Stress. It's a word we all have a relationship with in one way or another. We are barraged with information on the importance of reducing stress, relaxing, and learning how to better manage our lives. But how do we actually do these things? That part may still be a mystery to us. Fortunately, in this new eCourse, Stress Management through Yoga and Meditation, holistic physician Dr. Carrie Demers, MD, provides the answers in a clear way that we can apply to our lives immediately.
Before we can even begin to manage our stress, we need to be able to understand it. All of the physical manifestations of stress—headaches, muscle tension, fatigue—to name just a few, are only symptoms of the stress response. Also known as fight or flight, or activation of the sympathetic nervous system, the stress response is a necessary function of the autonomic nervous system (of which the sympathetic nervous system is a part). It is triggered by the perception of a threat—by a thought. This thought then unleashes a cascade of reactions in the body to prepare us to handle that threat.
While this reaction is a gift from nature in times of necessity, when it becomes activated in normal daily life—on your drive to work for instance—you have a much bigger problem. This constant triggering of the stress response taxes us physically and mentally. It suppresses the immune response and has been linked to increased chances of diabetes and heart disease. We feel exhausted and agitated, thrown off kilter by the slightest problem. While all of this may seem overwhelming, Dr. Carrie assures us that many of these ailments can be prevented through changes to our lifestyle, and yoga and meditation can help!
The parasympathetic nervous system is another part of the autonomic nervous system. When the parasympathetic response is activated, we are able to rest and digest—to nurture ourselves. How do we learn to trigger it when we need it? That's where the practices of yoga and meditation come in. Learning to breathe diaphragmatically is a great place to start. Breathing in this way can immediately begin to shift us out of our stress response. Systematic relaxation and meditation with breath awareness are also key practices for regulating the nervous system. John Daskovsky offers experiential practices to begin to get a taste of this relaxed state.
While the ill effects of prolonged stress are daunting, there is hope. Stress Management through Yoga and Meditation, a new eCourse from Yoga International, will show you the way.