Move Your Body, Calm Your Mind
There is a collective thread of life experience that stitches us together – as a species. Things we all experience – regardless of what divides us. Most of those things are positive – it’s why all over this planet, we celebrate births, and love – we dance, sing and gather in groups.
We can resonate with someone over a shared emotion, without anything else in common. It’s a knowing glance between two mothers who don’t speak the same language or a brief moment of comfort between a child on the winning team and the losing team.
We feel. It’s what unites us.
Some of those life experiences that we all share, hold us back rather than serve us.
Perhaps the most chronic and pervasive of all; STRESS.
Over the span of several decades, our culture has gone from one that experiences stress sometimes, to one that lives in a constant state of it. The exception has become the rule.
Now, an entire industry has been birthed and massively grown in an effort to bring us back in to balance. The wellness industry has grown to make over three trillion dollars globally, per year. That’s trillion. With a T.
We, are out of balance.
It’s not a secret that stress can be at the root of a startlingly long list of conditions; it’s unapologetic in its persistence. From disease to anxiety to neck pain & headaches, the list goes on. (and on.)
It’s probably not a secret that you’re stressed, either. If you aren’t right now, you have been recently. Maybe you’ve even had a doctor tell you that if you don’t get a handle on the levels of stress in your life – you could be in danger.
Between bringing up families, careers, money, our health, politics, or even just getting everyone out of the house fully dressed – we are truly up to our eyebrows. It can all feel so overwhelming.
Let’s take a big step back to take in the full scope of this. Ask yourself: Is it the stress that’s hurting us? Or is it how we process it? Isn’t a little bit of stress supposed to be healthy?
Short answer: YES. Actually, a little bit of stress is good for us. It gives us a healthy sense of urgency. Physically, a little bit of healthy stress can keep our systems firing properly. Turns out, stress itself isn’t the villain. Stress is misunderstood. It’s mismanaged. It’s meant to be a response of the body, not a constant state of living.
Our bodies have built in systems in place to help guide us through our life experiences.
The Fight or Flight Response mechanism of the body is meant to kick in during that stressful moment, evaluate, neutralize the threat, and move on – away from the threat.
So you see, the stress response is not toxic. The stress itself isn’t even toxic. It’s the way it seeps into the nooks and crannies of our lives, unchecked. When we make our decisions and choices from a place of stress and worry, that is what’s toxic.
Can we live well with stress? Can we experience it when it’s appropriate and not live in the constant state of it?
Most of us live with our fight or flight response system constantly turned on. We spend hours, sometimes days and weeks in this mode before we catch a break. Here’s the kicker – the brain doesn’t know if we are being chased by a saber tooth tiger or paying bills. It sees stress as stress and responds to it in the same way.
Knowing this – is the ticket to living well with stress. This is where it gets so interesting. This is where you can take your power back.
Exercising is proven to lower stress levels AND boost the happiness hormones in the brain. A quick google search would yield you hours of reading through study after study proving that. This is not groundbreaking information – we’ve all heard this. So why don’t we implement it?
Have you ever left a barre or yoga class and just felt good? Maybe you even said to yourself, “I really should do this more often.”
So why don’t we? Here’s our theory:
In the “build up” to exercise, the kind of ‘talking ourselves into it’ phase, our Fight of Flight systems starts to pick up on our emotions and begins responding to the perceived threat (working out) and delivers the stress response. It’s our default. We’ve trained our brain to do it.
The brain interprets this as either fighting a threat or fleeing one. It may seem funny for your brain to see barre class as a threat – but because of the way we’ve let stress take the wheel and drive – that’s exactly what’s going on.
The trick here – is to KNOW your brain is doing this. KNOW that you can override this system and ditch the pre-workout dread. If we can train our brain to do one thing – we can train it to do another.
In the first few minutes of class as your body starts to move and the oxygen starts to flow, the brain releases a protein call BDNF (Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor). BDNF is soothing in nature and when this protein starts to course through your body – it acts like a healing salve to our good friend, the Fight or Flight system. At the same time, endorphins – start to release their magic.
This is huge. This is the brain beginning to re-wire itself. The key here, to move from stress to calm, is consistency. Creating a new habit in life is tricky – there’s no denying that, but the bottom line is – it’s so worth it. A lot of hard things are.
Invest in yourself. Invest in the incredible and intricate intelligence that is your body.
Reframe the idea that exercise is a luxury. Now more than ever, we need to be in our bodies and re-evaluating our relationship with stress.
You were meant to feel more than just the weight of chronic stress. You were meant to feel good in your body and good in your mind – and as neuroscience is teaching us, the two are connected. They cannot come undone.
Shannon Osborne is the owner and founder of Honor Movement Studio, 502 Stevens Avenue, Portland. She doesn’t believe in a one-size-fits-all approach to fitness, but she does believe in empowering others to create their own body balance. Her modern approach to holistic fitness is the result of nearly a decade of geeking out about anatomy and her unabashed belief that movement is medicine. When she’s not at the studio you can find her exploring the Maine woods with her boyfriend and their dog. She can be reached directly at: Hello@HonorMovementStudio.com
Honor Movement Studio – we know that just showing up can be the hardest part. Let us take it from there. We offer a large variety of classes from sweaty full body workouts to soothing restoratives. We’ve got really convenient class times too, from early morning to late evening. Honor is a calming and soothing oasis in a hectic world. And it was built with that exact purpose in mind – to become a sanctuary, a place to refill our cup. When we tap into the power of the mind body connection – that’s where the magic happens. We teach with intention. We take an anatomically intelligent approach, and everyone, every body, every level of experience is welcome. We’re all in this together. Learn more at: www.honormovementstudio.com.