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Stress is necessary for life. One needs stress for creativity, learning, and survival. Stress is only harmful when it becomes overwhelming and interrupts the healthy state of equilibrium that the nervous system needs to remain in balance. Unfortunately, overwhelming stress has become an increasingly common characteristic of contemporary life, thus the need to curtail it.
For many people, relaxation means lying on the couch and watching your favourite cartoon on the television at the end of a stressful day, sleeping or having a cold shower. But this does little to reduce the damaging effects of stress. To effectively combat stress and anxiety, activating the body’s natural relaxation response is important and achieveable by practicing relaxation techniques such as deep breathing, meditation, rhythmic exercise, and yoga.
Today, yoga classes teaching the art of breathing, meditation and posing are offered because it brings together physical and mental disciplines to achieve peacefulness of body and mind, helping the body to relax and manage stress and anxiety.
Yoga has many styles, forms and intensities. The potential health benefits of yoga are numerous and may include stress reduction, increased fitness, stress reduction, management of chronic health conditions and weight loss. While yoga may not cure or offer 100 per cent relief, it can help some health conditions when combined with standard treatment.
Researchers, for instance, in a study proved that using a specific type of yoga (Kirtan Kriya Meditation (KKM)), to engage in a brief, simple daily meditation reduced the stress levels of people who care for those stricken by Alzheimer’s and dementia.
Reporting in the current online edition of the journal Psychoneuroendocrinology, they indicated that practicing a certain form of chanting yogic meditation for just 12 minutes daily for eight weeks led to a reduction in the biological mechanisms responsible for an increase in the immune system’s inflammation response. Inflammation, if constantly activated, can contribute to a multitude of chronic health problems.
In the study, the participants were randomised into two groups. The meditation group was taught the 12-minute yogic practice that included Kirtan Kriya, which was performed every day at the same time for eight weeks.
The other group was asked to relax in a quiet place with their eyes closed while listening to instrumental music on a relaxation CD, also for 12 minutes daily for eight weeks. Blood samples were taken at the beginning of the study and again at the end of the eight weeks.
Interestingly, the researchers stated that meditation caused a reduction in the activity of the body proteins linked with inflammation in the body of those in the meditation group.
A previous study had also validated the health benefits of yoga. This study was published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine. Nineteen individuals were assigned to either an hour yoga session of postures and conscious breathing, or a one-hour reading session. It was important to the creators of the study to compare two activities that have been known to be relaxing and pleasurable in order to ascertain the true power of yoga.
The level of GABA (gamma aminobutyric acid) was tested before and after the session. All subjects were then assessed for brain levels of GABA both before and after the session. GABA is a brain chemical that has a generally calming, anti-anxiety effect within the brain.
Individuals who completed the yoga session had a 27 per cent increase in GABA levels on average. However, those who read saw no change in the levels of this brain chemical.
Caring for a frail or demented family member can be a significant life stressor. Caregivers often don’t have the time, energy, or contacts that could bring them a little relief from the stress of taking care of a loved one with dementia, so practicing a brief form of yogic meditation, which is easy to learn, is a useful too.
But there is no single relaxation technique that is best for everyone to deal with stress. When choosing a relaxation technique, considering ones’ specific needs, preferences, fitness level, and the way one tend to react to stress is important. However, the right relaxation technique is the one that fits one lifestyle, able to focus ones ’mind and interrupt one’s everyday thoughts in order to elicit the relaxation response.
Moreover, meditation is another relaxation technique that can wipe away the day’s stress, bringing with it inner peace. Anyone can practice meditation. It’s simple and inexpensive. During meditation, you focus your attention and eliminate the stream of jumbled thoughts that may be crowding your mind and causing stress.
Some research suggested that meditation may help such conditions as allergies, sleep problems, asthma, depression, fatigue, pain and high blood pressure and substance abuse. While a growing body of scientific research supports the health benefits of meditation, some researchers believe it’s not yet possible to draw conclusions about the possible benefits of meditation.
So why is yoga so good at relieving stress? First, in addition to the poses and breathing, it emphasises a healthy and balanced lifestyle. Living this way will help to be healthier with properly functioning systems. If you’re not lacking in various nutrients, you will function better, feel more energized, and be less stressed.
Yoga also helps build stamina and strength which can help to cope better with the physical aspects of stress. Aside helping to maintain calmness both physically and mentally, it also emphasises proper breathing methods. The long deep breaths used in yoga promote relaxation by changing the carbon dioxide levels in the blood.
Lastly, yoga can help promote a full, restful night’s sleep. Getting enough sleep is very important in helping the body and mind heal. This leaves you ready to cope better with stressors the next day.Share
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