Stress less: The art of self-healing in a hectic world

There’s no denying we live in a fast-paced world, where we tend to rush from activity to activity, but dealing with long-term stress isn’t good for our minds or our bodies.

Emily West, owner of Studio O-Y-O in Marietta, said there are several ways she teaches people to lower their stress levels.

“Obviously stress can have a negative affect. There is such a constant flow of things that need responded to,” she said. “We need to make time to make our bodies go into rest mode.”

The rest mode she refers to is when the body’s parasympathetic nervous system is activated. Blood pressure is lowered and the body goes into a ‘rest and digest mode,’ she explained.

“It regulates our feel-good hormones,” she added. “It allows our bodies to feel safe.”

But when we are under constant stress, our sympathetic nervous system is activated, which kicks in a ‘fight or flight’ response.

“Your heart rate and breathing go up,” West said. “If your body is under constant stress, you can feel things like anxiety.”

At her Scammel Street studio, she teaches yoga, breathing exercises and meditation. As both a certified yoga teacher and licensed massage therapist, West works with clients to reduce both pain and stress.

She offers two drop-in yoga classes on Wednesdays. Her chair yoga class is held at 10:30 a.m., while her slow flow yoga class is held at 5:30 p.m. She also does private individual and small group yoga sessions by appointment. The sessions include both yoga and meditation instruction.

West added the chair yoga class is “definitely accessible to anyone,” but the slow flow class is for people with “some experience and some fitness.”

One of the things West tries to impart on clients is that breathing technique is important in reducing stress. It isn’t just a matter of the normal in-and-out of breathing, but taking the time to do deep breathing.

“Once you learn breathing (techniques), your heart rate goes down and it releases tension,” she explained. “I feel like we have to learn to breathe again. Learn how to relax.”

One breathing technique that is easy to learn, but may be more difficult to master, is what West calls “belly breathing.”

“It’s when your diaphragm moves out when you inhale, and when you exhale, your belly moves back toward your spine,” she said. “You count your breaths. You inhale and count for four beats, then exhale and count for four beats.”

You can also do a 4-count inhale and 6-count exhale, or a 4-count inhale and 8-count exhale for even better relaxation, although those might take more time to master, she said.

“I tell people when they are dealing with a lot of stress to try to ground yourself more,” she added. “Try to be more in your body and less in your head. Try to be more in the present.”

West will be leading short mindful meditation practices during a Living Ayurveda Workshop at her studio on Saturday, July 13. The workshop, which will be held from 10:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., will focus on growing your own Western herbs, as well as preparing your own herbal and floral oil infused salves. Mandy Palmer, owner of Barefoot Hippie Homesteading from Dayton, will be leading the workshop. Registration for the workshop is online at www.oyomassage.com/workshops.

“Ayurveda is the sister science to yoga,” West explained.

Approximately 17 years ago, she took up yoga to deal with her own stress and anxiety.

“And my own aches and pains,” she said, noting she’s been teaching yoga for the past 10 years.

Since her graduation in 2012 from the massage school at Hocking College, she’s also been a licensed massage therapist. Prior to her opening her studio in May 2018, she worked for four years in a chiropractor’s office.

“The one thing you don’t get with yoga is the touch you get with massage,” West said. “Human touch helps with pain relief as well.”

She noted that if you are working with a massage therapist, you should speak with your doctor first if there is a specific injury you are dealing with.

For those who can’t do yoga or don’t like massage, there are other ways to relieve stress the holistic way, such as aromatherapy, meditation or through the use of crystals.

Oasis Salt Cave and Renew Wellness employee Brooke Rea explained that the Himalayan salt cave installed in their Vienna shop last year has been helping an average of 20-30 people a day with their respiratory and stress issues.

“Especially in this area, the air quality is pretty horrible and we see a lot of people with respiratory issues. It’s a great resource for improving your respiratory health and your mental health, too,” she said. “It’s a great place to just go and sit and relax.”

Anna Martin, nutritionist at Renew Wellness, agreed that the salt cave isn’t just for wellness, it’s also for stress relief.

“With the salt cave, other than all the healing it does, I like to meditate in there,” she said. “It’s kind of relaxed.”

Rick Rhodes, 62, of Vienna, visits the shop and salt cave often to help with medical issues as well as stress relief.

“The cave’s a de-stresser as well as helping with breathing problems, bronchitis, even sleep apnea,” he explained.

Martin added that there are a lot of things in the shop, such as the stones and crystals, that help visitors have good energy.

“We have so many things, just like the products without all the harsh chemicals,” she said. “That even helps relieve stress in my opinion, because we don’t have things messing with our endocrine systems and hormones and that kind of thing.”

Stress relieving items also include singing bowls and essential oils, which are used in meditation, Martin said. The vibration and sound made from the singing bowls can help one enter a deep relaxed state.

“I think we live in a world where we’re all just riddled with anxiety most of the time,” she said.

Michele Newbanks can be reached at mnewbanks@mariettatimes.com.