What stress does to the body
Empaths may feel the effects of stress easier than most people because we pick up on the energy of those around us. When there are a lot of different things going on at once or many people around, we start to feel drained. Empaths can use yoga and breathing exercises to help with stress.
When you are in a dangerous situation, like a stranger following you in a dark alley, your body prepares for danger by quickening your breathing and flooding your body with adrenaline. Blood pumps to the necessary organs, like your heart, muscles and your lungs. The function of body systems that are less necessary for fleeing the scene, begin to slow, like digestion and immune function. If your mind still perceives a threat, it will release cortisol, the stress hormone. Over time, the cortisol in your body increases inflammation.
Many of us live with low levels of stress at all times. Empaths can have even more stress than most people, because we pick up on the stress of others. If we don’t have strong boundaries in place, or shielding practices, that stress can cause overload and exhaustion.
You can see that decreased digestion and immune function over a long period of time could be a problem for your health, not to mention the inflammation that stress causes.
Practicing self-care with yoga and breathwork helps reduce the stress
Several years ago, I was experiencing high levels of stress at work and at home. My mother and two close friends had passed away from cancer. Add to that, a stressful teaching job and blending a family, and you have a mixture for a health crisis. Yoga was one of the things that made a huge difference for me.
Yoga is a form of exercise that utilizes breathwork as part of the practice. Your instructor will encourage you to breath with awareness and intent. There are many styles of yoga, but Hatha is one of the more common practices and is great for stress relief. Yoga is also a gentle form of exercise for the sensitive empath.
Here are some calming yoga poses to try:
1. Mountain pose (Tadasana)- Stand with feet together, arms slightly away from your side with palms facing forward. Hold your head up high, with straight spine and breathe slowly and deeply. Hold this pose for several minutes as you breathe in and out.
2. Child’s pose (Balasana)- Kneel on the ground with your legs under you. Put your forehead on the floor or yoga mat and put your arms back towards your feet, but resting on the floor. Breathe deeply. This pose is great for tension in the back and shoulders.
3. Cobbler’s pose (Baddha konasana)- Sit with knees bent and the soles of the feet flat against each other. Let your knees fall open keeping them as close to the floor as possible. This pose is a great hip opener and counteracts the effects of sitting for long periods.
4. Happy Baby pose (Ananda Balasana)- Lie on your back and bring your knees toward your chest. Grab hold of each big toe using the hand on the left side of your body to grab your left toe and your right hand to grab your left toe. Send the soles of your feet up toward the ceiling. You should feel a nice stretch in your hips and thighs.
5. Corpse pose (Savasana)- Lie flat on your back with your feet slightly apart. Put your arms down by your side with palms facing upward. Inch your shoulder blades together slightly and keep your head neck and spine aligned. Completely relax your body and stay in this position, breathing deeply, for several minutes.
Breathwork for stress relief
When you take slow, deep breaths, you signal your body that it is time to relax. Just consciously slowing the breath and breathing into your belly 3 times or so, will activate your parasympathetic nervous system and signal the brain that you are okay.
Try these breathing exercises:
2. 4-7-8 Breathing- Slowly breathe in for a count of 4, hold for a count of 7 and then exhale for a count of 8. Repeat as many times as necessary.
3. Box Breathing- Breathe in for a count of 4, hold for a count of 4, breathe out for a count of 4, and hold again for a count of 4. Repeat.
My favorite way to practice yoga is in my own home as part of my morning routine. I love to follow Yoga With Adrienne, and this January she had a 30 day yoga practice called, Breath. How perfect, right?
You can find more breathing exercises here.