out of the chest, releasing the tension from your chest. At the end, notice how you feel and continue with your day.
4) 5 Minute “Legs-Up-the-Wall” Inversion: near a wall, use a bolster or blanket roll to support your lower back curve, draping the lower back and pelvis over the roll with your legs up the wall. The body mechanisms that control your blood pressure will start to shift you into rest and repose, promoting relaxation. At the end, notice how you feel and continue with your day.
5) 10 Minute Deep Relaxation: lie down comfortably, using blankets and pillows to fully support the body. Imagine with each exhalation you are sinking deeper and deeper into the support and holding of the props, ground, and gravity. Allow yourself to go completely slack, totally letting go of the need to do and make, deeply resting without going to sleep. At the end, notice how you feel and continue with your day.
6) Come to Yoga Classes at Full Life Yoga Studio: 204 Providence Mine Rd, Ste. 112, Nevada City, Tel: 530-277-3783 online classes schedule: fulllifeyogastudio.com.
Try any of these techniques when you are feeling stressed out and see which one is your favorite and can help you relax and live with more ease.
If you have medical conditions that limit your activities, please seek your doctors advise to be sure these practices are safe for you.
Elke Brown, Full Life Yoga Studio