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Exercise For Your Body & Your Mind

We all know that movement is good for the body but did you know that different types of movement elicit a different response from the mind body connection?

Exercise such as Pilates, yoga and Tai Chi all work on the principle of the mind body connection. Spending time focusing on your body and your breathing can detract the mind from anything else going on that may be causing stress or anxiety.

Your autonomic nervous system has two parts: the sympathetic nervous system (the so called fight or flight response) and the parasympathetic nervous system (our rest, relaxation and rejuvenation response).

The sympathetic nervous system kicks in involuntarily if you need a heightened response to a dangerous or stressful situation such as avoiding a fast approaching car (or a wooly mammoth). It is activated by the amygdala sending signals to the hypothalamus which is the command centre of the brain. This then transmits a signal through the autonomic nerves to the adrenal glands which pump out the hormone epinephrine (also know as adrenaline) into the bloodstream.

Once in the bloodstream, adrenaline:

  • binds to receptors on liver cells to break down larger sugar molecules, called glycogen, into a smaller, more readily usable sugar called glucose; this gives your muscles a boost of energy

  • binds to receptors on muscle cells in the lungs, causing you to breath faster

  • stimulates cells of the heart to beat faster

  • triggers the blood vessels to contract and direct blood toward major muscle groups

  • contracts muscle cells below the surface of the skin to stimulate perspiration

  • binds to receptors on the pancreas to inhibit the production of insulin

An adrenaline rush is sometimes described as a boost of energy. Other symptoms include:

  • rapid heart rate

  • sweating

  • heightened senses

  • rapid breathing

  • decreased ability to feel pain

  • increased strength and performance

  • dilated pupils

  • feeling jittery or nervous

After the stress or danger is gone, the effect of adrenaline can last up to an hour. However, modern lifestyles mean that many of us live in a constant state of mid to high stress which provides the body with a constant overload of adrenaline. This means that the body stays in a constant ‘fight or flight’ mode rather than allowing the parasympathetic system to be activated. The result can manifest in anxiety, depression, tight neck and shoulders, poor sleep, high blood pressure and digestive upsets.

So what can we do about it? How do we activate our parasympathetic nervous system?

Well as I mentioned, exercise such as Pilates, yoga and Tai Chi are a good way to start!

In addition you may want to try:

  • Meditation and deep breathing exercises.

  • Having a hobby (research shows it is better to do things alone for best results),

  • Journalling

  • Limiting caffeine and alcohol consumption

  • Exercising regularly and including Pilates, yoga or Tai Chi

  • Getting into nature in daylight every day

  • Avoiding mobile phones, TV, computers, loud music and bright lights before bedtime.

Make sure you find time every day to switch off for a few minutes. If you have 20 minutes then lay on your mat and enjoy this Restorative Flow Pilates session - especially lovely at the end of a busy day.

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