Posted by: Trudy Prevost | February 22, 2013

Yoga and Stress Managment

Stress has very negative effects on our brain potential!

Adversely affecting brain function, especially memory by: damaging the hippocampus; interfering with the function of neurotransmitters; diminishing the glucose reaching the hippocampus, causing a temporary impairment of memory retrieval; and contributing to sleeplessness.

Imagine what happens to students who stress out when they’re studying around exam time. Since a certain amount of stress can be beneficial the key is stress management not stress elimination.

Yoga is one of the most effective stress management techniques available today. After 40 years of practice I am still amazed by the sense of well being and calmness that springs forth every time I practice.

Studies confirm that yoga releases stress.

Boston University 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 Rainbow Yoga Class you will be reaping the benefits of most of the stress management therapies popular today and listed below as well as a few scientifically proven stress managment techniques that have yet to become commonly utilized anywhere but during yoga practice.

Controlled Deep Breathing ….. one of the most basic tenants of yoga practice is mindful breathing. The breath control techniques practiced in a typical class elicit something called ‘the relaxation response’. 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. Some breath techniques unique to yoga practice such as The Alternate Nostril Breath and The Unilateral Breath have been scientifically proven to release stress and improve verbal and spatial memory.

Flexibility Training ….. yoga is reknowned for the flexibility benefits, this unique method of stretching has been proven to be the most effective. Yoga stretches release 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.  

Strength Training ….. the body is strengthened in a non-invasive holistic manner in yoga resulting in strong yet flexible muscles. Physiologically a  weight bearing workout raises the levels of dopamine and serotonin – two chemicals in the brain known as neurotransmitters. These are the two that are most related to depression.

Cardio Workout ….. sun salutations, cardio flow and vinyasa flow provide low impact cardio benefits within the practice of yoga. The mindful movement promoted in yoga encourages participants to be body honest and prevent injuries while finding the flow. Aerobic training lowered cardiovascular activity levels during psychological stress and recovery in healthy young adults in a study published in Psychophysiology (2004).

Progressive Muscle Relaxation ….. this mindfull release of the tightness and tension in the body by tensing and releasing the muscles conciously is often practiced at the beginning and end of  a hatha yoga class. During a Harvard Medical University study this therapy; also called Systematic Muscle Relaxation was proven to release stress.

Guided Relaxation ….. concious relaxation of each area of the body with the mind. Recomended by

was proven to be an excellent stress management technique. [v]

Creative Visualization …..  visualizing a calming scene; place object or thing; this technique is often used in the final relaxation of Rainbow Yoga classes.

This technique is recommended by the Mayo clinic as an effective programme for relieving stress.[vi]

 Mindfulness …. being present and in the moment is a core concept in the lifestyle of yoga. Rainbow Yoga encourages mindfulness in all life’s paths.

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

 Meditation …..  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. [viii]

Bi-lateral eye movements

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. Contact Rainbow Yoga for workshops and classes.

[i] Stress And Your Brain; University Of Texas Medical Branch Of Galveston

[ii] Study Finds Yoga Associated With Elevated Brain Gaba Levels; Boston University

[iii] The Influence Of Classical Yoga Practices On Plasma Hormone Levels In Humans; Ongoing Study; Supported By The Jefferson Myrna Brind Center Of Integrative Medicine And Yoga Research Society; Presented at The Endocrine Society’s 85th Annual Meeting In Philidelphia

[iv]  A Longitudinal Study Of Students’ Perceptions Of Using Deep Breathing Meditation To Reduce Testing Stresses; Southern Illinois University School Of Medicine

[v] The Evaluation of a Mind/Body Intervention to Reduce Psychological Distress and Perceived Stress in College Students; Mind/Body Medical Institute, Harvard Medical School

[vi] Relaxation Techniques; Mayo Clinic

[vii] The Evaluation of a Mind/Body Intervention to Reduce Psychological Distress and Perceived Stress in College Students; Teaching And Learning In Medicine; Volume15, Issue 2 April 2003,  pages 88 – 92

[viii] Harvard University Gazette


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