Take it Easy…

I workout about 5 – 6 times per week. My weekly routine consists of 4-5 days/week of a 20-minute cardio workout, followed by light weights and some abdominal strengthening exercises. I also an incorporate few backbends into my daily routine and some stretching. I usually practice Yoga about 3 days/week and incorporate 15 to 20 minutes of meditation into my daily routine most days of the week.

Because I teach Yoga, I spend even more time than this stretching daily when I am demonstrating certain poses in class, or even sometimes joining in on the Yoga practice with the class to flow with them from time-to-time.

The reason I’m sharing all of this with you is that I am becoming increasingly aware of how overexertion or being imbalanced in our physical wellness routine can affect us and be detrimental to our overall goals physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. Last night, as I was teaching Yoga, I was speaking to the class about being balanced and taking time to rest. That when we do too much we create imbalance and this can be counter-productive to what we intend to create…

As I said this, I heard a voice inside of me say, don’t workout tomorrow. Take it easy tomorrow and rest. Do nothing. What?! What I find though, is when I give myself permission to rest, when I do return to my daily regimen of health and wellness, I feel much stronger, calmer and energized than before.

We experience this all the time when we let ourselves come into Child’s Pose in Yoga class. One of the most challenging parts of creating balance in our lives is actually giving ourselves the permission to get down on our knees and put your head on the ground and just let go and DO NOTHING.

So often my Yoga teacher will mention how the benefits of DOING NOTHING can be way more powerful and transformational on every level of our Being than overexerting ourselves to do something, i.e. making sure we get our workout/yoga practice in, etc. How overexertion can produce unhealthy levels of cortisol in our body which has the body be unresponsive to our efforts. She uses the imagery of the person who goes to the gym every day and yet never seems to change anything. Their bodies are stressed out and the only way to bring the body back to a balanced state is through a relaxation promoting practice like Yoga, Meditation, Massage, etc.

With this being said, I thought you might enjoy reading this article about stress from overexertion and how it affects our Body, Mind, and Spirit.

Take time to take it easy…

Cortisol and Stress: How to Stay HealthyFrom Elizabeth Scott,
Your Guide to Stress Management.

Cortisol and Your Body
“Cortisol is an important hormone in the body, secreted by the adrenal glands and involved in the following functions and more:

-Proper glucose metabolism
-Regulation of blood pressure
-Insulin release for blood sugar maintenance
-Immune function
-Inflammatory response

Normally, it’s present in the body at higher levels in the morning, and at its lowest at night. Although stress isn’t the only reason that cortisol is secreted into the bloodstream, it has been termed “the stress hormone” because it’s also secreted in higher levels during the body’s ‘fight or flight’ response to stress, and is responsible for several stress-related changes in the body.

Small increases of cortisol have some positive effects:

-A quick burst of energy for survival reasons
-Heightened memory functions
-A burst of increased immunity
-Lower sensitivity to pain
-Helps maintain homeostasis in the body

While cortisol is an important and helpful part of the body’s response to stress, it’s important that the body’s relaxation response to be activated so the body’s functions can return to normal. Unfortunately, in our current high-stress culture, the body’s stress response is activated so often that functioning often doesn’t have a chance to return to normal, producing chronic stress.

Higher and more prolonged levels of cortisol in the bloodstream (like those associated with chronic stress) have been shown to have negative effects, such as:

-Impaired cognitive performance
-Suppressed thyroid function
-Blood sugar imbalances such as hyperglycemia
-Decreased bone density
-Decrease in muscle tissue
-Higher blood pressure
-Lowered immunity and inflammatory responses in the body, as well as other health consequences

Increased abdominal fat, which is associated with a greater amount of health problems than fat deposited in other areas of the body. Some of the health problems associated with increased stomach fat are heart attacks, strokes, the development of, higher levels of “bad” cholesterol (LDL) and lower levels of “good” cholesterol (HDL), which can lead to other health problems!

To keep cortisol levels healthy and under control, the body’s relaxation response should be activated after the fight or flight response occurs. You can learn to relax your body with various stress management techniques, and you can make lifestyle changes in order to keep your body from reacting to stress in the first place. The following have been found by many to be very helpful in relaxing the body and mind, aiding the body in maintaining healthy cortisol levels:

-Guided Imagery
-Journaling
-Self-Hypnosis
-Exercise
-Yoga
-Listening to Music
-Breathing Exercises
-Meditation
-Sex
-Other Techniques

Cortisol secretion varies among individuals. People are biologically ‘wired’ to react differently to stress. One person may secrete higher levels of cortisol than another in the same situation. Studies have also shown that people who secrete higher levels of cortisol in response to stress also tend to eat more food and food that is higher in carbohydrates than people who secrete less cortisol. If you’re more sensitive to stress, it’s especially important for you to learn stress management techniques and maintain a low-stress lifestyle.” From: http://stress.about.com/od/stresshealth/a/cortisol.htm