Managing Stress: Regaining your Mental & Physical Health

Stress

Take a deep breath, and relax.

We’ve all heard it before: stress plays an important role in our health. Obviously, it can wreak havoc on our mental health, but did you know that it can also impact our physical health?

During our fight or flight state, our adrenal glands go into overtime and start pumping out a slew of hormones including cortisol and adrenaline. Before we evolved into the human beings that we are now, our bodies relied on these hormones produced during stressful times. Cortisol aided us by raising our blood pressure, and prolonging blood loss in the event if we were about to go into battle with an enemy (fight), and adrenaline began to course through our veins preparing us to run away from our attacker (flight).

These hormones are synthesized in the central nervous system, and if not exerted and balanced, numerous health issues can arise including imbalanced blood sugars resulting in depleted energy levels, vitamin C deficiency, digestive upsets and ulcers, sleep quality, hair loss, unpleasant complexion, mood swings, decreased libido, irregular periods & fertility issues, extreme increase or decrease in appetite thereby affecting weight gain or loss, deterioration of thyroid health, motivation to perform common tasks and your general vitality and lust for life.

Being in a constant state of fear that something bad will happen to us is obviously quite detrimental to our health. It doesn’t help that over the past few decades, the norm has been for us to live a 24/7 lifestyle of being attached to our phones and slaves to our jobs, with no time for play or rest. In turn, our fast-paced mentality has carried over to our grab-and-go eating habits through fast-food and commercially prepared snacks and meals, which as we know is just creating even further damage to our health. It’s a domino effect.  

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A tranquil walk my not only clear your head, but can also assist in helping to exert the excess energy created by your adrenal glands

There are a number of steps we can take to assist in keeping calm, cool and collected — such as improving our nutrition, exercising more, and practising meditation and pranayama. However, just like with nutrition, the trick is to get down to the root of the issue and prevent these health ailments from arising, rather than treat them long after the damage has been done.

Think of the human body as a seed.

In order to flower, we require proper nutrition, a healthy amount of sunlight, clean water, and time to rest for growth, rejuvenation and transformation. If a budding flower were to constantly endure environmental stresses, how would it bloom?

If your job is causing your hair to fall out, can you find a different position? If you’ve developed ulcers from worrying about your relationships with others, can you distance yourself from them? If you’re turning to food when faced with a heavy course load at school, can you find better ways to manage your time? 

If what you’re doing doesn’t bring you joy, either find an alternative way to cope with it, or cut it out of your life.

Address your stresses so that you can further bloom.

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Don’t Look Back – You’re Not Going That Way

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I had a moment of self-realization recently.

I really enjoy solo road trips. There’s something so freeing and liberating about being alone in the car for long periods of time with nothing but you and the open road. I’ve always been shy when it comes to singing in front of people, yet when I’m alone in the car, I’m free to belt out the lyrics to my favourite songs on my car’s stereo. Singing makes me happy, and gives me a sense of finding myself more…so it’s any wonder I’m able to reflect and meditate best on long car trips alone.

A few weeks ago, I was driving along a desolate highway from Phillip Island back to Melbourne. The sun had long set, and the sky was pitch black. There were barely any other cars on the road and aside from the radio, my open windows revealed that there weren’t any surrounding noises outside. Yet, I unintentionally kept checking my rear view mirror.

Finally, for some reason I said to myself: Don’t look back. You’re not going that way.  

I immediately knew that this was my subconscious bringing clarity to not only the present moment whilst driving, but also to life in general. For years, I can remember telling my friends during their tough times not to dwell on the past. And once, after getting into and argument with a family member and then reconciling, I was told it was water under the bridge and we never brought up the incident again. So why then, when facing my own struggles, do I have so much trouble with letting go of the past? Sure, you can forgive and forget, but the heart can’t instantly repair itself. And granted, time heals all wounds, but you’re only going in circles if you keep trudging up the past.

Since further studying yoga and moving to Australia, I’ve done a lot of self-discovery. I feel as though mentally, I’ve grown a lot and gained so much wisdom. People have come in and out of my life, and I feel as though each person has been vital in my mental development — even if I only knew them for a short period of time.

We have to keep in mind that we’re constantly evolving. Each new day can offer a life lesson, whether big in the form of death or heartbreak, or small through learning a new skill or brightening someone’s day.

Yes, it’s okay to look back on the past as a reminder of how far you’ve come. But continually picking at the scab and resenting or dwelling on a moment long past isn’t helping you grow.  

Keep your eye on the prize, and try to move forward… because that’s the direction in which you’re headed.

My Journey Towards Becoming A Certified Yoga Teacher (PART l)

Ashtanga Opening Mantra
Ashtanga Opening Mantra

August 2015 was an incredibly challenging month for me. I chose to trek 6000km to Laguna de Apoyo in Nicaragua to complete my Ashtanga, Vinyasa and Kriya yoga teacher certification. 13 hours of intense mental and physical yoga every day for 30 days left me exhausted, and I will admit there were a few times where I wanted to throw in the towel and book a plane ticket back home, but I’m proud of myself for sticking it out. I learned so much about myself, and the experience alone was one that I’ll never forget.

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I had first discovered my version of “yoga” when I was a teenager. My mother must have read about the “exercises” as she called them (which I would later learn to realise were called asanas), and she began to start her mornings off with a modified version of Surya Namaskara A. Intrigued, I would watch her do her stretches, then go to the privacy of my own room to practice them myself.

However, I never really practised consistently. Always curious about new exercise fads though, I remember picking up magazines and reading about different (albeit easy) asanas to try. It wasn’t until years later once I was diagnosed with stress-induced seizures that my doctor recommended I consider trying out a real yoga class.

Soon after that, I ended up picking up a job at a health club working as both the manager and a nutritionist. I quickly befriended the office administrator who coincidentally had the same passion for health as I do, and before I knew it, we were looking for other fitness classes to explore that our club wasn’t offering. She stumbled upon an introductory month-long pass to Moksha yoga and that night we excitedly drove to the studio with our yoga mats to enrol in hot yoga. I fell in love with the structured class and the way the asanas flowed together beautifully. I finally felt as if this was the yoga I’d been told of all this time: a mental practise over a physical practise — which was exactly what I needed.

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After a few years of being a regular “Mokshi,” and becoming more and more submerged in a holistic lifestyle, I decided I needed a long vacation to find myself and get out of the house for the summer. I figured that a yoga retreat would be the perfect getaway but I couldn’t find anything that lasted long enough, or for a decent price. Using my favourite Moksha instructor as my muse, I thought maybe I could just go for my teacher certification? She makes teaching look so easy! Plus getting my certification could also help my career as a nutritionist by opening some doors!

And so began my hunt for a yoga school recognized by the Canadian Yoga Alliance.

The organisation listed 15 schools in Canada which were weekend courses only and would have taken 5 months to complete. To my surprise, they listed one school outside of Canada in Nicaragua which offered free accommodations and a fast-track 6 week program which would allow me to obtain my teaching certificate at the end of the summer.

But was this a safe decision? And where exactly in the world was Nicaragua?

This post is part one of a three part series.

Click here for part 2 — Preparing for Yoga Training in Nicaragua