06 Sep Stress and You! How to use yoga and breath to let go of stress and where the body stores this energy that kills.
Chronic stress has been called “the silent killer.” It compromises our immune system and it’s increasingly recognized by Western medicine as a major contributor to some of the most persistent and chronic diseases of our time, like heart disease, cancer, obesity, Alzheimer’s, depression, and PTSD. The statistics for heart failure, which is the number one-way people die these days are astounding! Alone in the USA, EVERY 90 SECONDS, someone dies of heart DIE-sease. Look up your countries statistics and see for yourself.
It’s also a fact that it’s increasingly harder to avoid excess and constant stress. Too many of us live our lives in a constant white-knuckled, jaw-clenched state with our adrenal glands working overtime—all of which results in stored toxins and blocked energy (or prana/life force). We become physically, mentally, and emotionally stagnated, and our systems slow down but in times like these they need to work overtime, so we have a constant feeling of being drained energetically yet we are the most UNDER-worked physically in human history.
It’s important to understand that stress is a reaction—we can choose how to react to stressful situations. Lugging around emotions, trauma, guilt, resentment, and memories with us can build up and layer day-to-day stress, which can further age us, cause unnecessary stresses on our bodies and health, and result in serious long-term consequences, such as excess weight, anxiety, and even physical pain and poor posture patterns.
What is Stress?
If excess stress is becoming almost impossible to avoid, the big question is: How do we best deal with it?
As a yoga teacher, breathwork facilitator and posture alignment specialist, my work is very hands on—I’ve spent more than fifteen years in my “mobile laboratory,” observing and working intimately with people all around the world. I have energetically felt the effects of excess stress on the body, spirit, and ultimately lives of my clients. One thing I’ve discovered is that the effects of chronic stress generally show up in five specific areas of the body. I call these areas the “bands of tension” because they’re where stress gets stuck, builds up, intensifies and where it literally gets stored within the body. The good news is: all of us can build awareness around how we react or respond to stress and all of us can take steps to eliminate stress that’s being stored in these “bands” within the body. Within the Spirit Journey Yoga foundations, you can DETOX and Rejuvenate yourself by learning simple but profound breathing techniques and yoga practices that are accessible to EVERBODY.
The five areas are the eyes/nasal region/jaw/neck, the shoulders/heart, the diaphragm/lungs, the stomach/gut/organs, and the pelvic floor/hips/legs. In literally thousands of students and clients I`ve observed that stuck stress manifests itself in blockages, pain, tension, and rigidity in the fascia or connective tissue; it can be felt as I work on these parts of the body or can be seen as body patterns while in movement or stillness.
Our body and spirit are made up of energy, and energy must be in motion and flowing to stay vital and clear. We are talking about energetic stress which is e-motion or “energy-in-motion”. So much energy is held in our joints and tissues, especially stress and emotions from the past that we haven’t worked through yet. Letting go and being in the moment are the keys to reducing stress. The physical body holds all our past experiences and is always trying to release emotion. If we don’t express it, that energy gets stuck in our fascia, joints, tissues, and organs—and stagnates within the body which can sometimes leave us powerless.
Here’s a video to introduce the series that follows about how to release stress from the major areas where it gets stuck:
How to Release Stress from the Body
Every person deals with and holds stress differently; where you hold yours depends on how your body reacts to the factors that cause stress in the first place. It could be expressing itself as tightness, stiff joints, tension, trauma, fears, lack of sleep, overthinking, or other life situations. These stresses can come from ourselves or from OTHERS, as we can take other people’s stuck stresses and make them our own called secondary emotions or traumas.
Activating the “present moment awareness” and intuitive side of our brain helps calm and support our busier thinking side through activities like simply sitting and focusing on the breath. Our minds live in the future and we can talk ourselves into some pretty illusionary scenarios based on old, unfinished situations, tension, and fear. To connect with our intuitive side, we begin by asking ourselves to pay more attention to our internal dialogue and to our tightness. When we have closed minds, our bodies can feel closed as well. I regularly encourage my clients to trust in their inner awareness and ability to self-heal. Listen to the inner teacher and from this place, we can start to notice our body’s signs when we are filling up and need to “empty”. Then guidance of HOW to empty is important which is not something usually shown and a foundation of Spirit Journey Yoga.
Releasing the “Bands of Tensions”
- Eyes, Nasal Region Jaw and Neck
The eyes are the first area within the “bands of tensions” where we learn, copy and pick up traumas or stress, from the moment we began to open our eyes and observe everything around us as a baby. We live 90% through our eyes which are scanning around for obstacles that could take our safety and security away. For those who hold stress in the neck and jaw region, the reaction to stress is to clench the jaw and grind the teeth which lets up not be able to breath. Do an exercise to feel the effects of this pattern: Simply bite down between your teeth in an energetic way and feel your ability to breath, you can’t easily. When you sleep with stress on your mind, you can unconsciously bite down FOUR times harder, which in turn increase tensions in the breath patterns, which sometimes tightens and compresses the neck. In extreme cases, this causes headaches or even migraines, chronic teeth grinding, having the head draw forward, deep frown lines in the forehead, premature aging, and tight, and painful neck muscles.
Stress often settles in these areas when we are thinking too much about and/or fearing a current situation. Learning to use meditation and breath awareness has been proven too calm the brain and nervous system, which in turn relaxes our fascia system. The end result is our skin, muscles relax and this increases our mobility throughout our bodies, allowing energy to flow through our fascia system. This flow leads to more mental and physical strength, vitality, health and longevity.
In the below video, I share a few ways to help release and move accumulated stress and blocked energy from the eyes, nasal region, jaw, neck, and face:
- Shoulders & Chest
The old saying, “having the weight of the world on your shoulders,” is often apparent here for most humans from time to time. When life gets hectic and stressed; physical tension and emotional irritability often store and get stuck in the shoulder and chest areas. With these emotions compounding, our shoulders start rounding forward, which blocks the energy in the upper chest area. Tensions in the upper back can be from lifting the shoulders toward the ears and can actually become the main “core” muscles that hold us up when we take a slouching style sitting pattern which leaves our deep core muscles weakened and outer core over tensed. Slouching can bring the head forward to compensate for the body weight going forward, and we may develop a compressed and defeated posture over time.
In this next video I give you some easy and effective ways to clear the shoulders, chest, and heart both physically and emotionally: https://youtu.be/Kw2DZOlFG98
- Diaphragm & Lungs
If you hold stress in your diaphragm, the reaction is to hunch forward, almost as if you were subconsciously trying to duck from the factors causing stress, hunching your shoulders to block it out. The result: The chest becomes constricted and the lungs don’t get a chance to fully expanded. We can end up feeling slightly out of breath which can cause a “panic” state to arise within the breath pattern which can bring about a feeling of being heavy, defeated and exhausted. This can lead to intense fears to arise and stress. The nervous system is in Sympathetic mode and the fascia is tense all over further escalating the heaviness and stiffness feelings. This reaction is often based in fear—shying away from personal power and feeding on panic. It’s fear that causes us to press tensions into our hearts! And this stress prevents us from feeling powerful and inspired.
The following video offers a few simple ways to help release accumulated stress from the diaphragm and lungs: https://youtu.be/rFRzjoNTr_4
- Belly, Organs & Emotional Body
If you tend to hold stress in this area, it can manifest as poor digestion, bloating, tension, pain, constipation, and IBS. It can even cause excess weight gain in the stomach and can even show up as a hard band around the stomach area that can sometimes resemble a “tire”.
The stomach is our “second” brain and is sensitive, smart and powerful. It is the subtle area of our “emotional body” and it is the master of our gut instincts and holds a key to living on our own without fear. Often people who hold stress in the gut and stomach do not feel powerful, and they resist change which is a constant factor in the human experience.
(Belly bounce bonus tip: Lightly bouncing on a rebounder has been proven to help improve digestion, elimination, and decrease bloating. It also helps move stored toxic energy in the gut.)
In this next video, I explain how to release stress from the belly through active release techniques:
5. Pelvic Floor, Hips and Legs
The pelvic floor can hold unconscious traumas and tension here can cause lower back pain, tight hips, and a disconnection from your deep core line in the fascia system. Many of us have lost our connection to this webbing of muscles and connective tissue. We’ve also lost the ability to mindfully tone and relax these area which could lead to blockages around sex and pleasure taking . As life goes on, we continue to lose more connectivity, tone, and resilience to this vital area.
When we start to align and energetically connect with our pelvic floor, we learn how to let go and surrender, then the hips and legs have a chance to follow, becoming more fluid, flexible, and lighter.
The hips are the root element that connect to our basic needs being met, our sense of security and physical freedom. Many people carry old pain, sexual traumas, leftover memories or old (at times ancient) disappointments in their hips and thus legs. What about this thought: We are carrying other people’s traumas or emotions called secondary emotions. Those tight areas or lack of movement could be others and we take them in and we hold on like they were ours.
In this last video I show you how to release accumulated stress and build resilience in the pelvic floor, hips and legs: https://youtu.be/p5QNfpGb4mc
I hope this blog will come in handy to help you or your loved ones along their journey. Keep breathing and connecting with Spirit and join the many by subscribing on our mailing list for updates for future workshops and trainings near you, plus more blogs like this one.