Posted by: Trudy Prevost | September 17, 2012

Yoga and Stress Management

Stress is a normal psychological and physical reaction to the demands of life. Your brain comes hard-wired with an alarm system for your protection. When your brain perceives a threat, your body releases a burst of hormones to fuel your fight-or-flight response. When the threat is gone, your body returns to normal. Unfortunately, the nonstop stress of modern life means that your alarm system rarely shuts off. ~ Mayo Clinic Staff

Yoga is one of the most effective stress management techniques available today.

Boston University School of Medicine found that brain scans of yoga practitioners showed a healthy boost in levels of the neurotransmitter gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) immediately after a yoga session.

The Jefferson Medical College and the Yoga Research Society, found a significant drop in cortisol levels after a single yoga class.

Participating in a typical yoga class you will be reaping the benefits of most of the stress management therapies popular today and listed below – as the majority derive from yoga.

Controlled Deep Breathing ….. The deep breathing in a yoga class elicits something called ‘the relaxation response’. Focusing on the expansion of the breath, the sound of the breath, the release of the breath, and the length of the breath while inhaling and exhaling evenly and smoothly helps to gently but effectively switch attention from feelings of anxiety to feelings of relaxation. Once learned, the deep breath can be used anywhere, anytime, to reduce the severity of a panic attack, to calm the mind, or to cope with a challenging situation.

Medical students who participated in a deep breathing study reported decreased test anxiety, nervousness and self-doubt. They also believed it enhanced their concentration, helped them academically and would help them as a physician.

Stretching ….. Yoga stretching releases the stress that can manifest in the body by gently releasing tension from the large muscle groups – thereby flushing all parts of the body and brain with fresh blood, oxygen, and other nutrients. Many of the exercises in a typical yoga class are designed to release tightness and tension in the body.

Progressive Muscle Relaxation ….. Rainbow yoga classes often start and end with progressive muscle relaxation.

During a Harvard Medical University study this therapy; sometimnes called Systematic Muscle Relaxation or Autogenic Relaxation was proven to be an excellent stress management technique.

Guided Visualization ….. Guided visualization techniques are utilized in the final relaxation of many yoga classes.

They are recommended by the Mayo clinic as an effective programme for relieving stress.

Mindfulness …. Yoga encourages mindfulness in many ways, for instance through body scans or encouraging inner body awareness.

A Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Study (MBSR) on medical students concluded MBSR can be an effective stress management intervention. 

Meditation ….. Practicing yoga is a form of meditation as participants are encouraged to focus on the moment and observe the body and the breath from within. Researchers at Harvard, Yale, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have found that meditation can alter the physical structure of our brains.

A typical Rainbow Yoga Class incorporates deep breathing techniques, exercises to release tension in the body, mindfulness and guided relaxation.

If you suffer from acute anxiety and it is your first yoga experience, try a gentle beginners or restorative yoga class with a slow paced, slow breathing exercise programme. As fitness levels increase any yoga class can bring the mind into a state of calmness and relaxation.

Always check with your doctor before starting any new healthy lifestyle program.

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