Most people have heard of antioxidants. Not many have heard of oxidative stress. This type of stress in caused when the cellular functioning of the body breaks down due to poor diet, lack of exercise, drinking alcohol, being exposed to smoke, and other environmental toxins, as well as internal toxicity created by the metabolic process. Oxidative stress can cause a number of diseases, including heart problems, arthritis, sagging skin and other degenerative diseases. While we all need oxygen to survive, oxidative stress, we could do without!
How Does the Body Use Oxygen?
Within our cells are mitochondria, which are what help to burn up oxygen. This oxygen is burned to create energy. Sometimes an oxygen molecule escapes in the process, and instead of being burnt up as energy it becomes a free-radical. Free radicals have an electrical charge due to the fact that it has at least one unpaired electron in its outer orbit. Without proper antioxidant action, this free radical becomes volatile, and creates more free radicals, which in turn, can damage cell walls, proteins, fats and even our DNA. This chemical reaction is nothing to be smug about. It is so explosive that it actually can generate bursts of light within the body.
While you may have heard of the light body being a good thing – in yogic terms, it is, but as far as free radicals are concerned, we need to reduce this by-product of combustive light within the body because it causes us to age faster and become diseased more easily.
How Yoga Reduces Free Radicals?
Yoga and meditation have been shown to reduce free radical count, which leads to arthritis and heart disease, as well as other diseases in numerous studies. Many postures in yoga aim at reducing toxic build up in the body, and this includes free radicals consumed in our diets and that we are exposed to through the environment, but also those created by our own, natural metabolic process. Slow, mindful postures can also burn oxygen more slowly, and not burn up glucose, which is what normal exercise does. Furthermore, when meditation is added, the mental and metabolic processes are slowed so that less free radicals are produced and more are eliminated from the body through a regular, deep and relaxed breathe. This happens primarily through reducing the natural inflammatory reaction of the body. There are certain hormones, which regulate this response, and with yoga they are balanced so that an overly toxic and inflamed environment cannot exist in the body.
Oxygen is Good, Oxidative Stress Isn’t
When we breathe slowly through a set of yoga postures, and calm the heart rate, even though we are stretching the white (fast twitch) and red muscle (slow twitch) fibers of the body, we don’t create oxidative stress. We combat it. So, take deep breaths. Meditate. Enjoy your pranayama, even, and know that oxidative stress is reduced with every day you practice yoga. That means better health and a youthful appearance as you free your body of free radicals.