Written by Julie Taylor
With summer over and school back in session, schedules can become more demanding as responsibilities increase. For some it’s an expanded work week and for others, the addition of children’s sports practices and games, homework assistance, lunches to be made and more clothes to wash, make it more challenging to balance it all. It is important to maintain emotional balance to be able to deal with these demands; and how focusing on the mind-body connection is just the link to doing that.
Yoga can be one way of achieving this balance. One of the key elements of yoga is stress reduction through structured breathing techniques. In yoga, this action is called, pranayama, a Sanskrit word that translates into the lengthening of prana. Prana is our life force or vital source of energy. For humans, prana is simply our breath. By learning how to oxygenate our organs naturally by proper breathing, we can in essence have instant access to stress reduction. Did you know that something free, readily available and shared by people everywhere would be so powerful and healing? Surprisingly for the uninitiated, learning pranayama techniques takes time and are generally learned best through study with a certified yoga practitioner or a breath specialist to achieve desired results.
For some people yoga alone is not enough, as stress has built up over time through excessive oxygen deprivation or over-stimulation. Did you know that too much oxygen could have reverse effects thus causing more stress on the body?
From a scientific standpoint, every cell in our body requires oxygen for survival. However too much or inadequate oxygen levels can easily disrupt the body’s functions and systems. When a person experiences stress, the oxygen level in their blood is reduced, depriving the cells, organs, including the brain, of the power they need to function effectively. For instance, if you were in a situation where you found yourself hyperventilating, you would be sending excessive amounts of oxygen to the brain. This would take you out of “thinking” mode (the frontal brain) and transfer your brain function to the back of the brain, which transforms you into “survival” mode. This adrenaline rush would send a huge amount of oxygen throughout the body – a fine plan if a saber tooth tiger were chasing you, since you would most likely be able to kick it up a notch and run like Tarzan. In everyday life this is usually not the appropriate solution; the stressor and the excess adrenaline and other stress hormones caused from hyperventilating would wreak havoc on the body systems as they stay in the system with no outlet or specific function.
In contrast, when your breath is too shallow due to fatigue or other factors associated from stress, negative consequences could also occur. Not enough oxygen to the brain can lead to brain fog, more fatigue and depression, making life even more complicated.
Yoga helps us to breathe in a controlled way, taking oxygen deep into our bodies. It teaches us to still our minds and encourage restful sleep. Yoga can help you to successfully live with the demands of life in the 21st century.