Friday, November 27, 2009

Autonomic Nervous System and Stress

Autonomic Nervous System and Stress
The natural balance of opposites in relation to stress is seen very clearly within the human nervous system. The physical reaction of stress in the body is regulated by the autonomic nervous system. This system has two divisions: the sympathetic and the parasympathetic nervous systems.
"A stressor can be defined as anything that throws your body out of homeostatic balance; for example, an injury, an illness, subjection to great heat or cold, or being teacher. The stress response in turn is your body's attempt to restore homeostatic balance." ( Why Zebras Don't Get Ulcers, p. 7, Robert Sapolsky)

The Sympathetic Nervous System
The sympathetic nervous system is a series of nerves originating in the brain and exiting through the spine to nearly every organ, blood vessel, and sweat gland in your body. They even connect to the tiny muscles attached to hairs on your body. Goose pimples are an activation of the sympathetic nervous system. The sympathetic nervous system controls arousal. When a threat or demand is perceived, chemicals are secreted into the blood stream. The main stress chemicals are adrenaline, which puts the entire body on alert, and cortisol, which helps produce the energy required for red alert status. This is done by producing a number of specific reactions in the body:
  •  Increased sympathetic nervous system activity.
  •  Increased stress chemicals.
  •  Increased heart rate.
  •  Increased blood pressure.
  •  Increased metabolic rate for increased energy, including the release of glucose from the liver.
  • Increased functioning of the endocrine portion of the pancreas related to production and control of glucose.
  •  Bronchioles dilated for more energy.
  •  Contraction of muscles, especially the large muscles of the body used for fight-or-flight like the thighs, back, and shoulders.
  •  Shunting of blood from abdomen to large muscles, resulting in reduction of digestive activity. Shunting of blood from the sexual organs.
  •  Vasodilation of arteries to working muscles.
  •  Vasoconstriction of arteries to nonworking muscles.
  • Increased alertness.
 “One of the hallmarks of the stress-response is the rapid mobilization of energy from storage sites and the inhibition of further storage. Glucose and the simplest forms of proteins and fats come pouring out of your fat cells, liver, and muscles, all to stoke whichever muscles are struggling to save your neck. If your body has mobilized all that glucose, it needs also to deliver it to the critical muscles as rapidly as possible. Heart rate, blood pressure, and breathing rate increase, all to transport nutrients and oxygen at greater rates." ( Why Zebras Don't Get Ulcers, p.11)

The Parasympathetic System
When the perceived demand is seen as having been met or the perceived threat is no longer seen as threatening, the second part of the autonomic nervous system is activated. This is the parasympathetic system which allows for energy conservation and relaxation. It has several characteristics:
  •   Reduction in heart rate, ventilation, and muscle tension.
  •   Blood flow is increased to the extremities including the hands and feet.
  •  It is characterized by diaphragmatic breathing.
  •  It is dominated by the tenth cranial or vagus nerve which is influenced by the brain stem and connects to the respiratory, circulatory, and digestive systems.
  • The main relaxation response chemical is acetylcholine which is released at higher levels during meditation.
  • It is necessary for sexual excitation.
The counterpart to the stress response is the relaxation response. In this response all the actions of the stress response are reversed and the natural healing abilities of the body are allowed to function optimally. Focused repetitive movement can induce the relaxation response.
A balance in the functioning of these two systems is necessary for health at the physiological and psychological levels. The sympathetic functions as the gas pedal, the parasympathetic as the brake. They function in synchrony for a wide range of functions, though they cannot dominate the system simulta­neously. In other words, you cannot be completely aroused and relaxed at the same time.

Within the next posts I will be sharing readings on the following topics:

  • Meditation
  • Autogenic Relaxation
  • Breathing Techniques

Monday, November 23, 2009

Mind Body Arts

The Practice of Mind and Body Arts

It starts with a slow centering and several minutes of gentle breathing, sometimes with the back on the mat. Apparently nothing is happening in my mind, and if I become distracted I return to my breath. Then, warm-up follows with a more energizing Vinyasa flow, Sun Salutation, a gradual deep stretching and a gentle cooling with a few moments of breathing and mindful mind-body reintegration.

Sun Salutation

The poses and sequences that comprise Sun Salutation warm up muscles and allow the practitioner to concentrate on the rhythm of movement and breath. Each movement is synchronized with an inhalation and an exhalation.
The Sun Salutation strengthens all muscular groups, and it is very effective in improving the functionality of the cardiovascular and respiratory systems. It tones all the abdominal organs improving digestion and elimination. It improves spine elasticity. It also alleviates anxiety and depression.

Integrative Hatha Yoga

Integrative Hatha Yoga comprises the best of different forms of Hatha Yoga practices: Vinyasa warm-ups movements, Anusara alignments, Pranayama breathings, and different forms of core strenghening. My emphasis is in teaching the student the architecture and the emotion of asana by learning single posture alignments, holding a pose through different planes, and by performing and synchronizing the learned poses along the breath; the student will also experience a development in stamina, concentration and relaxation. Sole Luna Integrative Yoga emphases in safety, the practice of well aligned poses, along with breathing and awareness of body sensations.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Why I blog

I have asked myself why I have decided to open a blog. The major reason is to share information that I have gathered about yoga, postures, stretches, nutrition and especially on topics such as 'whole foods' and vegetarian food options. The blog will not be a cult that preaches what to do or how to live but instead will only show options available. It feels like humanity is going through a similar change that happened during the European Renaissance: information that relates to education that truly sustains and promote health should be free and accessible to all people. However, the challenge of today is not finding information but having a reference point so to discern good from bad information. Therefore, in the future I would like to share with you all that I have practiced and learned about above topics.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Yoga Biography

In Spring 2001 I joined, for the first time, a yoga class in Olympia, Washington. I decided to continue taking yoga classes as it improved my level of concentration and assisted my education. Since then I have maintained a steady practice as it continues to foster my personal development, health education and opens a sense of closeness with nature and my surrounding community.

In March 2004 under an independent contract sponsored by Evergreen's faculty, I attended the Integrative Yoga Teaching Training (IYT) in Tampa, Florida. From March 7 to March 20, 2004, the program followed an intensive therapeutic teacher training program. IYT, rather than approaching one single discipline, focused to the best and most safe body/mind healing methodologies following the individuals' own process. Hatha Yoga, Kundalini Yoga, Vinyasa, Yoga Nidra and other disciplines were integrated as a way to facilitate healing.

On November 2004 I became a certified yoga instructor after the completion of the Integrative Yoga Therapy Teacher Training Program - 200 hour level. In addition, I have volunteered as a yoga facilitator in a variety of academic and non academic programs at the Evergreen State College and within Olympia, Washington between 2003 and 2005.

Currently I teach for Tacoma Metro Parks. I have instructed yoga in Washington State, Italy, Colombia and the Chicago area. I have taught yoga for stress management at the YMCA and also at The Evergreen State College, both located in Olympia, Washington. In Spring 2005 I was invited to Bogota, Colombia to teach a workshop in Hatha Yoga and stress management. I also instructed yoga at X-Sport Fitness in the Chicago suburbs.

I utilize an integrated form of Hatha Yoga with Vinyasa warm-ups, stress management techniques, pranayama breathing and restoring poses, all within the foundation of Hatha Yoga’s philosophy and alignments. My integrated form of Hatha Yoga teaches a variety of techniques which benefit students in a multitude of ways. The process of learning breathing techniques, poses and alignments increases strength, flexibility, and endurance in the students. Repeating and holding a well aligned pose along with the breath develops concentration and the ability to be present.

Within my vision, yoga is accessible to anyone, and promotes healing and introspection, thereby increasing self awareness and body/mind integration. From my perspective body and mind integration is accessible when the knowledge retained by the mind (i.e. reading the alignment and seeing an image of a pose) will match the ability to perform, hold and feel the pose, which will occur along with practice. The center of my teaching and practice of yoga is safety, precision in detailed instructions, along with warmth and creativity to promote and/or maintain a healthy lifestyle. Modifications are also fundamental in my teaching, as to integrate different levels of student practice.