Time to breath. Vicky Fox on the Importance of Stress Relief.

Having studied with some the world’s most renowned yoga teachers, Vicky Fox is an expert in strength and suppleness while emphasising alignment and precision.  Vicky is now teaching yoga to cancer patients at any stage of their recovery. The classes are designed to provide a safe refuge to come and practice yoga, to build strength, increase range of motion and reduce stress. The classes should help you sleep better, feel less fatigued and enjoy a better quality of life.  Here she draws on her inspiring work with suggestions on how best to access and manage the stresses of daily life.

Be a Human BEING not a human DOING.

Stress is something that we hear about alot . A bit of stress is not always a bad thing – we need it to stay focused,  or alert and maybe to motivated and energized to beat our score on the burn board! However  too much stress can weaken our immune system and cause damage to our bodies. When we are stressed we release cortisol, epinephrine and adrenaline. Our bodies go into “fight or flight” mode preparing to “run like the wind” away from danger or stay and fight. Humans have the capacity for imagination which means we can imagine situations that don’t actually exist. We can activate our physiological stress mechanisms in response to worries and fears of things that may not ever happen to us.  In this stress response of flight or fight state bodily functions, such as the digestive and immune system, stop functioning. Heart rate increases, blood pressure increases and breath quickens preparing the body for emergency action.

We know that releasing stress by doing yoga or meditation helps the immune system as it stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system. This starts to calm down the mind and allows the body to move back into digesting, renewing cells, restoring balance in the body and resting.

So we can see that perceived stress is the same as actual stress and stress changes the type of chemicals released by the body.  The mind and the body are not separate. When we have feelings, emotions and thoughts we release neuropeptides. Positive neuropeptides such as serotonin, dopamine and relaxin have a positive and healthy effect on your body. We all know how great it feels when you wake up in the morning and they sky is blue and the sun is shining , you have positive thoughts about the day and this in return makes you feel good.  Restorative yoga where the poses are supported by bolsters and blankets allow you to hold poses for 5-10 minutes. You can breathe naturally and give the body opportunity to shift from the sympathetic nervous system ( fight or flight) into the parasympathetic nervous system and release and let go of stored tensions in the body. In return the body can go about healing, digesting and restoring the body.

Try this. Close your eyes and bring your awareness to your breathing. See if you can feel your breath into your belly ( often when we are stressed we don’t breathe fully). Notice where it is that you feel the breath and start to count your inhales and count your exhales. Observing  the natural ratio of your breath. Maybe it is easier to breathe in than to breathe out? Maybe it is easier to breathe out than to breathe in? It doesn’t matter what your count is but start to work towards getting  the count of your inhale and your exhale equal. Even inhale and even exhale. The quickest way to calm down the mind is to breathe in and out to the same count.

The once you feel the breath is about even count from 1 to 10 as you exhale.

inhale, exhale 1

inhale, exhale 2……. up to 10.

Once you reach 10. Observe how your feel now. Hopefully calmer through breathing fully, evenly and becoming present and aware of your body breathing.

Slowly blink open your eyes and pause before continuing on with your day.

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