Stress is a necessary part of life; however, our bodies are not designed for the unrelenting nature of current day, chronic stress. Research is now citing stress as a major factor in high blood pressure, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, depression, osteoporosis, strokes, rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, and cancer. Stress impairs the immune system and increases inflammation, cholesterol, triglycerides, blood sugar, and our resistance to insulin. In addition, high cortisol levels, which are a result of chronic stress, contribute to overeating, and these extra calories are converted to fat which is stored in the abdomen, the most dangerous place for our heart.
New brain research shows that chronic stress triggers an unrelenting flow of cortisol and genetic actions that begin to sever the nerve connections in the brain, causing cells to die and actually shrinking certain areas. Dysfunctional and dying neurons lead to cognitive decline and has been linked to Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease. (Spark, by John J. Ratey, MD)
Our nervous system does not know the difference between worrying about a potential threat, a past threat, or the actual threat itself, so even our thoughts can contribute to the damaging effects of stress by keeping the system in an aroused state. If this overload continues, the system becomes overwhelmed and eventually shuts down.
Yoga can help counteracts ome of the negative effects of stress. A complete yoga-based program (with a low fat diet, exercise and group support) has been proven to actually reverse heart disease. In addition to the physical, tension relieving benefits of yoga, we also learn tools to help us deal more effectively with the stressors in our lives. While we cannot eliminate stress (we need some stress to adapt and grow), we can learn to maintain our equanimity and calm in the midst of stress. Yoga teaches us to turn inward and to live inbthe present, the only moment we ever really have.
When the Dalai Lama was asked what surprised him most about humanity, he answered “Man. Because he sacrifices his health in order to make money. Then he sacrifices money to recuperate his health. And then he is so anxious about the future that he does not enjoy the present; the result being that he does not live in the present or the future; he lives as if he is never going to die, and then dies having never really lived.”
Yoga provides a complete system that can lead us to a whole new way of living. Far more than just a set of physical postures (Asana), yoga gives us tools that lead us to wellness and wholeness. Breathing techniques (Pranayama), turning inward (Pratyahara), concentration (Dharana), meditation (Dhyana), and even moral restraints (Yamas – nonviolence, truthfulness, non-stealing, moderation,and non-hoarding) and personal observances (Niyamas – purity, contentment, zeal/austerity, self-study, and devotion to a higher power) are other “limbs” of yoga which allow us to take our practice into our daily lives and out into the world.
Nurture Yoga is a peaceful place in a stressful world. Let us help you stress less this year with classes and workshops designed to nourish your body, mind and spirit. May we all experience wellness and inner peace – and take that peace into our world to share!
Namaste! (the Spirit and Light in me honors the Spirit and Light in you!)