Today’s world is often referred to as fast paced, busy and chaotic. We are overfed stress and worry and we are undernourished in areas that truly matter. This concept of being ‘overfed and undernourished’ goes far beyond any food we put on our plate. 

 

I would go as far as saying, that our country is becoming a nation of human beings that are over worked, tired and are operating continuously at maximum capacity. What happens our minds, our bodies and our souls when we get tired, bombarded or run down? We become sick. We become fatigued. We become anxious. We become ill. 

Having worked as a Pharmacist for almost a decade – I could see first hand the frantic, stress ridden, pill popping nation that we have become. I witnessed the rising scale in antidepressants being prescribed. I saw the rise in sleeping tablets, anti-anxiety medication and stress related diseases, ranging from auto immune diseases, inflammatory disorders, skin problems, stomach disease and cancer to name a few. From behind the dispensary – I could see with my own two eyes our society crumbling into sickness and disease. 

Dis – ease, the very word meaning “a lack of ease”. 

I could see both young and old becoming a nation where the concept of “ease” in our lives was merely non existent. A nation where our norm was to be “busy” and “stressed” and if you weren’t busy or stressed, then you weren’t successful. 

But this doesn’t have to be the way. We, as human beings have an infinite inner well of consciousness that wants to be healthy. We inherently want to be happy. We want to have inner peace. We crave to live a life that is healthy, and prosperous and rich in creativity and exhilaration. 

But we tend to get caught up in the rat race, we can often get stuck in a job that doesn’t fulfil us, or a relationship that doesn’t ignite us. We somehow can find ourselves living a life that is not full of “ease”. We can find ourselves feeling “stuck” or stale, and our life can lack meaning or inspiration. When this happens we can turn to food, or alcohol or some external source to try and bring some light or life back into our lives, only to find that, this too falls short and leaves us feeling worse off than ever before. 

So what’s the solution? How can we go about finding some “ease” in our lives? How can we begin to find some meaning in our world? How can we reduce the anxiety, the stress, the overwhelming emotions that surge us on a day to day basis? One way that helped me immensely was Yoga. 

If you read my earlier article on ‘Why yoga really can be for everyone’ and the benefits behind yoga, you will know that Yoga goes far beyond just the physical. One of the main benefits that I find, and that many of my clients experience, is the escaping healing feeling that yoga brings to ones life.

 

Yoga – meaning union, unites mind with the body, and body with the soul. 

In today’s world – this connection is vital. We don’t need more noise, or more busyness, or more loud music, or more adrenaline. What the world needs is more stillness. More silence. More space. More time out. More recovery. More rest. More breathing. More connection. Yoga delivers all of the above and more. 

When you get on the mat, you centre yourself. You ground yourself. You connect. To find more ease in our lives and in our world, it’s important that we first find some balance and stability within ourselves. 

Yoga empowers connection back to our inner world. It enables you to actually stop for a second and scan your body. Scan your emotions. Scan your thoughts. Check in with yourself and listen to your intuition. One of the best ways to reduce stress in your life, is to give yourself a break. In order to find some ease and relaxation in our lives we need to first stop, listen and feel. To take some time out from the busyness and connect to a space of stillness. 

Yoga Breathing or Pranayama: 

When you get on your yoga mat – you connect your mind and body through the breath. The breath – which is our life force energy – our Prana. Once we engage with deep mindful breathing we reduce the anxiety by activating our para sympathetic nervous system. This is our rest and recovery system – the opposite to our fight or flight system where we operate most of our lives from.

When we engage in yogic breathing (see the simple excerise below) we reduce anxiety and nervous tension in our central nervous system. When we are anxious – our nerve endings can become irritated and excited. They become heightened and activated, and we thus, become “on edge” and anxious and develop nervous tension and irritability. 

Doing this breathing along with certain yoga poses (asanas) we can calm down our entire nervous system. We activate this para sympathetic nervous system and as a result reduces our stress hormone cortisol. This reduces heart rate, blood pressure and anxiety. 

Yoga breathing (pranayama) is the foundation of your yoga practice. It begins with deepening your breathing and engaging is a 3-part breath technique.

Try this simple breathing technique at least once a day for a week and observe how it affects your body, breath, and mind. This mindful excercise can be done at just about any time of day, though preferably not immediately following a large meal.

How to:

  1. Lie comfortably on your back (with your knees slightly bent and your feet flat on the floor) about hip-distance apart or lie in savasana (corpse pose), whichever is most comfortable for you.

  2. Place one palm on your abdomen and just breathe comfortably for a few moments. Notice the quality of your breath. Does the breath feel tense? shallow? rapid? strained? Simply observe the breath without trying to adjust it or change it, or without any judgment.

  3. Then gradually begin to relax your breathing. Slow your breath down, deepen the inhalation and try make the breath as smooth as possible.

  4. Begin to draw the breathe in for a count of 4.

  5. Slowly introduce a slight PAUSE after each inbreath.

  6. Then gracefully release your breath through a nice slow relaxed exhalation to the count of 8.

  7. So the breathing goes something like this;  inhale – count 1,2,3,4… Pause and hold for 1,2,3,4…. Exhale count 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8… Pause and hold 1,2,3,4 and repeat.

  8. Once the breath feels comfortable, relaxed, smooth and rhythmical, notice the movement of the body. As you inhale, the abdomen naturally expands; as you exhale, feel the slight contraction of the abdomen. To experience the pleasure of giving yourself a full, relaxed breath, gently try to actively expand the abdomen on the inhale and contract the abdomen on the exhale to support the natural movement of the diaphragm.

  9. Continue this breathing practice for 6 to 12 breaths.

  10. Check in with your body, mind, thoughts and emotions afterwards. (Have a pen and paper near by as you may get some moments of insights or clarity afterwards).

 

Benefits: 

  • Quietens the mind
  • Calms the entire nervous system
  • Reduces stress and anxiety 
  • Promotes restful sleep
  • Improves self-awareness
  • Promotes focus and clarity 
  • Develops inner peace 
  • Reduces blood pressure and can ease bodily aches and pains 
  • Promotes overall EASE in the mind, body and soul 
  • Promotes a sense of wellbeing and relaxation 

Examples of some Yoga poses (asanas) that can really help with reducing anxiety and stress are the following:

  • Cat/Cow pose (Marjaryasana/Bitikasana) 
  • Child’s pose (balasana)
  • Trees pose (Vrikasana)
  • Headstand or supported headstand (sirsasana)
  • Corpse Pose (savasana) 
  • Abdominal twists 
  • Legs up the Wall pose (Viparita Karani)

The trinity of Yoga, meditation and mindful breathing, is just one way that can help alleviate stress and anxiety in our modern world. It has helped me and so many of my clients. I really hope it can also help you. 

 

So your stressful life has contributed to sleeping issues? You have been diagnosed with adrenal fatigue or all at the very least the symptoms seem to fit. Your energy levels have dropped off significantly over the years and it’s especially problematic during afternoons.

 

Fatigued Coffee

The best remedy combines B-vitamins, magnesium, adaptogenic herbs and critical amino acids like GABA. However, there is no such thing as adrenal fatigue. Unless you have Addison’s disease, your adrenal glands are working as intended. It’s the signaling upstream that is the problem.

Adrenal glands don’t excessively secrete cortisol to the point where they can’t produce unless damaged. This is the finding by the vast majority of scientific research. So why do adrenal fatigue support formulations work? It’s because the effective formulas are resetting the hypothalamic–pituitary–adrenal axis (HPA axis) just as the vitamins, minerals and herbs previously mentioned.

Why is this distinction important? If only your cortisol levels are tested a patient can get a false negative for “adrenal fatigue” or worse. Then the patient is given cortisol that might exacerbate the situation. This is one more reason to always choose well-formulated herbal based supplements rather than synthetic stimulating or suppressing cortisol drugs.

Cortisol plays a critical role in sleep, stress and inflammation. Our cortisol levels should be highest when we first awake so we are alert and then it tapers off quickly. When perceived stress or chronic inflammation occurs, cortisol secretion is initiated. During times of stress it boosts our system in a threatening situation. Where there is chronic inflammation, cortisol reduces the inflammatory response to protect us from the aging process. Unfortunately sleep is interrupted when cortisol is secreted anytime other than early in the day.

There are four triggers causing HPA axis imbalance between these three glands mistakenly referred to as, “adrenal fatigue,” according to Dr. Thomas Guilliams, an expert the field of Molecular Immunology.

  1. Perceived stress.
  2. Inflammation primarily in the gut caused by small bacteria or candida overgrowth.
  3. Sugar dysregulation.
  4. Circadian dysregulation.

While this topic deserves a deeper dive, the important takeaway is that the HPA axis includes a set of neurotransmitters with self-regulating feedback loops. When the body isn’t in balanced, the pathways either no longer result in cortisol secretion or the cells become cortisol insensitive like a diabetic in the presence of too much insulin. This is the body’s system of checks and balances.

To address the four triggers, incorporate stress-reducing behaviors like meditation, yoga, essential oils and supplements. Begin by reducing inflammation in the gut by eating a healthy diet reducing sugar and eliminating rancid vegetable oils. Try to get outside and take in natural light and stay away from your computer screen late at night.

New to Yoga? Don’t know what all the fuss is about?

Here are my top 10 reasons to try it

For a newcomer to yoga you might find that explanations like “It increases the flow of prana” or “It brings energy up your spine” fall on deaf or sceptical ears! Or seeing someone in an inverted head stand pose gets you thinking – “Oh Heck! I could never do that”!

Please don’t be put off by this. Yoga really is for EVERYONE. All ages, genders, shapes and sizes. There are many styles of Yoga, some are fast paced, others are gentle. It’s just about finding a class that resonates with you.

Yoga means Union – The union or the connection between mind and body, and body with spirit. It really means to establish a connection back home to yourself.

To truly understand yoga and reap its overall benefits is to engage this union, this connection between mind, body and spirit. Yoga is about releasing tightness and tensions from the muscles but also from your internal world of thoughts and emotions.

When you begin to fully embrace the practice of yoga, you will be taken on a spiritual journey! You will begin to FEEL its transformative effects, not just in body, but in mind and soul.

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  1. Yoga improves your self- esteem, increases self- awareness and boosts confidence levels. By stretching and squeezing the body and by incorporating various breathing exercises you begin to unlock stagnant or stale energy and release blockages in your energy field (also known as your Chakras). When you breathe, stretch, release and let go, both physically and mentally, you begin to heighten your awareness and elevate your vibrational energy field. As a result, you end up feeling lighter, taller, stronger and more confident in the body, and clearer in the mind.

 

  1. Yoga increases core strength, improves muscle tone and helps maintain a healthy body weight. Without any doubt, regular yoga increases muscle tone and helps build abs! Yoga can influence weight loss, but often it is not in the “traditional” sense of how we link physical activity to weight loss. Depending on your yoga class – for example; HOT yoga or Bikram yoga can burn up to 1000 calories per class, as it is an intense workout style of yoga. Other gentler yoga practices often burn fewer calories than traditional exercise (e.g., running, cycling); however, yoga can increase one’s mindfulness and sense of self -care, so the way one relates to their body is different. We begin to love ourselves enough not to over eat or self-sabotage, which is a much more rewarding and life changing outcome.

 

  1. Yoga Detoxifies the body and can prevent against disease. As you twist and rotate and stretch and squeeze, it massages the internal organs and brings fresh blood supply to enable them to function at their best.

 

  1. Yoga helps decrease stress and anxiety and reduce nervous tension. Stress can reveal itself in many ways, including back or neck pain, sleeping problems, headaches, emotional eating, substance abuse and so on. Yoga’s incorporation of meditation and breathing can really help improve a person’s mental well-being. It can be useful in reaching a more calm and centred state and help achieve a more positive outlook on life.

 

  1. Yoga increases flexibility, mobility, stability and improves posture. Improved flexibility is one of the first and most obvious benefits of yoga, along with increased strength and muscle tone. Strong muscles do more than look good. They also protect us from conditions like arthritis and back pain. The combination of the above will results in less injury and reduced aches and pains in the body.

 

  1. It increases concentration, focus and mental clarity.  A big part of yoga is maintaining balance and being present in the moment. This transfers into life off the mat. Regular yoga practice improves coordination, reaction time, memory, and brings more stability and balance in our physical and emotional world.

 

  1. Yoga provides energy, vitality and improves the immune system. When you contract and stretch muscles, move organs around, and come in and out of yoga postures, you increase the drainage of lymph (a viscous fluid rich in immune cells). This helps the lymphatic system fight infection, destroy cancerous cells, and dispose of the toxic waste products of cellular functioning.

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  1. Yoga improves sleep and enhances inner peace. At the end of a yoga class you come into the gorgeous savansa pose – ‘corpse pose’ for a mediation as part of a cool-down sequence. At this point the body is relaxed, which enables the mind to become quiet. This is often where people get great moments of insight and feel utter inner peace. This definitely helps to enhance a state of easy slumber.

 

  1. Yoga improves your emotional intelligence. Emotionally yoga teaches us how to be loving and compassionate toward ourselves, because as human beings, we have self-defeating and self-limiting tendencies. Practicing yoga brings the content of our beings to the surface so we can see it. Inside the muscles, we hold the memories of every emotion we’ve ever experienced: sadness, fear, anger, love etc. Through the asanas (postures), we can tap into these memories and process our pasts. It’s the asanas that release the emotions out of the body.

 

  1. Yoga helps to cultivate an attitude of gratitude and elevate your sense of self-care. In yoga, we come onto the mat to stop. To listen. To feel. We come on the mat to get some stillness in a world that is often so chaotic. We get on the mat to re-connect back to ourselves, to centre ourselves and to in effect ground ourselves. By doing this, it enables us to feel more gratitude in our lives. It allows us to feel our heart beating and to honour this life that we have. It provides us with some time and space to simply just be. To self-care, self soothe and reconnect.

If yoga is a new concept to you, I hope you can embrace it with an openness and a willingness, and enjoy the journey it takes you on.

#FitnessFriday