I’d define stress as when the body and or mind is under strain. Generally, this puts the body in flight or fight mode regardless of whether the perceived threat or unease is real or not. Our response to stress is generally governed by the sympathetic nervous system where the body releases cortisol and adrenaline which increases heart rate, blood pressure, takes blood away from the digestive system so the blood is readily available if you have to stand up to fight or make a run for it. This is fine if the stress factor is a passing phase, but can wreak havoc on our bodies if we live in this mode repeatedly. No wonder we have a high prevalence of heart problems, high blood pressure and digestive issues.
Who should be taking notes?
We should all be taking notes on stress. Stress could be described as the curse of the 21st century. All of us develop our idiosyncratic reactions to stress depending on the combination of our genes, environment and personalities. Some people turn to addictions e.g. Alcohol, drugs. Others develop high blood pressure, allergic reactions, asthma attacks, stomach ulcers, indigestion, even cancer. Continued stress lowers our immune system making us susceptible to all kinds of illnesses.
How do you know you are under stress?
When you are under stress you feel tense. Your muscles are likely to tighten in your tension holding areas. For most people this is the muscles around the neck and shoulders and for others lower back. You may catch yourself holding your breath, breathing shallowly; have heart palpitations, high blood pressure, tensions headaches, indigestion. Emotionally you may be irritable, easy to anger or break down. If prolonged you could develop anxiety attacks or become depressed. You may find difficulty sleeping or sleep excessively.
You started Yoga classes, why?
I started yoga because I found it interesting as a 7 year old child watching my mum do yoga out of a book. As a teenager I found the yoga philosophy embraced my decision to stop eating meat though it does not dictate that you have to stop eating meat to practice yoga. Later, as a student I was attracted to the fact that I didn’t need much space, didn’t require any fancy equipment or gym membership which meant I could do it for free in the confines of my little room. I became truly hooked on yoga when I was a single mother working long hours in the corporate sector. Yoga helped me to destress at the end of the day or week and helped me emotionally recover from the breakup of my marriage. To keep getting my yoga fixes and to share yoga with others, I made the decision to teach yoga. In May this year I will have been teaching yoga for 6 years. In a month I may teach about 100 people, though I wish a lot more people, especially local Zambians would try yoga.
Yoga helps the body and mind to stay fit and flexible, slowing down the aging process in the body.
Yoga; an exercise or a religion?
Many people in Zambia erroneously think yoga is a religion. Yoga comes from India with a predominantly Hindu culture. It is sometimes performed before or after performing Hindu mantra chants. However, this is not the way yoga has always been practiced or the way in which yoga has to be practiced. Yoga has been practiced by people of all the major world religions and the poses which are exercise-like in no way conflict with an individual’s religion or lack of. Hieroglyphics in ancient Egypt show poses that can only be described as yoga which for me indicates that yoga probably originated in Africa and must predate all the major religions.
I wouldn’t term yoga a religion but, I wouldn’t label it an exercise either as the yoga poses go much deeper than just keeping the body fit.