On yoga & the importance of de-stressing.
Recently, I had my riding arena resurfaced. As you can imagine, this was a very exciting thing, for all sorts of reasons. Ten years ago, when it was first built, my arena was created by filling one of my farm’s Tennessee micro-valleys with six hundred and sixty tandem loads of fill dirt, packing it with a toothed roller, topping it with a couple of feet of packed red clay, and adding about ten inches of very fine lime rock on top of that. Because it is a filled-in holler, two sides drop off at a relatively steep slope. My arena is wonderful, except for the fact that, when we have torrential rains (helloooooo 2018!), the arena gets ruts and gullies along those elevated sides that would flip an ATV. So, every couple of years, my excavation guru (shoutout to Darrell!) hauls in some fresh rock and fills in said ruts and gullies.
Like excessive rain on my arena, my journey towards health and fitness has made me realize that too much of a good thing can become a bad thing – for my body, and my spirit.
Injuries require rest to heal, but, as I’m learning these days, too much rest – a.k.a., inactivity – can bring a body (and mind, and spirit) down. So after giving myself a few weeks of rest from the December ride on Kaliwohi, I decided to cowgirl up and get back on my yoga mat.
I’m practicing yoga regularly several times a week now. When I re-started my yoga program, three weeks ago, my right hip and leg hurt so badly in some of the stretches, I had tears in my eyes. #ihatepain But I stuck with it, because I realize I am at a critical point in this journey called life: I can either force myself to stay toned, active, and strong, or I can start the long, slow, gradual decline into the proverbial rocking chair.
Let it be said that I like a good porch swing as well as the next gal (#SouthernToTheCore), but only for an afternoon, not as a way of life. I want to ride and hike and explore the world until my last breath. So I wiped away the tears and kept stretching.
And now, three weeks in, I’m happy to report that, while my right glutes still look like some monstrous fiend attacked my soft tissue with an ice cream scoop, I am able to bend and flex and do all the yoga moves I’m currently working to master. #HorsefolkAreToughPeeps
Along the way, I came upon an article that is super-cool for folks who have stress in their life. #StressWhatStress #CanIGetAnAmen?!
Apparently, every time we humans experience a stressful event, part of our nervous system kicks into, surprise, “fight or flight” mode. #HumansAndHorsesGoFigure
Back in the days of our primitive ancestors, one stressful event was the norm – like getting chased by a wild critter or some such. These days, stress is so rampant in our modern lives, apparently the “fight or flight” mechanics can get stuck in the “on” position and, oooooh, boy, can that cause trouble – right down to physical disease and mental health issues.
If you’re into science, here’s a quote from the article:
“Once that [fight or flight response] is activated, there is increased production of a molecule called nuclear factor kappa B (NF-kB). This molecule is responsible for controlling how our genes are expressed. NF-kB turns on genes that make and release proteins called cytokines that cause inflammation and contribute to illness and disease.”
Once more for those in the warm-up arena: “NF-kB turns on genes that make and release proteins called cytokines that cause inflammation and contribute to illness and disease.”
Which is why, apparently, it’s nigh-impossible to shed excess weight when you’re stressed. The remedy? De-stress. Any way you can. #SaddleUp!
According to the article, yoga and meditation can actually turn off the whole nuclear factor kappa B (#saywhat??) manufacturing plant within! Another quote: “people who engage in these ‘Mind-body Interventions’ (MBIs) like yoga and meditation, show a remarkable decrease in the manufacture of both Nf-kB and inflammatory cytokines.”
So what’s my takeaway from this?
My regular yoga practice, and daily meditation time (hands up for all y’all who find peace and quality thinkin’ time while doing barn chores!), are doing more than helping me strengthen my body and de-stress my soul: they’re actually helping me re-program my body to realize it is safe – literally and figuratively – for me to shed these pounds.
Now that I realize this, every time I feel an ache or a pain, I’m gonna give a little more effort to my stretch, breathe even deeper to relax, and shout to the stress-fueled nuclear factory within, “wicked inflammatory cytokines BEGONE!”