We really can reset our stress hormones!
We all know that stress is the most damaging influence on our system and our longevity but tragically so many of us feel like it’s futile to work on doing anything about its trajectory. We can always find articles on what to do about it, but l find that in my clinic, words on managing stress are falling on deaf ears, clients seem resigned to a constant state of tension. Or is that my perception? Or my belief system reflecting back to me?
Then on my flight to the Restorative Medicine Conference I was reading an old Yoga Journal, where an MD was writing about the Sympathetic nervous system’s many responses in a stressed state and its effect on high blood pressure, high blood sugar, weight gain, indigestion, and blood clotting. Though I teach it daily, I was excited to read, “we can make another choice”!
We can learn to trigger the parasympathetic system, since “Just as the fight or flight response automatically kicks in at the threat of danger, the rest and digest response automatically responds to our sense of equilibrium. The heart rate drops, blood pressure falls, and respiration slows and deepens”
Do you know that breathing slowly and deeply is the easiest way to activate that rest, reset and repair state? We can choose that any time we feel tense. By stimulating the Vagus nerve with our diaphragm, our body will follow suit with a cascade of calming effects. our mind can clear and slow down, muscles relax, cortisol secretion stops, and digestion can resume.
But, how do I do that breathing correctly? you ask;
Well, at the conference we got a lesson from Dr. Stephen Sinatra (the very same one Dr. Oz had on his show) on alternate nostril breathing. It which goes well with Dr. Andrew Weil’s 4-7-8 instructions: Place your index and middle fingers of one hand on your mid-forehead and rest your thumb and 3rd finger on nostrils. While occluding the right nostril, take a deep breath in to the slow count of 4, hold that to the count of 7, and while occluding the left nostril exhale to the count of 8. Repeat that, first inhaling through that right nostril again to 4, holding for 7, and exhaling through the Left one for 8. He demonstrated pushing the breath slightly with each count which (as I sit and practice here on the plane back home) moves the diaphragm a little more.
Dr. Sinatra also asserts that heart rate variability, a measure of autonomic balance is normalized with this style of breathing which decreases cardiovascular disease.
I also feel comforted by the mantra, Soham, pronounced like “So” with inhalation, and “Hum” with exhalation.
I love travel, with the time and Synchronicities it gives me for these reminders. Last night wandering the streets of Burlington, I saw on a Salvation Army Sign, “Breathe in Spirit, Exhale Love”. How perfect is that to top off this healing practice?!