A great article on posture

Courtesy of Mens Health online:


Stress: Public Enemy #1

Stress. Why and how does this unseen monster have such a powerful impact on our lives?

First, a quick biology lesson. (Feel free to skip to the next paragraph, but it is your body we are talking about here.) Stress is a physiological response our bodies have to perceived danger. Part of our nervous system is called the autonomic nervous system. This is divided into two parts: the sympathetic and the parasympathetic. When we feel threatened, the sympathetic nervous system becomes activated. This triggers several responses to help our bodies through a ‘fight or flight’ reaction. We get a surge of adrenaline, which results in a rush of energy; blood is distributed to our limbs for running or defense; our breathing becomes quicker; our digestion stops and our shoulders lift up towards our ears and forward.

Unfortunately for us, technology has evolved much faster than our bodies have (although the new iPhone is pretty cool). This means that although our bodies were designed to deal with occasional stress, such as being chased up a tree, or having to defend against other serious but rare physical threats like a saber-tooth tiger, we are instead barraged by stress through work, school, information overload, driving in the Trader Joe’s parking lot, etc. Stress has become a constant presence in our lives and our bodies pay the price.

So what can we do?

It is a fact of modern life that we have stress, and we can only control that to a certain degree. Yet we do have greater control over how that stress impacts our bodies. In the big picture, we can combat the effects of stress with exercise, yoga, tai chi or meditation. In our day-to-day, moment-to-moment lives however, awareness is the key. In other words, becoming aware of how and when our body reacts to stress enables us to take certain measures to control the impact. Breathing, yes, simply breathing can be highly effective for this.

An exercise I give my patients to help with TMD, aka TMJ (another byproduct of stress), is to take time throughout the day to step back from whatever you are doing, close your eyes, and take 5 to 10 deep breaths through your nose and into your belly. This is very important, because belly breathing stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system, which has the opposite effect of the sympathetic. If sympathetic is ‘fight or flight,’ parasympathetic is ‘rest and digest.’ With each exhale, feel your shoulders and jaw drop down, loose. The more you do this exercise, the more aware you become of your body. With this awareness, we can begin to see how and when stress starts to creep into our bodies, and then utilize this information to control how our bodies are being impacted.