What Acute Stress Does to Us

The Skeletal System:
Decreased bone density through increased osteoclast activity
Decreased alignment from weakened bone health
Higher Risk of Fractures

Muscles and Joints:
Muscle stress/spasms
Migraines/ tension headaches
Chronic joint pain
Low back pain

The Respiratory System:
Constricts bronchi making breathing difficult
Triggers Asthma
Shallow breathing patterns
Rapid breathing/hyperventilation
Panic attacks (characterized by not being able to “catch your breath”)
Insufficient tidal (full) breathing and decreased use of respiratory muscles

The Cardiovascular system:
Increased heart rate
Blood vessels to large muscles and the heart dilate and can elevate blood pressure.
Chronic increase of heart rate and hypertension increase risk of heart attack & stroke.
Inflammation in the circulatory system and coronary arteries increase risk of heart attack
Increased cholesterol

The Endocrine System:
Glands of the endocrine system release hormones effecting health of the entire body.
Endocrine glands include: hypothalamus, pituitary, thyroid, parathyroids, pancreas,
adrenals and the reproductive organs (ovaries and testes)
The main stress hormones are cortisol, adrenaline and norepinephrine.
Adrenalin: released by the adrenal glands and increases heart rate, energy & attention.
Norepinephrine: released by the adrenal glands & brain and primary function is arousal.
Considered kind of a back up to adrenalin.
Cortisol: a steroid hormone released by the adrenal glands helps to maintain fluid
balance and blood pressure (Too much cortisol can suppress the immune
system, increase blood pressure and sugar, decrease libido, produce acne
and contribute to obesity etc)

The Nervous System:
Comprised by the Central Nervous System & Peripheral Nervous System
Peripheral Nervous System is comprised of Autonomic and Somatic branches
Autonomic branch is comprised of Sympathetic (SNS) and Parasympathetic (PNS)
Stress hormones are released by the SNS through the flight or flight response and the
subsequent cascade of hormones ensue increasing heart rate,
respiration, vasodilation, glucose and decrease digestion.
The parasympathetic is a the “rest and digest” branch of the nervous system and is
complimentary to the SNS. It remediate stress hormones and increase homeostasis.

The Immune System
Chronic Inflammatory response through the over load of Cortisol
Autoimmune Disorders such as fibromyalgia, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus and thyroid
Deceased Immunity

The Digestive/Eliminatory system
Controlled by the Enteric Nervous System
Increases stomach acid
Inflammation of the intestines
Irritable Bowel Syndrome
Stomach Ulcers
Celiac Disease

Pranamaya kosha is the energy breath body and stress immediately impacts this kosha as it changes with stress. We use breath to manage stress and we lose our breath when we under stress or in fear. With conscious work in yoga or meditation, we learn tools to identify our breath patterns, what they are telling us, and how to become more conscious of our selves and managing the energy body. The parapsympatheic nervous system is also effected though breath so it is an effective way to calm down the SNS when in a state of fight or flight. Separation in this kosha begins with a lack of awareness of the breath and how it affects the pranavayu of the energy body.
Manomayakosha is profoundly effected by stress. Hyper-vigilance, hyper-arousal, PTSD, depression, isolation, numbing behaviors (cutting, substance abuse. etc) are just a few of the psycho-emotional responses to stress. Stress interrupts our ability to connect with who we are and interrupts healthy adaptive emotional responses to events in out life. Our behaviors have an immediate impact on our relationships with others so separation within this kosha is vital for the individual to understand or patterns will just repeat unconsciously throughout or lives.
Vijnanamayakosha, or the witness mind, is difficult to discern when under stress, because our stress keeps us from being able to have healthy perspective. The klesha, Avidya, is pronounced because stress keeps us from seeing what is going on around us and from our truer nature.
Anandamayakosha is murdered by profound stress. Individuals are often not able to connect with joy, good feelings or a sense or purpose outside themselves. The separation of this kosha from stress is quite complete, and can best be worked on when other acute stressors have been managed. I relate this kosha to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs which are physiological needs, safety needs, love and belonging needs, esteem needs and finally self actualization. Maslow believes that “One must satisfy lower level basic needs before progressing on to meet higher level growth needs. Once these needs have been reasonably satisfied, one may be able to reach the highest level called self-actualization.Every person is capable and has the desire to move up the hierarchy toward a level of self-actualization. Unfortunately, progress is often disrupted by failure to meet lower level needs.” It important to still work with this  kosha when dealing with stress, but it would not be the primary kosha to focus on.


The Endocrine System

The Endocrine System is considered the “second great control system” of the body and interacts closely with the nervous system to produce and regulate hormones. Endocrine glands secrete hormones into the blood stream while exocrine glands have ducts and secrete non hormonal substances such as tears or oil or sweat. Hormones are chemicals responsible for regulating the metabolic functions of cells in the body and drain into the bloodstream and the lymphatic system. There are 9 glands (or organs) which produce hormones and these glands comprise the endocrine system and the study of these hormones and glands are called endocrinology.

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Lulu OT + Yoga Update

June 2015 Update
IYT Teacher Training Month 8. We studied the nervous system’s response to stress – particularly the sympathetic/parasympathetic branch of the autonomic nervous system. Of course we focused primarily on restorative work and had a relatively stress free weekend. J. Brown was our dynamic guest yoga artist and shared both his process and his work with our enthusiastic group. Thank you Jason and great job group!

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Iyengar RIP

Mr. Iyengar died early this morning (8/20/14) at the age of 95. Although I never got the chance to study yoga with him, I have been a student of his techniques for over 15 years. As a trained modern dancer, his techniques went beyond the joyful movement of asana, (which I naturally loved), and taught me to go deeper into the experience of the body. His techniques brought together the physical body as a whole world: the skin, the organs, the muscles, and the bones. They also brought in the energy of the body with the breath, the weight, the multi-directions and the great miraculous extension the Iynegar technique is famous for. Every yoga class, every yoga pose, was a full diet.

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Staten Island University Hospital Yoga

Two weeks ago, for a cable special on yoga for seniors, I was interviewed at Staten Island University Hospital along with 2 current and one former patient. Each of us was interviewed and the students very eloquently discussed the reasons and health considerations that brought them to yoga. Some memorable moments included Josephine reporting that she was so “brainwashed” by the surgeons, regarding the hip precautions following her total hip replacement, that she has had to slowly unlearn them again to equalize her hamstring length. Mary, very politely stated that her daughter (an OTR/L and colleague) had suggested she begin yoga because she had a “hunchback”, and Irene, who did yoga in inpatient rehab, said when she did yoga she just “felt better”.

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It been almost 2 months since I left for Texas to finish the 500 hour Integrative Yoga Therapy Training I started last August at Kripalu. We were lucky to be a small, cohesive group of 22 students plus a handful of teachers, and equally lucky to be staying on the grounds of a Hindu temple, with roving peacocks and truly delicious vegetarian food.

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“In what ways is simply listening already a healing process and therapy
for both the client and the yoga therapist?”

Being heard and understood is a primal need most humans require. In infants, it becomes a matter of physical survival (hungry, tired, uncomfortable) and in adults it creates connection & peace and is a huge component in emotional safety. My work requires me to listen to people’s stories and feelings; always interesting to me, so that part comes somewhat easily. What comes less easily is listening without judgment and quelling my instinct to offer (what I perceive) as helpful advice.

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Dads Yoga

At 75, my dad is starting his yoga practice. The facts are as follows; he is basically thin and fit, a tennis player, gardener and avid ballroom dancer. A psychiatrist, which makes him precise, direct and punctuated with shoulder tension. He has a history of asthma and abandonment issues (mother) and above all stays far away from negative emotions. He calls his current girlfriend love muffin, sexy bunny and lover -respectively horrifying and amusing my children. Over Christmas, my sister Johanna wryly stated that it was cute to find dad a yoga class, but we knew he would never go.

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