A few years ago, I found myself constantly throwing myself from one commitment to the next, barely present enough to remember my journey to and from each location. I assured myself that this was not uncommon, this is how most people move through life, was it not? Before long, the telltale signs of stress began to appear. I was mentally drained, I was experiencing chronic headaches and insomnia.
Around the same time, a good friend of mine had a heart attack. I spoke with him often throughout his rehabilitation. His doctor informed him that stress is one of the biggest factors in heart disease. “The effect of stress is like shards of glass on your arteries”, the doctor said. That image stuck with me.
In my own research, I’ve since come to realize that stress is a major contributing factor to the majority of diseases today. It’s impact is widespread and long-lasting. Stress contributes to anything from heart disease to anxiety to back pain.
“Long-term exposure to stress can lead to serious health problems. Chronic stress disrupts nearly every system in your body. It can raise blood pressure, suppress the immune system, increase the risk of heart attack and stroke, contribute to infertility, and speed up the aging process. Long-term stress can even rewire the brain, leaving you more vulnerable to anxiety and depression. “ (taken from helpguide.org)
“The present moment is always small in the sense that it is always simple, but concealed within it lies the greatest power.”
We live in a fast-paced world with constant demands on our time; continually plugged in to our laptops and our cell phones, leaving very little down time. We need to remind ourselves that one of the best things we can do for our health is to allow ourselves time daily to relax and unwind. Yoga and meditation provide a beautiful opportunity to slow down and notice.
Sometimes all it takes is a simple relaxation technique to relieve stress. Here is one of my favourites: sit comfortably or lie down on your back with your hands on your belly and your eyes closed. With your mind’s eye, watch your breath moving into your hands, filling your belly with breath just like filling a balloon, then watch your belly fall or deflate as you exhale. Take 10-20 of these deep breaths noticing what sensations arise as you do.
It is possible to slow down the hands of time… the trick is we need to allow ourselves the time and space to do so. So go ahead, put the computer aside, and just breathe.
Jacci Collins is a yoga instructor, dancer and blogger living in Vancouver, BC. A lifelong student of yoga, she strives to find balance in the body and mind with humor and grace. Join her at www.jaccicollinsyoga.com, facebook, and twitter.