The power of breath and how it helps improve cortisol levels.

The power of breath and how it helps improve cortisol levels.

Yoga and meditation have been used throughout history as spiritual practice and for general well being.  Today they are coming back into mainstream as a form of exercise.  Many people think of working out as sweating, lifting weights, and cardio, which are all great ways to exercise, but yoga and meditation take on a different form that balances strengthening and restoration of the body and mind.  There is so much stress in the world today that yoga and meditation are great ways to focus energy and provide healing time for the body while enjoying the great benefits of exercise.
The yoga research society explains the consequences of a high stress load on releasing the stress hormone cortisol: “Sleep deprivation, for example, leads to elevations in blood glucose and cortisol; chronic elevations of this sort can lead to bone mineral loss and increase the amount of fat that accumulates in the abdominal area (considered the most unhealthy type of fat).”  Many of the dieting drugs on the market today target the hormone cortisol and claim to “melt fat away from the midsection”, but these pills come with lots of side effects and do not fix the cause of the problem.  Cortisol is found in high levels for people who suffer from depression, anxiety, type 2 diabetes, and high blood pressure.  People who have abnormally high levels of cortisol can find peace in practicing yoga, which helps bring the body to balance.  Yoga and meditation address the whole body system and help restore normal cortisol levels without the side effects.  You can also find contentment with yourself and the world around you while melting your stress away.
Some of the other benefits of yoga and mediation are an increase in immune response, improvement in asthma and respiratory disorders; increase in fertility and reduction of the effects of aging. There is also scientific-based evidence of meditation easing symptoms of psoriasis, Type II diabetes, eating disorders and some of the symptoms associated with cancer.
One simple way to practice meditation on your own is to sit in a quiet room and clear your mind.  Concentrate on only your breath for 10 min.  So breathe deeply, practice yoga on your own, or find the nearest yoga studio!

Heather Wickett, NWNM Medical Intern

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