Stress

As part of my training I wrote an essay on stress and how Yoga techniques can help. Below are some extracts that explain the amazing effects that Yoga can have upon us and the negative effects that stress can have upon our bodies if we don’t mange it.

“Stress is an individual’s, individual response to situations and demands that they feel they cannot cope with.  Humans have always been subjected to stressors, and as a result stress in the body, for example as hunter gatherers, we were also hunted, our bodies, used the flight or fight reflex. Modern life still produces stressors, such as a work deadline, a new job, a death in the family, when we feel unable to cope with a situation, the fight or flight reaction can still occur.  As it is unlikely that we will run away from a stressful meeting, or fight our demanding boss, we do not use all the adrenaline. If we are repeatedly in stressful situations, not managing our stress levels this can very negatively affect the body and mind. This is described in www.nhs.uk“Stress is not an illness itself but it can cause serious illness if it isn’t addressed.”

Stress can have short term effects on the body, which are not pleasant to feel, the heart rate speeds up, breathing speeds up and gets shallower, the blood rushes away from our internal organs to the muscles which can leave us feeling dizzy. Emotionally and mentally, we will also feel distress and panic, in severe cases this can lead to a panic attack, whereby hyperventilation occurs. This will impact negatively on self esteem and confidence.

As indicated in the NHS quote above, if stress continues there can be harmful effects on the body and mind and chronic illnesses, a selection of these are bullet pointed below:

  • Heart problems
  • High blood pressure
  • Exhaustion
  • Compromised immune system
  • Cancer
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Inability to concentrate/focus
  • Mood swings/depression
  • Sleep problems
  • Digestive problems
  • Tense muscles/muscle imbalances which have a result on the bio mechanics of the body leading to joint and posture problems

Furthermore, it is common to turn to unhealthy methods of coping with long term stress, many people drink alcohol to excess, eat sugary food, drink caffeine, smoke nicotine. All these methods temporarily dull our stress reactions in the short term, but long term has their own negative effects on the body.

Deep relaxation for the body and mind is extremely important and beneficial. A cardiologist Dr Benson has termed what happens to the body in deep relaxation as the ‘Relaxation Response’. Deep relaxation is a state of relaxation whereby the brain settles into an alpha brain wave pattern which can only be accessed by focused, mental activity, the brain needs to be focused on something and not drift into sleep. In yoga the mind is commonly focused on the asana, the body or the breath, thereby provoking the relaxation response.

The relaxation response must be distinguished from what many of us routinely consider as stress relief; drinking alcohol, watching television/film or reading a book. None of these aforementioned activities provoke the alpha brain wave pattern.

Whilst in deep relaxation, the brain stops sending messages of perceived danger to the body, as a result the FF response stops, the heart rate slows down, blood pressure is lowered, the breath slows down and becomes deeper, the overwhelming feelings of panic and anxiety reduce, muscle tension eases, the blood flows freely throughout the body instead of being focused on the muscles, this will help with digestion. The quote below from www.helpguide.org demonstrates the opposite effects

“When stressors throw your nervous system out of balance, relaxation techniques can bring it back into a balanced state by producing the relaxation response, a state of deep calmness that is the complete opposite of the stress response.”

As we can see above what happens to the body in deep relaxation, the benefits of yoga relaxation techniques are invaluable for mind, body and life span. As well as correcting stress related conditions, yoga relaxation tools can be intertwined with our everyday life. For example on the bus in the morning we could spend ten minutes focusing on our breath to produce the relaxation response, before a meeting which will make us stressed, we can take a few minutes focusing on the breath and deepening the exhale, to restore a sense of calm and also to oxygenate the blood to help with clarity.

Below are a few of the benefits that yoga relaxation can have if practised regularly on the mind and body…

  • Lowered blood pressure
  • Increased heart health
  • Calm mind
  • Focus
  • Decreased muscle tension
  • Aids migraines
  • Deeper more even breath, therefore a more effective use of our breathing
  • Helps with panic attacks/depression/anxiety
  • Helps with insomnia
  • Boosts the immune system to help prevent or deal with chronic, life threatening illnesses i.e arthritis
  • Helps irritable bowel syndrome and other digestive problems
  • Even if you do not experience stress very often your health will be improved by all of the above ways