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EVERYDAY MEDITATION PODCAST: EPISODE #167

What’s this episode about?
Meditation and how to calm stress in the short term.

Can you tell me more now?
Yup. I dive in to the reality of dealing with stress on the fly.

Can you meditate and create stress reducing brain changes when you're in the middle of chaos? I talk about why we need to set ourselves up with physiological changes that can help lessen stress in the moment, and then make it easier to meditate and make those lasting brain changes.

What can I do with that?
This week's meditation practice (listen below!) is also a stress reduction aid - no meditating required!

I explain how it works and give you just a little taste of the practice.

I hope you’ll give it a listen!

Listen to "Ep 167 - Finding the Eye of the Storm" on Spreaker.

Ready to practice the meditation? Here's the week's "full practice" episode. Click here to listen to the "how to practice" walk through!

Listen to "Ep 164 - Full Arohan Awarohan Kriya Meditation" on Spreaker.

I'd love to hear about your experience -- and help out with any questions you have.

Practicing with you,
esther

EVERYDAY MEDITATION PODCAST: EPISODE #160

What’s this episode about?
You've probably heard that meditation can reduce your stress.

And, yes! It can!

But in what way? And which kind of meditation? And how much do you need to do?

Can you tell me more now?
In today's podcast, I tackle the answers to these questions with the help of research reported and interpreted in the book Altered Traits by Daniel Goleman and Richard Davidson. (A book you should absolutely pick up --it's a great read with tons of sobering information about what we know and don't know about the effects of meditation. I loved it.).

What can I do with that?
I go into that in the episode! Today's break down should help put meditation practice into context, especially if you're using meditation to calm the frig down and get rid of stress.

I share which style of meditation may be the best for stress reduction, based on available research, and frame this week's ISHTA sat yam kriya practice in light of this stress reduction style.

I hope you’ll give it a listen:

Listen to "Ep 160 - How does meditation reduce stress?" on Spreaker.

Ready to practice the meditation? Here's the week's "full practice" episode with a mindfulness bent. Click here to listen to the "how to practice" walk through!

Listen to "Ep 160.5 - "Mindful" Sat Yam Release Kriya" on Spreaker.

I'd love to hear about your experience -- and help out with any questions you have.

Click on the bar below to get in touch!

Practicing with you,
esther
 

share your meditation experience + questions

What is stress? Is it some mystical force out to get us? (Feels like it sometimes.) In truth, stress is simply a category for events that evoke an emergency response from your nervous system. Stress is a very real thing and how you "deal with" it makes a world of difference to your nervous system and health.

Let's take a look at how your autonomic (self-operating) nervous system and it should become abundantly clear why.

The autonomic nervous system is responsible for pretty much every other than movement and brain function: “heart rate, blood pressure, body temperature, pupil size, sweating, immune system, mucus production, caliber of the airways, blood sugar levels, adrenal hormone levels, digestive functions, your immune system” and still more bodily functions (1). It can be broken down into three systems: enteric NS ("gut brain"), sympathetic NS (emergency responder), and parasympathetic NS (maintenance crew). We're interested here in the latter two.

Your sympathetic nervous system (SNS) kicks into gear almost instantly in response to emergency or the threat of emergency. Here's what that response looks like:

  • Your "thinking" brain, the prefrontal cortex thought to be responsible for sophisticated decision making, switches "off"
  • Your motor-sensory cortex in the brain gets that extra juice so your limbs coordinate well
  • A wash of stress-inducing chemicals (adrenalin and others) gives you superhuman strength by boosting heart-rate, blood pressure, and fast action
  • Your digestion, reproduction, and repair activities shut down --because you don't need to worry about digesting lunch if you're about to be lunch

All of these responses are FABULOUS when you are in a true emergency. You basically get to be your favorite superhero for a few minutes! Oh, did you think this state was supposed to last longer? Nope, your SNS works best at a sprint, not a marathon, because you need a high-intensity response to use up the chemicals produced. In that case, your body will crave a balancing hormone (oxytocin) once the threat passes and send you seeking comfort. As you begin to feel safe, your body dutifully produces the oxytocin, which helps you move into a state of rest and repair after your big getaway. Now the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS) is at work. Here's what that looks like:

  • Your body produces acetylcholine, a hormone which triggers a calm, vegetative state
  • Your heart beat slows and blood pressure decreases, things go back to normal
  • Digestion and reproductive system support resume
  • Any healing needed commences
  • Your cognitive processing and learning ability comes back online in tip top shape

The two sides of your nervous system work beautifully together, though they are not by any means meant to work in equal measure throughout the day. Optimal balance for good health requires a 7:1 ratio of time spent in parasympathetic and sympathetic systems. Does that seem like a lot of rest to you? It did to me, but when I think about how amazing I feel when I get a full night's sleep, time to eat with leisure, time to exercise, time to play, time to be with friends and family --and how much more effective I am at work when all of those other things happen-- it starts to make a little more sense.

Unfortunately, most of us, myself included, don't always manage this ratio. And we have a fair amount of stress that isn't life threatening, doesn't cause an adrenaline-burning reaction, and leaves us in a wash of stress chemicals that have never been used up. When this happens, your body gets chemically confused --should you keep on alert or are you safe? Remember how the SNS is better suited to a mad dash than a long run? Well, this "confusion" takes your SNS on a stroll. Your PNS never really gets to settle in because SNS is still sauntering around looking for danger. When your stress sticks with you, your health starts to take a toll. Much of your maintenance resources are diverted to being on a steady alert.

Happily, there are ways to use this old stress, too. Basically you have to get your body to realize you're safe, no danger is present. It depends on the nature of the individual and the stressor as to what will best switch your stress responses off. Kelly McGonigal suggests a well-timed change in attitude (which is just how amazing our brains are, by the way; so much comes back to how you view the world). My buddy Jason Vinci praises sky diving (for many reasons, actually). And here I am to tell you to try restorative yoga.

Restorative yoga!

I feel like I should shout it from the rooftops--everyone should know about restorative yoga! At the very least, the practice has been life changing for this red-head. Next week, I'll walk you through the whys and hows, and hopefully introduce you to the wonders of the yoga nap!

hari om tat sat!

esther

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