Why does moving the body help reduce stress?
It seems that everyone these days tell s us that the best way to relieve stress is by ‘exercise’ or ‘yoga’ or doing some kind of activity… but have you ever wondered why that is so? Peter Strick, a professor and chair of the department of neurobiology at the University of Pittsburgh Brain Institute also wondered why so he undertook research to try to find out how it IS that yoga “decreases stress” because he couldn’t understand the connection between the two other than by focusing on the fact that the body might distract the mind.
Stress reactions are as a result of the adrenal glands releasing adrenalin into the blood stream. These small glands sit on top of the kidneys.
The motor area of the brain that controls body movement including movements of the face, arms, legs and core is ‘mapped’ in what is called the primary motor cortex.
When they set out, Strick and his team did not think that the primary motor cortex would control the adrenal medulla at all, however, Strick has now discovered an elaborate network in the primary motor cortex of the brain that does actually control the adrenal medulla. This finding suggests that stress is not just a ‘centralised’ process that our thoughts control but is controlled by lots of different circuits all feeding back to each other.
This discovery means that how we think really does have some control of the adrenal medulla and therefore stress and some illnesses really can be said to be “all in the mind” after all. Thus we can get rid of the negative connotations behind that phrase as it is a fact!
Stick said “Something about muscular control in the muscles of movement has an impact on stress responses so there is evidence that core strengthening has an impact on stress”.
You must have noticed that when someone is depressed or stressed, their posture changes. When you stand upright it has an effect on how you project yourself and how you feel…. standing straight makes you feel better. This study shows how core muscle activation may well have an effect on stress by feeding backwards to the adrenal glands. Standing up straight may mean less activation of the glands and therefore less stress and if we slump and our core is weak, for example if we spend ages slumped at a computer every day, we may feel more stress.
These new found neural pathways might explain our intuitive sense for why there are many different strategies for coping with stress such as yoga and pilates. These are successful but there are a lot of other sorts of ways that people deal with stress – there are so many neural pathways that have direct lines to the stress control system which makes dealing with stress very interesting. The bottom line is that as Strick says “how we move, think and feel has an impact on the stress response through real neural connections”.
Come to see us for information on the best exercises for you or call Heather at Aerodynamic Yoga, who is in the basement at the Avenue Clinic www.aerodynamicyoga.com she will love to hear from you and help you towards a less stressfilled life!
Come and see us to discuss ways to improve your posture and the best exercises to do. Visit our brilliant yoga teacher, Heather, in the basement at the Avenue Clinic – or call her for advice – she is brilliant!