What happens in the body when you are stressed? How does Yoga (and meditation) help in reducing stress levels?

Man, like any higher evolved animal in nature, have two different types of broadly categorised nervous systems – the sympathetic and the parasympathetic. The former deals with ‘fight or flight’ responses and the latter with ‘rest and digest’. When the mind is full of worries or stress of some kind, the sympathetic system is activated and causes the release a surge of hormones from the adrenal glands, including adrenaline and cortisol. Adrenaline increases the heart rate, elevates blood pressure and boosts energy supplies in the body. Now the mind is not aware that the situation is not caused by an actual event but only by certain thoughts. It cannot distinguish between reality and imagination, worry being a negative type of imagination. Now let’s have a quick look at how it operates in nature.

In nature, higher evolved animals such as mammals also have these hormonal secretions. So, typically, a deer chased by a predator will immediately react to the attack by a flight response. Its sympathetic nervous system goes into action and it may then be able to outrun the predator and live another day. What happens internally after it escapes? A few minutes later, the deer is back to grazing. The sympathetic nervous system has now gone back into the background and no longer active and the parasympathetic system is now activated. The parasympathetic nervous system decreases respiration and heart rate and increases digestion. So, the ‘rest and digest’ system is up and running again.

So, if the sympathetic system is perpetually on, the body is always on ‘high alert’. This happens when someone is subjected to stress continuously or frequently. This is where the problem arises because the body is not prepared for a 24 hour emergency response. This continuous overdrive causes physical and psychological issues. Ongoing, chronic stress can cause and/or exacerbate many serious health problems such as cardiovascular disease, including heart disease, high blood pressure, abnormal heart rhythms, heart attacks, and stroke and also mental health problems such as depression, anxiety, and personality disorders. They also lead to related eating and sleep disorders besides a host of other nerve related issues.

Yoga and meditation practices helps to shift your focus from ‘illusory and stressful’ thoughts which dwell on the past or in the future, both of which time dimensions do not exist in the present. The practices helps one to focus on the present moment where infinite possibilities exist and when one learns how to be here and now and harness the best of the possibilities, then, one fine day and just like that, the game changes. The shift happens and you are back in control again.

So, get on the mat when you can and start creating your own world, not one that is dictated by your external environment but the one that you wish to live. Try Yoga. Try Meditation. Take control of your life again. Contact us for free classes on info@moveintostillnessyoga.com