Develop your RELAXATION RESPONSE to counter stress, with yoga

Stress and how to cope with it is one of the biggest health issues for us in our world today. Let’s look at what happens in our body when we’re stressed and how yoga can have an enormous impact on how we deal with it.

When stressed, the body shifts and changes to support us to handle that stress well. We experience an energy surge, the heart rate increases, we become alert and ready to act. We think and move faster. Our sensitivity to pain is lowered and the digestive and reproductive systems slow down. All our repairing resources are put on hold and our energy is directed to short term needs. The body produces more insulin for energy,  so that we can act and deal with the stressor. The body is doing a great job here of priming us to respond to a stressful situation. This is a healthy and very handy physical response to have.

Following this, as the stress is eases, the body’s RELAXATION RESPONSE then kicks in. The relaxation response is a physiological shift that counters the stress response.  It brings a cascade of restorative, healing processes at a cellular level. The body is restored to a state of balance.

Unfortunately for many, the relaxation response is put on hold, as we continue to be faced with seemingly one stressor after another. With one stress out of the way, another comes along. Or we have one stressor on top of another stressor on top of another – and on and on! Without time to repair, our system is stretched and our resources and ability to cope is greatly diminished.



SO, HOW CAN WE INCREASE OUR BODY’S RELAXATION RESPONSE? To start, let’s explore what happens during the body’s relaxation response. When our body’s relaxation response kicks in there is an increase in Nitric Oxide in many of the body’s tissues. Nitric Oxide increases blood flow and improves the mobility of immune and restorative cells, so we return to a state of balance. The body requires this restorative time in equal amounts to the stress time. So, if we’re not getting enough of the relaxation response, then we need to take steps to get some. One excellent way to do this, is to do yoga.

How does yoga help? Research into this physiological shift that counters the stress response has shown that the combination of movement, breath and mindful awareness that yoga provides is exactly what the body needs to produce more Nitric Oxide and mobilise the restoration healing process in the body. When practicing yoga:

  • We experience steady, rhythmic exercise, moving with the breath – all linked to inducing the relaxation response.
  • Postures create short bursts of stress, stimulating the body’s relaxation response, to counter that stress as you come out of the posture.
  • Conscious mindfulness develops the skill to respond to life’s stressors with content optimism. An optimistic headspace has been proven to produce higher levels of Nitric Oxide in the body, increasing healing and restoration.

So, if you’re finding there’s not enough space for restoration between stresses, one way to give the body what it needs is to practice yoga. It takes your body and mind out of the stress response and creates the physiological shift necessary for your body’s healing process to kick in.

Oh, and another tip, Nitric Oxide is found in lots of green veges. So get into those too. Perhaps try a green smoothie.

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