I haven’t been sleeping too well lately. I’ve been suffering with a frozen shoulder that aches most of the day and then wakes me up at night. Interestingly, in China and Japan, frozen shoulder is known as, wait for it, “fifty year old shoulder” and is attributed to an imbalance in hormones. Hmmm, imbalance in hormones. Sound familiar?
I’ve also been reading that progesterone drops when we get into our 40s (by the way, this affects men too, but to a much lesser degree). It is a hormone that has a calming and relaxing effect. Further, it seems that tension in the neck and shoulders is often also a result when progesterone levels drop. I’m sure that it must contribute to “fifty year old” shoulder.
As if things aren’t bad enough already for us women over 40, lol, if you’ve been dieting quite a bit in your younger years, your adrenal glands are probably tired. Why? Because when you go hungry or get that dizzy feeling from lack of food, your body goes into stress mode, and your adrenal glands work hard to try and rebalance.
But not having known this at the time, we continued with the dieting, thinking feeling hungry is good for us, and so our adrenals have been overworked for many years. This may explain why many women often find that they don’t seem as able to handle stress to the same extent once they get into their 40s.
The long and short of it is that we end up carrying stress and tension in our body all day long for an extended period of time – years! Prolonged stress in the body drains energy, and also causes the body to store and hold on to fat, due to the continuing elevated levels of cortisol in the body and its cascade effect on insulin.
So on Friday, I took myself to a restorative yoga class. Restorative yoga uses props to support your body, so that you can relax into and allow the body to open with passive and longer held poses. Because the poses are still, some say that it is more about mind than some other types of yoga.
I confess that my mind wasn’t sure that it liked it. But my body loved it. I slept like a log that night. All night long.
How the stress of our modern lifestyle impacts our wellbeing
Now, here’s the thing. Work, commuting, financial concerns, a conflict with a co-worker or a difficult meeting – these are all seen as threats by our body, and this triggers a “fight or flight” or stress response. This causes a series of reactions. Your heart beats faster in order to provide as much oxygen as possible to the organs and cells, your muscles tighten and shorten in preparation for action and adrenaline is released, heightening your senses and causing your body to release energy into your body, so you can fight or flee, as needed.
This automatic stress response protects the body and is part of our survival mechanism. The trouble is, our modern day “sabre tooth tigers” never go away. We’re continually dealing with something that our body perceives as a threat virtually all day long. Remaining in this stress response for a prolonged period of time is known as chronic stress, and it negatively affects our overall health and well-being, including causing us to store fat, especially around the middle.
You might not even realise that some of the symptoms you may be experiencing right now could be a result of the continuous release of stress hormones and elevated metabolism brought about by chronic stress.
- Digestive system issues such as stomach aches, nausea and intestinal irritability;
- Impact on our state of mind, with racing thoughts, lack of focus, unreasonable worrying and pessimism;
- Sleep quality is adversely affected;
- Emotional and behavioural markers such as irritability, feelings of overwhelm, anxiety and low self-esteem;
- Stress associated behaviours, for example, overeating or undereating or other nervous behaviours like nail biting and pacing or restlessness;
- Muscular aches and pains in various parts of the body, depending on where the person holds muscular tension, as the stress response cause the muscles to shorten and tighten.
All these add up to energy being used up by our body to handle those stressors and don’t you think many of those symptoms are remarkably similar to some menopausal symptoms too?
How Restorative Yoga Can Help The Smart Woman Over 40
Let’s face it. You’re probably switched on, virtually all of the time.
Restorative yoga will act as a therapeutic antidote to that. It provides physical, mental and emotional chronic stress relief, that continues on after the class.
The poses stretch, lengthen, strengthen and relax tense muscles, and over time, reshape and improve the health and functionality of the muscles, the joints and organs. It has also been shown to relieve the immediate symptoms of stress related aches and pains. I certainly found that when a “crick” released in my left hip, the likes of which I’ve only ever experienced before in a cranio-sacral therapy session.
The conscious breathing and meditation calm the mind and nervous system, helping to re-establish mental focus and clarity. Restorative yoga helps to rebalance the body. It elicits the relaxation response, which helps to regulate stress hormones, lowering cortisol levels and triggers the body’s healing responses, both during and following practice.
This has a profound impact on various aspects of health, including the ability to lower blood pressure, help regulate blood sugar levels (and therefore fat storage as well as food cravings) and decrease anxiety.
Restorative yoga provides progressive therapy. This means that the benefit of each session builds on one another, when practiced consistently.
It’s been two days since I went to the class. I slept well last night too and I’ve decided to make this a regular practice. My mind and old thinking want me to do something more active. But physiologically, this is what my body needs right now.
Whether or not you choose restorative yoga or something else similar, you’ll definitely reap the benefits and wonder why you hadn’t started sooner. Give your body a break and get some of your energy back.
What deep stress-relieving practices are you going to choose? Come on over to the Facebook page and share.