Stress, Inflammation & Yoga

Posted on Sunday February 17, 2013 at 07:54PM

 Stress, Inflammation & Yoga

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I have seen a lot of medical articles in the past few years regarding the detrimental effects of chronic inflammation in the body, but this one peaked my interest because Doctors and researchers are seeing yoga as a source of therapy.
I read this particular article a few months ago in a non-yoga magazine, and was very excited to see Iyengar Yoga (part of the training I took) listed as a way to combat chronic inflammation in the body. Let me give you a little background on the subject first…
Back in the day, a surge of adrenalin served a purpose to keep us alive, eliciting a fight or flight response in the body (Also known as acute stress response) when we were in imminent physical danger. The body reacts by dilating the pupils to create heightened visual acuity, heart and respiratory rate increase, muscles tense, digestive processes stop, all the body is on high alert ready to run or fight for your life. It takes approximately 20 to 60 minutes for the body responses to return to normal following this acute stress. The problem in our modern day world is that our body elicits this same acute stress response to both real and imaginary threats. Think of a typical day where we encounter stressful, but non-life threatening situations all day long. We worry about meeting deadlines, dealing with difficult work or home problems, fighting traffic getting to and from work, rushing to get our kids to their activities, and on and on it goes, mentally placing our bodies in a continual state of stress responses. Remember that after each acute stress response occurs, it can take up to an hour for the body to return to its pre-arousal state. Essentially we often run on adrenaline all day long
This continual flush of adrenalin, and cortisol wreaks havoc in the body, and over time triggers inflammatory responses in the body contributing to serious health problems such as heart disease, stroke, cancer, Alzheimer’s, arthritis, auto-immune disorders, depression…. The list goes on and on! Oh, and by the way, a high level of cortisol from stress also causes us to put on excess weight around the waistline too!
The good news is medical studies have shown that yoga, particularly more gentle Iyengar yoga, using blocks props and straps during alignment, on various parts of the body, along with other poses that improve circulation, and pulse rates, and restorative postures, to shut off the sympathetic nervous system, can reduce inflammation. In fact these studies showed 40% less inflammation markers in the bloodstream of practitioners who practiced once or twice a week for at least 2 years. Regular yoga practitioners also become more in tune with their body, and learn to use breathing to lessen stress responses. “Detecting the spark before the fire, as Buddhists put it, can help you institute breathing practices or take other action before stress spirals out of control.”
One other noteworthy fact… don’t overdue it! Studies also show that excessive exercise can stress the body and trigger inflammation too. Pushing yourself to your physical limits with excessive exercise on a regular basis can be as bad as being a couch potato
The moral of the story? Listen to your body, combine different types of exercise with your yoga routine, but keep it in perspective of staying healthy and breath!

Author: Sprouts Greenhouse

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