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The term hormesis refers to a biological phenomenon where a beneficial reaction occurs in the body after coming in contact with a low dose of a chemical toxin, radiation, or other forms of stress.
The term was first recognized by a German pharmacologist, Hugo Shulz in 1887.
He found that disinfectants, which in large doses kills yeast, yielded a positive response after stimulating the yeast growth with small doses.
How Hormesis Works
Our body is constantly striving for homeostasis.
The underlying mechanism of hormesis appears to be overcompensation to reestablish homeostasis.
This indicates that living organisms respond to small stresses by becoming more robust and strong in order to adapt to a challenging environment.
This hormetic response is well recognized in those who exercise.
Lifting weights or long distance running, for example, makes our body weak short term due to the release of destructive molecules (free radicals) that injures tissue.
But a study in 2005 by Hungarian researchers suggests that our body responds to such situations by producing more antioxidants, promoting DNA repair and slowing the aging process.
The result after weight lifting and long distance running is generally a healthier, stronger, and more resilient body.
The practices of cryotherapy, sauna, intermittent fasting, and of course exercise have adapted the concept of hormesis.
Our bodies always favor the path of least resistance.
In the light of recent clinical cases I’ve treated, sometimes, we take the effects of hormesis too far. This is especially seen with exercise.
Safe Movement is Key
I see a spectrum of activity levels in my clients.
Some are so sedentary and deconditioned, that to allow them to navigate a Yoga class or an exercise regimen would potentially be quite destructive.
Then there are some that strongly believe in the beneficial effect of exercise so much so that they push beyond the hormetic effect, which results in irreversible injury.
The key I believe is in knowing your balance. We all know that without challenge, we don’t grow.
This is the case for anything in life, such as your muscles, work, intellectual growth, and even your relationships.
All of you know that intermittent fasting is great. I advocate it, but even this can mean different things to different people.
Not everyone can fast for 16 hours, so relying on how you feel rather than what other people advocate or do is key.
Cultivating a mind body connection to be able to feel and read your body’s signals is something no one else can do except you.
Yoga for YOUR Body
In the Yoga practice, too many people push beyond their capabilities simply because that is what is being flaunted all over social media.
But I want you to understand that many of those Yogi extraordinaires end up with irreversible damage.
Our bodies are not designed to be contorted in such ways that are being demonstrated frequently. That’s not what Yoga is.
So coming back to your body, understanding how your structures are aligned, correcting the asymmetries to create balance, showing up to exercise, and pushing just a bit further everyday is what will provide you with a hormetic effect.
This topic of hormesis dawned on me during a Hot Yoga Sequence class this past week.
I observed some students pushing their limits beyond the hormetic effect and also those who refrained from the full experience by holding back.
Neither would benefit from the practice, as one would potentially cause repetitive injury while the other would not experience the positive effects of the class.
So I want you to remember to practice awareness by understanding your anatomical structures, your flexibility or lack thereof, strength, and stability to ensure that you are creating the optimal hormetic effect.
Remembering that less is more, breath with movement, focus, alignment, posture, and keen awareness of symmetry of your body is what we are aiming for in all that we do.
This translates to other sports you enjoy, such as golf, tennis, running, lifting weights. Your breath and heart rate are indicators of how far you are pushing.
Avoid valsalva maneuver, where you hold your breath to lift or to hold a pose, as this will result in pelvic floor dysfunctions and potential hernia.
Remember, Alkalinity is all about optimizing the balance in your body in how you MOVE, EAT, and THINK.
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We’ll see you next week!