Finding a way to deal with everyday stress in life can be difficult. The popular ancient technique, yoga, has been found to be very effective in treating stress and here is why.
Stress is a part of all of our lives, but is it inevitable? Is the human condition such that we have to experience stress?
It’s important to recognize that there is no medical condition called stress. So, what we really want to look at is the stressful response, because the human physiology is designed to respond to any situations that we perceive as dangerous to us.
How we respond to these situations is going to have a big impact on our future health.
If we keep responding in a stressful way for a prolonged period of time, sooner or later our body will develop problems in the various functions of our systems.
Reducing Stress with Yoga
What we would all like to find is an approach that will reduce stress on the long term.
Yoga deals with every aspects of who we are. It deals with the physiological component of stress and it also gives us the opportunity to work with one of the key components: breathing.
Although we want to reduce the symptoms of stress in our lives, ultimately managing stress is the way our minds perceive a particular situation. If we can change the way the mind reacts to a whole range of different factors in our lives, then the stressful response won’t happen in the first place.
So not only does yoga offer a breathing technique to help manage the way stress affects our nervous system, but also an opportunity to change our perception on stressful situations.
In one study comparing yoga and relaxation as alternative treatments for stress, during a 10 week period, even just a one hour session per week managed to improve stress, anxiety and overall life quality.
Yoga is designed in a way that it triggers what we call the relaxation response. There are many techniques that we can use, but there is one in particular and that’s the long exhale.
Its a simple technique that is very effective against stress because it that can be done anywhere.
Inhale normally and exhale slowly.
What the long exhale does is it actually triggers the functions of the parasympathetic nervous system (the part that promotes a state of calmness). It’s the inhale that gives us energy and the exhale that helps us to relax — and we need both to cope with life’s circumstances.
So, when people say “take a few deep breaths“, really ought to mean “take a few long exhales“.
Post-traumatic Stress Disorder and Yoga
Post-traumatic stress disorder or PTSD is a condition that affects 10% of women and 5% of men.
PTSD is basically the past hijacking one’s mind and impeding one’s life in the present moment.
Symptoms include intrusive thoughts, emotional numbness, hyper vigilance and insomnia. Despite all these symptoms, PTSD can sometimes go unnoticed.
The traditional treatment for PTSD includes antidepressant drugs and exposure therapy (which can be very challenging). However, only 50% of the patients that undergo the traditional therapies are cured.
American scientists from VA Boston Healthcare System did a study on PTSD patients and used yoga as a stress treatment instead.
Seventy five minute sessions focused on connecting the mind with the body, breathing and physical postures, one time per week for three months.
The experts believe that yoga regulates aspects of the endocrine and nervous systems, which are often unbalanced in PTSD patients.
One of the key things yet to be determined is who benefits the most from this kind of treatment and for which individuals it works less. Scientist are confident that the question will soon be answered, because treating or preventing stress with yoga is gaining momentum.
Three Yoga Postures for Stress Relief
1. Child pose
The child’s pose is a relaxing posture that helps calm the mind, ease stress and relief anxiety. It’s good for the lymphatic and the nervous systems.
2. Viparita Karani
This is a pose that requires lying down and resting your legs up on a wall. It helps circulate and renew the blood and lymph back into the heart.
3. Uttana Shishosana
Also known as the puppy pose, it is similar to the child pose with a heart-opening effect.
A yoga class could be the perfect remedy to the modern and busy life, especially when you’re in need of a few moments alone to get away from all the stressful situations you encounter.
Pick a time and practice convenient for you and relieve the tension from your mind and body.