What Happens To Your Body When You Are Stressed?
Some doctors believe that stress is the cause of at least 95% of all illnesses and diseases.
With that kind of percentage, you might as well consider stress as an illness unto itself, specifically chronic stress or prolonged stress.
Prolonged stress puts your body into a constant state of fight or flight where you’re always ready for some physical activity. This state gets you running on all cylinders, in go mode. Danger arrives when you get stuck in high gear, in a perpetual fight or flight response because the amount of stress just won’t go away. This can cause health problems because you’re burning too much energy which can be used for your body’s functioning.
The stress and pressures of life can cause the fight or flight mechanism to be on all the time. If you’re under constant stress, your hypothalamus triggers an alarm to stay on. Your adrenal glands release a surge of hormones, including adrenaline and cortisol to help your body take action during the fight or flight response.
Prolonged stress inhibits your body to transition back to a normal state, in relaxation mode. Your body becomes overexposed to cortisol and adrenaline, and other hormones. This overexposure increases your heart rate, blood pressure, muscles, energy supply, and respiration rate. Your bodily growth processes and systems, such as your reproductive, digestive, and immune systems are all suppressed.
If you’re handling stress properly or meditating, it will slow the fight or flight response. Your heart rate, and blood pressure return to baseline levels. Your digestion and sleep return to a normal pace.
Otherwise, your body becomes overwhelmed, overworked, and your immune system weakens making you susceptible to sickness.
How do you shift your body back into equilibrium and get yourself healthy again?
Prevention And Cure
Meditation has been used in China to prevent and cure disease for centuries. The therapeutic value of meditation is recognized by Western medical doctors today. They now believe that meditation may be used as a new way to keep you healthy or to help in the treatment of diseases. Perhaps, meditation may even be used to prevent them.
Dr. Herbert Benson proved that regular practice of meditation techniques lowers blood pressure, slows down your breathing rate, and generally relaxes patients to stay healthy. He calls this technique ‘the relaxation response’. It allows the body to begin to heal and cure itself. His technique is quite easy because there are only two essential steps to bring your body back into balance.
1. The first step is the repetition of a word, sound, phrase, prayer, or movement as your sole focus of attention. Repeat a word for instance, and do it when you exhale your breath. When you do this, you are slowly getting synchronized with the idea of a word. For example, if you repeat the word “peace” each time you exhale, your concentration will be on its meaning, bringing yourself back to your body with that word.
2. The second step is to have a passive disregard for the everyday thoughts that pop into your mind. Do this by simply going back to your breath. When you go back into your breath as an anchor, you arrive inside your body again, and all of your thoughts will be washed away as you focus your attention within – inside your body.
How does this relate to Tai Chi?
The practice of Tai Chi follows these two main steps as outlined in Dr. Herbert Benson’s relaxation response meditation. Remember the following while you do Tai Chi:
The first step is repetition. In this case, you’re not repeating a word like “peace” or a sound like “om”. You are actually repeating physical movements in the body. In the Tai Chi form, there is a sequence of movements in which you repeat them in a meditative state. By repeating them slowly, gently, softly, and by concentrating on maintaining that level of softness and smoothness, then you can take your mind away from all of your stress-related problems, and go deep inside your body.
The second step during these movements is to limit the amount of time your everyday thoughts can occupy your mind. You do this by going back to paying attention to your breath. As you move repetitively in the Tai Chi form, you’re going to focus on exhaling. Each time you exhale, you’re going to sink deeper and deeper into your body. Then, you will continue to move softly and slowly, which is the trademark of all Tai Ch motions.
The Five Elements
In meditation, you use the mind to direct your breath so that all the elements in your body are gathered together, heated, and transformed into energy focused on nourishing your inner organs.
Specifically, the focus of energy is on repairing or building up the cells in your internal organs.
It’s about producing oxygen, and flushing toxins out of your bloodstream, and maintaining the proper balance among the elements in your body.
In Chinese medicine, there are five elements and each element is associated with an inner organ.
The first element is fire and it is associated with your heart. When you do Tai Chi, you open your heart to these movements and there is a release of energy. Whatever you may be holding inside your heart center, you’re releasing out through these movements.
The second element is earth, which is associated with your spleen and your stomach.
The third element is metal, which is associated with your lungs.
The fourth element is water, which is associated with your kidneys.
Finally, the fifth element is wood, which is associated with your liver.
When you combine these elements, something is created in your body – a life force. This life-giving energy or Chi produced during the relaxation response is called the ‘golden pill’ or ‘golden flower’ by Taoists. Meditation is a form of alchemy, which is the forerunner of chemistry. When you meditate, there is a process that happens inside of your body that combines all of these elements into what is called Chi.
Now in scientific terms, I can only describe it as Chi or energy for now. (It is a little more complicated than that and I hope to explain more in a future blog post.) The presence of Chi is very important to your health and wellbeing. When your Chi is at a high level, your body will be able to grow and expand out. There are more possibilities for you when there is an abundance of Chi in your body. You’ll always be healthy when there is a good amount of Chi.
Tai Chi and meditation increase your Chi level because your body is in the relaxation response. When your energy or Chi is exhausted by constantly being in the fight or flight response, then your body will wither away.
Activate Your Relaxation Response
Let’s do some Tai Chi and a little bit of meditation to practice so you can produce Chi in your body.
Standing with your feet shoulder-width apart, energize the fingers up. Exhale and relax. Energize the fingers and relax back down.
This is the beginning movement of Tai Chi and you can do it several times. Follow along in the video:
1. Energize the fingers.
2. Exhale, relax.
3. Energize the fingers.
4. Relax back down.
Let’s repeat this a few times.
Then, let’s do the ward-off positions.
The second movement of Tai Chi is to ward off. Ward off left and then ward off right.
Let’s practice that:
Exhale, relax to one side.
Energize the fingers up and exhale again to the other side.
Energize to the shape. Exhale, drop and relax.
Energize, and then exhale again and relax.
Softly and gently come right back up into the ward-off position.
Try these movements a few times.
As you can see step 1 is about repetition. The repetition is in the movement of Tai Chi. Step 2 is about being in awareness. Breathing helps to take your mind off of everyday thoughts and it brings you back into your body for balance. With the correct form made by your body and with your mind directing the breath, you can cure ailments in your body.
For instance, if you have backaches, then Tai Chi is good for you. Those who suffer from backaches can benefit from meditation and Tai Chi because the back or spinal column is held erect, but not still. When you do the Tai Chi repetitions in the form, the spine gets lubricated and is strengthened.
So both Tai Chi and meditation should be practiced daily. Your body is like a flower and the flower requires some water. If you don’t water your flower, then it is going to wither away.
There are other ways you can balance the five elements in your body. Combining the five elements in your body will be discussed in future posts and videos. Follow my social media channels to stay up to date. First, subscribe to my YOUTUBE channel to be notified when new Tai Chi videos come out.
As we learn more about the five elements, there are associations with your inner organs and other meditation techniques to bring them all into balance. In the meantime, check out my BREATHING VIDEO to help you get into the relaxation response. Start your Tai Chi journey today to live a more balanced life.