The Yinside of Breathing: Benefits of Yoga
By Bernie Clark • December 27th, 2010 • 17709 Views
"It can be argued that stress is the number one killer in the Western world today."
The above quote is from Dr Timothy McCall. In his book Yoga as Medicine, he goes on to say, "... stress fuels some of the biggest health problems of our time, including type 2 diabetes, depression, osteoporosis, heart attacks and strokes as well as autoimmune diseases like multiple sclerosis (MS) and rheumatoid arthritis. While there isn't a lot of evidence that stress causes cancer, it appears to increase the odds of dying from the disease."1
Whew ... stress! Who needs it? Stress is unavoidable in our culture and some amount of stress is actually needed for our bodies to be strong and healthy. All exercise includes the dual components of stress and rest. However, when we experience too much stress and not enough rest, problems arise. In physiological terms we are hyperactive in our Sympathetic Nervous System (SNS) and hypoactive in our Parasympathetic Nervous System (PNS). The SNS and PNS are part of our autonomous nervous system, and our yoga practice, especially the Yin Yoga practice, can help rebalance these two important systems. Before we examine how Yin Yoga, combined with mindful breathing, can help reduce our stress levels and dial back the SNS, let's look a bit more at what these two systems do.
The Sympathetic Nervous System
The SNS is our basic fight or flight system. When our ancestors were being chased by a sabre-tooth tiger or being attacked by the tribe in the next valley, their SNS would strongly activate and give them the energy and focus needed to flee, or fight. The brain's amygdala recognizes the threat and stimulates the hypothalamus, which in turn releases hormones that activate the pituitary gland. The pituitary then releases hormones that cause our adrenal glands to release several other hormones including adrenalin, which speeds up our heart and respiration rates, and cortisol, which temporarily enhances our immune system.
Stimulating the SNS diverts blood from the digestive organs to our muscles: who needs to digest now when the most important thing is to run for our lives? Often, when we are really stressed, our bowels loosen: diarrhea helps to lighten the load so we...
Yoga, Relieve Stress, Stress, breathing, yin yoga, benefits of yoga, yoga anatomy, yoga research