Yoga: The Panacea for Stress Relief
We often consider stress to be part and parcel of daily living; yet when our system is overtaken by the stress hormone Cortisol for too long, serious illnesses (including Heart Disease and Type II Diabetes) can ensue, and recovery from any diseases we are battling can be slower and less complete.
Across the globe, scientific findings have prompted traditional medicine to welcome holistic practices which lower stress levels without plaguing the body with side-effects. Among these methods, the most oft-studied and highly praised would have to be yoga, defined by the International Association of Yoga Therapists as “the process of empowering individuals to progress toward improved health and well being through the application of the philosophy and practice of yoga.”
These are just a few reasons why – if you are keen on embracing a calmer, more mindful way of living – you should immerse yourself in the ancient practice that is yoga:
Yoga Lowers Cortisol Levels
In numerous studies, yoga has been found to reduce levels of Cortisol in those who practice regularly. One study, in particular, involved a group of women receiving radiotherapy for breast cancer. Radiation and chemotherapy alike are everyday choices to eliminate breast cancer, yet these treatments are very taxing on the body, and they tend to produce immense fatigue, stress, and sometimes depression. Yoga has been found to alleviate these conditions, making women feel more vital as well as more satisfied with their quality of life. Its powerful stress-busting effects have therefore made it a complementary choice therapy in top drug rehabilitation centers across the globe. Yoga is an excellent way to learn that real relaxation does not come from chemical our outside sources.
Yoga Encourages Mindfulness
In a typical yoga class, practitioners will be led through controlled (or pranayama) breathing exercises, poses (or asanas) and mindfulness meditation. The combination of abdominal breathing and meditation is immensely powerful since it enables the mind to escape from destructive negative thought pattern by remaining ‘in the present moment.’ This technique is useful for those undergoing a traumatic period or attempting to get over a problem like addiction and cravings for alcohol and illegal substances.
Yoga Battles Anxiety
Studies on the effect of yoga on those suffering from anxiety disorders have shown that yoga reduces perceived stress and negative feelings and improves mental and physical symptoms. It can, therefore, provide significant relief to those suffering from anxiety, who can encounter everything from heart palpitations to dizziness and muscular pain, symptoms that can often mislead them into thinking they are having a heart attack or suffering from another type of illness.
Indeed, research has shown that long-term yoga practitioners have lower rates of mental disturbance, anxiety, anger, and fatigue. They also enjoy better, more regular sleep, which is a crucial component of battling stress. One study, in particular, found that yoga causes GABA levels to rise (GABA is an inhibitory neurotransmitter in the brain which helps stop anxiety in its tracks). Other studies have shown this millenary practice to be helpful with many groups, including those suffering from Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Obsessive Compulsive Disorders (OCD) and exam stress.
Yoga is Transformative
Long-term practitioners of yoga often say that yoga is more than a mere activity or way to stay healthy and flexible; it is a transformational practice that works at the physical, mental and spiritual levels. In many ways, being severe about yoga means embracing a whole new lifestyle involving healthy choices such as consuming an organic food diet, exercising regularly, etc. Most forms of exercise battle stress but yoga is unique in its focus on mind-body control and in the critical role played by controlled breathing. These facets have led scientists to recommend yoga as part of many rehabilitation programs for everything from cancer to heart disease.