Balancing Life and Health


Preoccupation with stress became widespread in the 1950s. The suburbs were exploding with young families who were cut off from the traditional social networks of city life. At the same time, interest in yoga was growing, providing an alternative to the first prescription tranquilizer, Miltown, which became the fastest selling drug in U.S. history. People flocked to yoga to deal with a new post-war culture.

During this era, Hans Selye, a physician and biochemist, formulated the idea that a constant state of tension or alarm unleashes a flood of hormones that are useful in the short term, but toxic if they persist. If unrelieved, this cascading hormonal reaction causes chronic, predictable physical damage. He named this state "stress," a term he took from metallurgy.

The Stress MonsterBack to Top

Too much stress can make you sick. The unmanaged stress cycle can manifest as digestive problems, headaches, heart disease, chronic exhaustion, pain, anxiety, immune dysfunction, alcoholism, insomnia and depression. 75% to 90% of all doctor's office visits are for stress-related ailments and complaints.

Unmanaged Stress contributes to

An internal or external perceived threat - a stressor - causes negative thinking, shallow breathing and the following bodily sensations - muscle tension, and increases in heart rate and blood pressure. The brain and nervous system resort to automatic past programing responses unless this self-perpetuating stress cycle is broken. The "stress monster" has taken control.

"All impulses of thought have a tendency to clothe themselves in their physical equivalent."
Napoleon Hill, 1937

Taming the Stress MonsterBack to Top

Yoga and meditation teach coping skills to help manage stress by breaking the stress cycle. When faced with a challenging event that you cannot control, your reaction determines whether the circumstance has a negative, stressful effect on your body and mind. Controlling what you can - yourself - helps you to deal with a demanding situation or to assist others. The things you can control are:

The stress cycle is in the eye of the beholder!

Yoga helps individuals feel whole. Ancient yogic texts explore the physical, mental and spiritual dimensions of the practitioner. This multi-faceted approach to stress reduction eases a chronically stressed state of body and mind. Herbert Benson, M.D., coined the phrase "Relaxation Response" to describe the physical and mental responses that occur when one consciously relaxes. Mind and body - or psyche, nervous system, and immune system - are connected and must work together. Certain yogic techniques - Yoga Nidra and Restorative Yoga - focus primarily on relaxation training. They are especially beneficial when you feel stressed from daily activities or a major life event: death, job change, marriage, divorce, and major holidays, to name a few. A well-designed yoga practice which includes techniques for conscious relaxation is an essential cornerstone to "taming the stress monster."

Stress and Weight...Being LightBack to Top

Do you feel that your eating habits haven't changed, but your stress level and weight have? While yoga is associated with stretching, meditation and stress reduction, most people are not aware of the power of yoga to help them naturally and permanently lose weight.

Ask most people who have tried different diets and they will tell you that diets don't work-at least the type of starvation diets that most people follow. This type of eating causes frustration, poor eating habits, cravings and, worst of all, low energy and self-deprecation. Did you know that the word diet comes from an ancient Greek work diaita, meaning "manner of living"? If you were to think like the ancient Greeks, you can begin to change your relationship with food. Your diet is a way of living, not a temporary program to promote thinness.

Everyone knows that to lose weight you consume fewer calories than you burn, and that exercise can help you burn calories. Why then are 74% of Americans overweight?

The reason is that weight gain has more to do with why we eat than how much and what we eat. Overeating can be emotionally driven: compensation for grief, depression, stress, a demanding job, self-neglect. If you snack to calm your nerves, cutting food intake will not release stress or help you deal with a loss. In fact, the wrong foods can cause chemical imbalances. Why do you overeat?

Exercise #1: Think about those times that you overeat as well as what you eat. Write everything down. What triggered the overeating? Was it stress, either emotional or chemical? Write it down.

If you don't know where you're coming from, you won't know how to proceed. A bag of chips or a bowl of ice cream won't help you take responsibility for your health and well-being. Knowing the root of your self-neglect will begin to stop the downward spiral. Yoga and meditation help to turn your focus inward, thus nurturing a healthy respect for your emotions and feelings. They offer a deeper connection to your own body.

Biologically, yoga works to balance your hormones. Hormonal reactions to unhealthy foods, or to foods that may be right for others but wrong for you, can lead to disease, obesity and, ultimately, depression. Depression is a common trigger for binge eating.

Being Light is as much a mental state as a physical state of being. Learn to eat mindfully.

Exercise #2: Pick up one raisin. Focus on it. Look at it; turn it over in your hand. Put the raisin to your lips and notice the texture. Put it in your mouth; don't chew. Roll your tongue across the raisin, noticing its taste. Bite the raisin. Hold it in your mouth, savoring the sweetness. Chew slowly and notice your jaw movement. Now swallow.

Being Light means thinking of yourself in a new light. Professional athletes use visualizations and positive affirmations as a key part of their training. Successful business people do the same. Their secret is the use of the power of their minds.

Exercise #3: Imagine that you are already at your desired weight. Imagine that you now approach life with a new pattern of behavior. Imagine yourself eating breakfast. Successful losers never skip breakfast! Build an image of how you look, act, and feel. Pretend you're thin! See yourself in a favorite outfit and how well it fits now. How does it feel to slide easily past empty seats in the theater or to easily fasten a seat belt? Think "I want the image of myself to be pleasing to me!" Write down your ideas.

"Imagination is more important than knowledge."

Albert Einstein