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Understanding Stress.

Updated: Jan 1, 2022

Understanding stress

When was the last time you took notice of your breath? The movement of the body, the feeling of the breath in the throat, the sound of the breath? Without even noticing we take our breath for granted. It's just a normal thing for our bodies to do without us giving it a second thought. But did you know that when you become mindful and deeply connected to your breath you can heal the body? Release physical and mental tension?

Teach yourself to slow down, sleep well and feel energised.

After all these years of teaching I wonder how many times I have said 'breathe'. It's a beautiful word and I love reminding people to pay attention to it.

In the Yoga Sutra, Patanjali describes pranayama (breathing) as a process by which you can break your unconscious breathing pattern and make the breath long, easeful, and smooth. Most people’s unconscious breathing patterns are anything but easeful and smooth; they tend to be tense, shallow, and erratic. When we are afraid or hear bad news, we often gasp—inhaling and then holding the breath. These breathing patterns can activate the sympathetic nervous system (often referred to as the “fight or flight response”).

The autonomic nervous system controls all the body’s involuntary processes: respiratory rate, heart rate, blood pressure, gastric juice secretion, peristalsis, and body temperature. It has two main components, the sympathetic and the parasympathetic systems. When we feel stressed, our brain activates the sympathetic nervous system, which has come to be known as the fight-or-flight response. This causes a trigger with the bodies adrenaline which it then circulates through the bloodstream, affecting almost every organ. Adrenaline revs up the body to survive a threat to life and limb: The heart pumps faster and harder, causing a spike in blood pressure; respiration increases in rate and moves primarily into the chest; airways dilate to bring more oxygen into the body; blood sugar rises to provide a ready supply of fuel; some blood vessels constrict to shunt blood away from the skin and the core of the body, while others dilate to bring more blood to the brain and limbs. The result? A body pumped up to fight or run, and a mind that is hyperalert.

This fight or flight response is something that is moulded within our human nature, something that is triggered when we are faced with the most extreme scenarios in life, literally life threatening. Adrenaline will take over logic and the basic need to survive over rules. But somehow, somewhere along the way this Flight or fight plays a dominant role within our every day lives, it doesn't ever seem to be switched off which means that the stress hormones are continuously washed throughout the body.

The source of our stress is psychological rather than physical—a perception that something crucial to us is threatened. Fear of the unknown, major changes in our circumstances, uncertainty about the future, our negative attitudes—all these are sources of stress. Today we worry more about our jobs, the way our bodies look, our relationships, being late for work, childcare, saying yes, saying no, your mind can create a wonderful realm or uncertainty! Thus our bodies and minds start to become fatigued by such stress... that isn't life threatening, and wouldn't be life threatening if we learned to take a step back and breathe!

As the fight-or-flight response automatically kicks in at the threat of danger, the opposite side of the coin, the PARASYMPATHETIC nervous system automatically responds to our sense of equilibrium. When it is activated, the heart rate drops, blood pressure falls, and respiration slows and deepens. Blood flow to the core of the body is reestablished—this promotes good digestion, supports the immune system, and infuses us with a sense of well-being.

One of the primary reasons that pranayama techniques that foster a long, smooth exhale are so beneficial is because, when practiced correctly, they can support the parasympathetic nervous system and activate what is commonly known as the “relaxation response,” reducing stress and its effects on your body and mind. As a result, your resilience in the face of challenge or adversity increases, and your mind becomes more focused and still.

By simply noticing the breath this can begin to reverse the physical and emotional discomforts that are harboured by a chronically activated sympathetic nervous system. STRESS doesn't need to be something that controls your life, or something you 'have' to live with. Once we begin to understand the hows and whys we can then create balance and change. As always my loves, it starts with your breath.

So let's breathe together, lets learn to slow down, lets learn to let go.

As we embrace the colder months ahead we will be teaching ourselves to relax, to slow down and to embrace our beautiful breath. The natural world is in a state of change, a time of slowing down with calmness lingering within the trees. We to must create change to allow balance from our busy lives, overwhelming experiences and the stress we may have experienced these past few months.

You will be guided by myself through breathing techniques within classes these coming weeks, you can join me in studio or online. I cannot wait to share more of this philosophy with you, it's never ending and so profound!

All my love,

V x


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