Loretta loves to write about best practices in health and wellness as well as the great job opportunities in the growing wellness industry.
Stress has become part of most of our daily lives. It is challenging to find a person who isn't stressed these days. Even children today aren't spared from the clutches of stress. It could be stress at work or tension in personal life; it could be stress from cut-throat competition or stress due to parental and peer pressure. While a bit of stress is a necessary evil, prolonged stress can be harmful. It can make a person exhausted – physically, emotionally, and psychologically.
That is why we must try to keep stress at bay. A doctor may suggest tranquillizers or anti-depressants for acute conditions, but they are no solution. Moreover, these medicines have side-effects that can affect the quality of life. Instead, you can choose yoga as an effective alternative to reduce and control stress. The ancient practice of yoga has assumed importance as a technique of stress management. Recent studies, researches, and reports indicate that practising yoga regularly can significantly reduce the symptoms of stress and promote better mental and physical health.
How yoga helps in stress reduction – a scientific analysis
Yoga is not a passing fancy or a new fad. It is a discipline that originated in India and has stood the test of time. Recent researches have put yoga at the forefront of alternative medicine in the Western world. While it cannot help 'cure' diseases, yoga can offer relief to symptoms and treat ailments. Among others, yoga has been proven to be capable of fighting off stress and its various side-effects.
Although initially, there wasn't many scientific data to prove the efficacy of yoga as a stress reliever, things have changed in recent years. Studies and research conducted independently have laid a strong foundation for yoga's therapeutic benefits in the management of stress.
Studies have shown that yoga can be effective in the reduction of cortisol secretion. Cortisol is the body’s stress hormone and triggers the ‘fight or flight’ mechanism in the body. With too much stress, cortisol levels in the blood peaks and results in depression, anxiety, headache, confusion, sleep problems, heart diseases, and more. As cortisol reduces, the parasympathetic system takes control and relaxes the body.
Studies have also shown that practising yoga asanas and meditation can trigger the reward centre of the brain. This increases the secretion of serotonin in the human body. Serotonin is a mood regulator, and increased serotonin can create a feeling of happiness and elation. Being happy and satisfied is the key to stress reduction.
Yoga also decreases the level of the enzyme monoamine oxidase that causes the lysis of cortisol and other neurotransmitters.
Various postures practised in yoga enhance emotional healing and overall wellbeing. The yoga mudras help the union of the senses, mind, and self-consciousness. Practising the mudras creates the feeling of oneness with self. The body and the mind work in the same direction, and this can bring in peace and calm.
5 Benefits of yoga in stress management
In addition to stress management, there are numerous benefits that yoga affords us. However, some benefits are more important than others and deserve mention in any discussion. Let's take a look at these benefits:
1. Improved sleep quality
If you have experienced stress before, you know quite well that stress can hamper your sleep quite badly. The more you stress, the less sleep you will have. Not only will you be able to sleep less, but the quality of your sleep will also be affected. Poor quality of sleep and fewer sleep hours can have a series of severe side-effects like irritability, lack of focus, loss of attention, anxiety, frustration, and more. Yoga helps your body and mind to relax so that you can sleep better and longer.
2. Reduction in stress buildup
When the mind and body are under extreme duress, it is quite natural to feel stressed. The pressure could be due to difficult conditions in work life or personal life, a setback in career or finances, or something else. However, yogic breathing which forms an integral part of yoga, can reduce the buildup of pressure. When practised at regular intervals throughout the day, yogic breathing (deep breathing) can supply more oxygen to the body. This triggers a relaxation response in the body, that leads it to de-stress easily.
3. Increase in confidence
As already mentioned, stress can affect your attention and focus. When this happens, your productivity takes a hit. Over time, you lose confidence in yourself. Things get worse with time as you fail to perform to the best of your capabilities. Yoga can not only stop you from spiralling out of control but also help you get back control over your body and mind. As it helps the mind and body to relax, focus, and attention improve. You can easily take important decisions in your personal and professional life and gain your lost confidence.
4. Relaxation of mind and body
Stress affects both the body and the mind, but yoga is particularly effective in relaxing both the body and the mind. Yoga asanas like Balasana, Yastikasana, Konasana, Savasana, etc., target different body muscles and relieve tension. On the other hand, meditation which is a part of yoga, can calm down the mind. When you meditate, the racing mind takes a break and calms down. This helps unwind even when you have been in a difficult situation.
5. Enhanced satisfaction and happiness
Yoga improves cardiac vagal tone. This means that the vagus nerve that forms the connection between the body and the mind (brain) works better with yoga's regular practice. This improves emotion regulation and makes a person more happy and satisfied.
If you have always distanced yourself from yoga for one reason or the other, it is high time that you mend your mistake. If you experiencing the adverse effects of stress, you should start yoga, it is never too late to start. Join a yoga class and start with basic yoga poses, and you will experience the change very soon.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2021 Loretta Osakwe Awosika