‘Stress is an achiever’s word for fear.’ 

These days, when you’re catching up with a friend, you can almost expect them to either say they are ‘super busy’, or stressed. In our culture, ‘busy’ seems to be considered a good thing, even to the extent where being the most stressed, or burned out has almost become a badge of honour. But this mentality is contributing to our health pandemic, if stress is applauded then no wonder we are all suffering so much. 

I’m terrible for it, I frequently find myself believing that I’m busier than anyone else… Thankfully yoga has taught me how to see those thoughts and almost laugh at them rather than believe them and get swept up into a spiral of exhaustion and self pity, like I used to. When speaking with an old friend a few years back, I was explaining my frustration at my ‘lack of time’ (this was pre-baby…) and with the wisest smile he said to me, ‘my dear, it sounds like your diary controls you, rather than you it?’ And that has really stuck with me. 

The effect of stress is crippling. If we see something as a threat, or a stress, we go into fight or flight mode, our body is flooded with adrenaline and cortisol so we can run away from it. Those stress hormones build up in the body and they are acidic, so cause inflammation. That inflammation results in disease, ‘-itis’ means inflammation e.g Arthritis, tonsillitis etc. We know stress is also a huge contributor to autoimmune disease. We have to stop feeling so stressed to help stop the health pandemic. 

Of course there are always quick fixes to reducing stress, ‘symptom’ treatments… and these are absolutely useful, like self-care, relaxation, essential oils, massage etc. Low intensity exercise really helps, rather than high intensity exercise which actually increases the stress hormones. But as always, for me, insteading of constantly spending time managing the symptoms of stress, surely we are all better off getting to the root cause?

We need to figure out why we feel the need to fill our diarys with so much stuff in the first place.

Here’s one theory… The core human need is to be loved. When we are born, our parents are filled with oxytocin, the love hormone, and it doesn’t matter what we do, poop and puke all over them and they love us, no matter what. Eventually that hormone wears off, and as humans we realise there are two main roots to getting love. Achievement and pain. And we see this as we are applauded when we learn to crawl, walk, speak, pass exams, get a ‘good’ job, get married, buy a house etc. Or we get love when we are poorly, depressed, stressed etc. (hence why we can subconsciously hold onto pain because it works for us, it gets us love). 

So what we see is this constant need to achieve or to be in pain. Hence we work ourselves to the bone and then complain about being stressed. If we really want to heal the root of that ‘dis-ease’ we have to truly believe that we are good enough, we are enough, just as we are, without having to achieve or fulfil any expectations, and certainly without being ill. But how on earth do you ‘feel enough, just as you are…’?

Like anything, the answer is practice. It’s literally training the brain to think another way. We can train the brain to think what we want, if we repeat a thought enough, that’s the beauty of neuroplasticity, the brain’s ability to change shape according to repetitive thought. That’s why mantras do actually work, like ‘I am safe, I am loved’ etc. But, for the ‘non-believers’, mantras aren’t going to be their go to. And this is where yoga comes in. Practicing something intellectually is good, but what’s better is practicing it in your body, and then you can literally feel it, which makes it stick. The intangible becomes tangible, we can literally go and practice a different way of thinking, and get a workout at the same time. That’s why yoga is so powerful, it treats the root, the mind, which leads to a healthy body… and ofcourse it works the body too. Win.Win. 

In the right yoga class, you will feel as though you can be in whatever pose you want, and you are good enough, just as you are. You will be offered options to make you literally feel and believe it, and you will train your mind to be in the present moment, rather than worrying about the future or the past, so eventually it will stay present naturally. The teacher will help you to step back and see your thoughts, so you can learn to master them rather than them mastering you.

Also, if a yoga class provides the ‘core conditions’ (acceptance, honesty, positive regard) that we need to self-actualise (which essentially means to stop worrying about what others think and believe we are good enough just as we are), then we will transform because we gain the confidence to start living the life that we want, rather than the one we feel we should be doing. And that gets to the root of eradicating stress, for good, because we are no longer living in fear of not being loved. 

Plus the poses and sequence are designed to remove stress hormones from the body with low intensity movement, specific breath, and twists to detox you come out mentally and physically, recharged, calmer and stronger. 

So, if you feel that sense of stress coming up… look into it. Ask yourself, what am I actually scared of? And just like in the movies, once you see the monster, it’s never quite as scary as you imagined! The truth is, it isn’t even real. Fear is something you have created in your mind, and then spend all day worrying about. As soon as you remind yourself that you are good enough and loved, just as you are, then no matter what happens you are safe, the fear will eventually subside. Once we remove the fear, the stress is no longer a threat, but a challenge, an opportunity to grow, so we won’t run away from it, but we will run towards it. And that will not only change our mental and physical health, but get us back on our true path too, so we can fulfil our true purpose. 

If you’re new to yoga and want to try our classes, give our £30 for 30 days unlimited yoga trial offer a go and try out as many class styles as you like to see what helps you the most and discover how you can fit yoga into your weekly routine. We have in studio classes and live streamed online classes, so you can choose how you want to practice!

I am also leading an online Yoga Nidra workshop on Wednesday 22nd September. This is the perfect workshop to let go of stress and anxiety, connect back with your body and fully recharge your energy through experiencing this healing hypnogogic state – it’s a real treat, don’t miss out!

Posted in Blog Series: How yoga helps us live

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