I have never written a blog before so I hope you get help and guidance from this one. And if you find typos we will just have to ignore them. : )
I was always intrigued about how stress affects help. Years ago I attended a fitness conference in Chicago. They had a lecture there entitled “Why does stress make you fat?” I attended because I wanted to know why stress makes you gain weight. This is what I learned.
We are born with the flight or fight instinct. Back when we had to hunt for our food or be hunted as food, God in His wisdom gave us the chemical ability to run at a moments notice. That is the fight or flight instinct. When we are stressed, insulin floods the body giving us needed energy to run or fight the danger. Then the body consumes the extra energy source during the running or the fighting. Our bodies have not changed since then but our lifestyles have. When we are in heavy traffic and someone cuts us off coming inches from hitting our car, we get stressed. A surge of energy hits our body as we are thrown into the fight or flight stage. The problem is we are not fighting nor flighting. The extra sugar insulin rush that the body set off to be used as energy does not get used. You are sitting in your car. So the body does what the body does best with extra sugar, it stores it to be used later which turns into fat.
Stress makes you crave sugar. Our workshop did not touch on the chemistry on why stress makes you crave sugar, but I know from personal experience when I am stressed the first thing I crave is my guilty pleasure, donuts. And because you are tired, stressed and worn out you are more likely then not you give into that craving.
It seems like a lost cause, I mean we all have stressful lives. How on earth do we take stress out of our daily grind. Well…. It’s not about how the stress can be deleted from life, because that’s not going to happen, but it is about how you react to the stressful situation. Yes you could yell and scream and stomp your feet. Or yell at the car’s driver who can’t hear you (yes we have all done that) or you can take a much calmer approach and breathe.
I started teaching Yoga within the last 6 months and truth be told I was not thrilled at first. I did it because my Yoga instructor quit and I didn’t want to take Yoga off of FIM’s schedule altogether. It seemed too slow and a waste of time. I was into fast, sweaty and loud. I still love the fast classes, but in the months I have taught Yoga I am appreciating it more and more. I knew Yoga stretched your muscles and it can work on balance and muscle strength, but I came to realize that the most important part of a Yoga class is the de-stressing and the breathing.
At one point of your life you have been stressed. Do you remember at that moment taking a big deep breath in and exhaling slowly maybe counting to 10 backwards so that you can deal with the situation. That is a natural reaction that your body did to help you calm down. There is a reason that your body responded that way. Breathing helps your body neutralize the fight or flight instinct. It drives your insulin back down to normal levels, lowers your blood pressure and allows you to think rationally. Yoga takes that natural reaction of breathing to a new level. A great Yoga class will help guide you through the relation process through breathing. Showing you how to relax your body as a whole.
Here are the physical benefits that are possible by learning how to relax or refocus your energy. Other than the ones I listed in the paragraph above, Yoga can lower your cortisol level. Cortisol is the stress hormone that tells you body to save fatty tissue, usually in the midsection area. You crave less fast food. You learn that your body is worth taking care of with food that is beneficial to you. You sleep better which is good for everyone. FIMers have mentioned that after years of insomnia they had an excellent night’s sleep after their weekly Yoga class. It can help fight depression. Yoga can reduce acute anxiety by calming the sympathetic nervous system and increase brain function in the cortex that regulates stress. You are more mindful of others and last but certainly not least, it can help you melt fat. The quote that I loved the most from the article I read regarding Yoga’s de-stressing properties is this “Yoga just makes you pay attention and think differently. Thinking differently also means acknowledging that you’re human. Sometimes you still go into that dark place of self-criticism or overeat from time to time. But it’s so nice to have this tool to help you get back on track. When it happens, you can come to your mat and say, ‘All right. Now breathe.'”