Everybody struggles with stress these days. For many of us, Yoga is the perfect remedy, but what makes it so effective?
Stress operates in a cycle. To prevent it from escalating, we need to recognize our triggers and reactions in their early stages. Doing so requires self-awareness and skill. Yoga increases our awareness, but it helps us to control our physical and emotional reactions.
Not all stress is bad. Imagine you’re on a rollercoaster at an amusement park. You feel out of control as the ride twists and turns through the air, but you know you’ll arrive safely at the bottom in just a few minutes. The excitement you feel results from the hormones that surge through your body when it thinks it is in danger. That’s what makes the ride exciting. When you’re back on your feet, your body gradually returns to normal.
Good stress helps keep us on our toes, but our sedentary, hectic lifestyles barrage us with a constant stream of events that activate our adrenaline glands and never go away. As a result, we get stuck in “fight or flight” mode and think it’s a normal part of our daily lives.
The Stress Cycle
The cycle goes something like this: Something annoys us or triggers a reaction. Often, these are situations we can’t control. Our plane runs late, a kid gets sick at the last minute, or an irate driver tailgates us on the freeway. We start to react.
Our mind gets the message that something is wrong, and our involuntary nervous system responds to the perceived threat. Adrenaline and cortisol flood our bodies, causing us to breath erratically, tense our muscles, and stiffen our spines. Our blood vessels constrict, our blood pressure rises, and our heart beats faster.
When the body stays in permanent overdrive, health declines. We don’t feel well so we don’t take good care of ourselves. Toxins build up in our lymph system, our organs get sluggish, and muscles develop knots and trigger points.
As a result, we become less active, and our performance level deteriorates. Then we react with pain, anxiety, and depression, and the cycle reinforces itself. Eventually, we end up in a doctor’s office getting medications that target symptoms but cause side effects.
That’s why we need Yoga. Our practice teaches us to tune into our thoughts and our actions, making us aware of the things that trigger us and the steps we need to take. Yoga also floods the body with “feel-good” hormones, making us healthier, happier, and more active. Most of all, Yoga poses, meditation, and breathing techniques reset our endocrine systems and put a halt to the physical and chemical stress cycle.