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Stress On or Off... A Road to Healing !

Updated: Mar 13

 

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To navigate a chaotic world, it is even more essential than ever before to begin with nurturing yourself.


Do you wish to find out about a perfect counterbalance to a busy chaotic world ? Do you wish to learn about letting go and grounding yourself to stay strong, aligned and centred ? If you wish to find a way to healing, feeling whole and at ease, no matter what, then please read on…


Finding space and ease within is our theme for this term of yoga 🧘‍♀️ I feel we need this more than ever in a world 🌎 in turmoil. Stress on or off… When was the last time you completely switched off ? There is a road to healing.


In crises, we start doing strange stuff. Over the last couple of years, we have to deal with a rise in violence across the globe, the pandemic, wars and so on… It is a lot to feel destabilise on a business or personal level.


Personally, I have recently struggled to get a good night sleep, stayed up late into the night pottering about, indulged in comfort eating, buying food I don’t usually eat and started to easily feel frustrated when my energy level dropped. Does this sound familiar ? I know I am not alone, This is a typical stress reaction.

This behaviour is unlike me, so what happened ? The truth is that for in the last few months, stress has been slowly finding its way more and more into our lives. Besides the world news, I have had no heating at home as my boiler broke down this winter, I have been doing a lot of trouble shooting and suddenly, I found myself on crutches following a small ski accident resulting in endless medical appointments. The results of an X Ray and scan revealed a small ankle fracture, torn ligament and split Achilles tendon. Ouch !! This throws you completely out of balance. Not ideal, especially when you are a yoga teacher and like being active.


I am not complaining. There are much worse situations and I am very fortunate in many ways. I always like to learn from my experience. What I noticed is that I could not do my usual yoga practice, I learnt to adapt but more interestingly, I had lost my centre and a sense of connection. As I could not stand balancing on my own 2 feet, I ended up being perched and putting all my weight on one leg with the help of crutches. I somehow lost connection with my whole left side, with the earth below me, and to myself for a while.


BREATHE, MOVE, RELAX: I managed to carry on teaching and am learning along the way about self-compassion, patience and how to adapt my practice. My priority always is to reestablish a breath connection and find comfort and ease in my body. Crutches are so helpful to move around yet it brings tension in your shoulders, neck and back and your posture suffers as you come out of alignment. It also becomes very tiring.


I am so grateful I have Somatics I can use as a way to release tension and rebalance my body. Boy, did I need this or what ? Somatics allows you to develop interoceptive awareness to listen to your body. When lying on my mat, my body was telling me what I knew already. The whole of my body weight was resting on my right side. In other words, I could feel the right side of my back touching the floor but my left side was off the floor. After one hour practice, I was able to slowly release tension and reconnect both sides.


A gentle soothing Somatics flow, where I melt tension away, recreate space and freedom of movement truly feels amazing. It is an invitation to become quieter and feel what is happening within your body. It is an invitation to come back “home”. I love to take the time to reconnect. What I love is that sense of the body just letting go and return to its natural state.


The breath practice calms my nervous system and allows my body to open up and let go. Small gentle movements allow me to reset my body, mind and nervous system. What is even better is that sense of nurturing, grounding and calmness which comes with the practice. As I felt trapped in the chaos and turmoil of life, this is just what my body and soul needs right now. This is so therapeutic. I feel so grateful to have those tools to play with.


Somatics is a great practice on its own to feel calm, grounded, open and at ease in daily life. It is also a great warm up preparation for yoga or sport. Perfect for me !


Most important, I am trying to let my body rest when needed and learn from this experience. It is challenging. At times, I feel a bit teary, and all I really want to do is eat cake, chocolate and more cake. If I want to rest, I rest. If I don’t feel like exercising every day, that is fine. So, my mind does not approve of this situation and makes me feel guilty, yet I know my body is talking to me and I learn to listen. I learn to observe in a detached manner the dialogue between body & mind to help with my recovery process and healing. If you’re having a wobble, you may also have noticed all sorts of weird stuff going on. Any imbalance in your life will obviously impact your body, mind, energy and spirit. Are you arguing more, talking faster, struggling to sleep, feeling restless, desperate for information? Or are you simply feeling teary and overwhelmed, perhaps struggling to make decisions? Is your body feeling tense ? Are you experiencing palpitations, butterflies, headaches, an upset tummy ? Are you feeling fatigued ? Are you developing a low level of tolerance to noise and light ? Is your breath shallow or rapid ? If you are feeling any of these things, you are not alone. You are a fully emotionally functional human being. Those are reactions to stress. Let's review what happens to our being when under pressure.


As we are living in uncertain times, worry and anxiety can run wild. For the last few years, we have seen a rise in terrorism, increased violence, climate change, the pandemic, a rapid change towards a digital world where there is less human contact, more cyber-attacks, and now a declaration of war from Russia… Clearly the world is in turmoil. We have been asked to isolate, stay home, wear masks, keep a social distance and adapt to situations and ever-changing rules. All this can be perceived as threats to ourselves, our loved ones, and our way of life. It is easy to feel destabilised, be swept away, feel terrified and totally out of control.


Technically, threats are perceived by the amygdala, a complex structure of cells located deep inside our brain. The amygdala, a small almond shape cluster of nuclei, is part of the limbic system and plays a key role in how we assess and respond to environmental threats and challenges (including fear, anxiety, and aggression). It is the oldest, most primitive part of our brain, designed to ensure our physical survival in times of dangers.


The real issue is when perceived threats, real or not real, lead to prolonged stress, anxiety, mental and physical imbalances… The amygdala responds to danger or no danger. In other words, Bear No Bear !!


BEAR MODE ON !! Because all threats look like a bear to the amygdala, it preps you accordingly in a fraction of a second to fight or run real fast to deal with the situation. Our brain automatically springs into action sending a signal to our body by starting to pump cortisol and adrenaline around getting us ready for action to fight or flight. This is what we call the Fight or Flight response (there’s also freeze, meaning you just get paralysed). You come to a state of high alertness: your heart rate goes up, your breathing goes shallow, your muscles are ready for action. Blood is redirected to all vital organs and your digestive system shuts down.

This is a fantastic mechanism to escape danger in the short term. If it goes long term, the result is an awful lot of stress and anxiety. You can end up feeling really overwhelmed and having all sorts of reactions. SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS: Stress and Anxiety isn’t just mental – it is also physical, cognitive and behavioural. You may notice all kinds of things: stomach upsets, headaches, insomnia, changes to eating, changes to the way you talk. It’s also cognitive: It becomes difficult to think straight and we also become very bad at making decisions, absorbing information and generally thinking rationally - Which is EXACTLY what we need to do.


The amygdala performs a key role in the processing of memory, emotional responses and decision making. Stress impacts on our nervous system and can deplete our energy if it goes on for too long… It uses the fight & flight mode, part of our sympathetic nervous system. So how do you switch off back to a relaxed mode ?


BEAR MODE OFF is the solution but how do you do turn it off ? It is essential to learn to let go and ground ourselves. Once set in Flight and Fight mode, you can get stuck into it. In addition, your body has become addicted to the rush of adrenaline asking for more stress, action, coffee... You find it difficult to switch off, relax or sleep. An endless vicious cycle difficult to break but not impossible. In the meantime, you are depleting your natural energy reserves in your adrenals, situated above your kidneys leaving you feeling fatigued or burnt out.


The good news is that it is possible to destress and relax. And, no, it is not just about sitting in front of the TV or having coffee and cake. I will share below a few tips scientifically proven to bring you back to a state of calm, switching from the sympathetic to the parasympathetic system, where you can allow your body to heal and restore itself. If you wish to find out more and share a soothing practice with me, feel free to get in touch.


A ROAD TO HEALING: The Vagus Nerve, one of the longest nerve in our body, controls the function of our cells, organs and systems. You can learn how to rebalance it to soothe our nervous system. This helps to calm the body which when under stress starts to create inflammation leading to all sorts of health issues if left unattended.


It originates in the brain stem travelling right through the chest, heart, lungs and abdomen and plays a fundamental role in our overall health and parasympathetic nervous system. It connects to your eyes, vital organs, digestive and reproductive systems. It is one of the most important nerves in our body and is key to our health and wellbeing.


The so-called “wandering nerve” is responsible for our rest and digest capacities to calm and soothe when under attack from a virus or life’s daily pressures. It is even more essential than ever before to nurture yourself in today's world. The vagus nerve has an impact on your mental, physical and emotional health. It regulates emotions, digestion, respiratory and heart rate, releases tension, trauma, reduces inflammation, improves sleep, boosts your immune system and metabolism and more.


You can read more about the numerous wellbeing effects of the vagus nerve in one of my previous website blogs on how a higher vagal tone increases your health & happiness and can help recovering from Covid-19 long term side effects.

The vagus nerve is deeply embedded in our autonomic nervous system and is one of the longest nerves. It is so vital as it has direct links to our brain, heart, lungs, gut and all of our organs.

TIP No. 1. BREATHE. It’s so basic, yet breath control or pranayama works wonders. It works in minutes can be performed anywhere. It helps counteract all the physical reactions the amygdala triggers. You can learn how to consciously control your breath for different effects. You can learn to control your breathing to calm things down and inform your body that all is well. Your body will then start to dial down the adrenaline and cortisol.


Patanjali, an Indian sage, author of the Yoga Sutra, a collection of pearls of wisdom on yoga, knew what science has now proven: controlled, deep breathing shifts our nervous system by activating the calming, regenerating, and relaxing response whilst lowering stress levels.

“Calm is retained by the controlled exhalation or retention of the breath” Yoga Sutra 1.34, Book 1


Controlled, prolonged exhalation has been shown to activate our parasympathetic nervous system, the branch of our nervous system responsible for our “rest-and-digest” relaxation response. I teach and ask my students to practice this breath in all of my classes as I believe it is fundamental and most beneficial for our wellbeing. It might take a couple of sessions to learn but they soon feel the amazing health and calming benefits.


TIP No. 2. Walking in nature is deeply soothing. In a forest, near a water, in the hills or mountains.


TIP No. 3. Water Therapy. A shower, a bath, swimming, walking or floating in water works wonders. Exposure to cold water in particular stimulates your vagus nerve.


TIP No. 4. Yoga and Somatics. This is a wonderful way to slow down and reset, to switch off from the outside world for some “Me” time. It will nurture and soothe body and mind. It will help you breathe, move and sleep better. Somatics will melt tensions away from body & mind leaving you feeling calm and grounded. For more info and benefits on Somatics, please visit https://www.yogawithbelle.co.uk/why-somatics


If you wish to learn more wellbeing tools, feel free to contact me. I regularly offer private and group classes as well as workshops. Contact Isabelle, Email yogawithbelletw@hotmail.com


I am holding an online nurturing yoga somatics workshop on the Vagus Nerve on 12th March 2022, where we will cover theory, more tips and share a physical practice to calm and restore our physical and emotional being, leaving you feeling calm, grounded and whole able to cope with life's pressures and challenges. If you have missed it, I also teach privately so happy to share with you what I know to help you. It could be for a small private group or a one to one.


You can also sign up for the newsletter to be kept informed of our yoga somatics classes and workshops and follow me on Instagram or Facebook for yoga tips, fun and wisdom.


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