Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Health - The role of stress



I love to read! At any one given moment, I usually have anywhere from 3 to 13 books started--all, except maybe one, are non-fiction. To bring this joy into my life while driving, this past week I've been listening to Bruce H. Lipton's CD, The Biology of Belief.

I'm only on CD 2 of 3 CD's, but this is some fascinating stuff! Very different than the chemistry and biology that I remember in school 20+ years ago.

Did you know that transplant patients are actually injected with stress hormones? This was new news to me. The injection of stress hormones in the body inhibits the immune system. That's right:

STRESS INHIBITS THE IMMUNE SYSTEM

With new and foreign tissue in the body, a healthy immune system would kick in and destroy this foreign tissue.

However, in the case of a transplant, you actually want this foreign tissue to be accepted into your system. So, the immune system must be halted. Stress can do that!

This is not a fault in the body, but rather a miraculous asset to the body. The immune system takes a great deal of energy to operate. It protects us from internal stresses, such as bacterial infections.

When there is an external stress that needs immediate attention, such as a car racing towards you with an inattentive driver, then the body's energy needs to focus on flight-or-flight--not some bacteria. The production of stress hormones is a gift in that they take the energy needed away from the immune system and uses that energy to prepare the body for dealing with saving your life from this oncoming car (or whatever the external stress might be).

Dr. Lipton does a GREAT job of explaining all of this is his book/CD, The Biology of Belief.

The problem lies in our current lifestyle of constant stimulation and external stresses. Running the TV all day, driving in traffic, being yelled at by your boss, packed schedules, etc. Some of this we can control, and some of it we can not.

What we do know is that when our body thinks there is an external stress, the immune system is inhibited. If that external stress is simply your neighbor playing their stereo too loud, you may know this is not vital to your existence, but how do you keep those stress hormones at bay?

This is where the Yoga comes in. External stresses exist. This is part of life. How we handle them and how quickly our energy returns to the immune system is what's important. Yoga is nothing shy of a miracle in the area of "de-stressing."

When you move with the breath, each movement becomes a mini-meditation. As you focus on the movement matching the breath, the mind learns to concentrate. Seated meditation takes this idea of concentration even further. Pranayama immediately impacts the nervous system and can be used to stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system (the relaxation response).

Try this simple breathing technique when "de-stressing". Take a comfortable seat. Close your eyes and take a few long and deep breaths. Focus more on your exhales than your inhales. Now inhale deep and lengthen your spine. Keep this length and exhale. When you think the exhale is done, exhale a little bit more. And one more time, exhale a bit more. Slowly relax your belly and allow the inhale to drift in. Do this 10-12 times. Exhaling. Exhaling a bit more. Exhale even a bit more. Then relax the belly and allow an inhale arrive. Stop if you have ANY dizziness or discomfort and return to a normal breath.

Let me know how it goes for you,
Take care,
Kris
www.TotalHealthYoga.com

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