Sunday, 10 November 2013

Why Yoga Reduces Stress

It’s an undeniable fact that stress has become an inherent part of our lives. The causes are myriad and often unavoidable. To understand how yoga can bring down stress levels, let's first understand stress and its physical manifestations.

Typical Red flags
You are stressed out when
  1. Your snappy responses are uncalled for
  2. Simple problems suddenly overwhelm you
  3. You have an attack of brain-fag (your mind blanks out at  unexpected moments).
Physical Manifestations
  1. The effect of stress on digestion is well documented.  Excessive stress can cause indigestion and ulcers.
  2. Over secretion of cortisol affects the normal functioning of the heart.  This makes you vulnerable to strokes and heart attacks.
  3. Insomnia is another by-product; add frequent headaches to the mix and you often feel like throwing in the towel.
  4. Stress weakens and slows down your immune system.  You are now prone to contract an illness faster and recovery takes longer.

How Can Yoga Reduce Stress?
You obviously can't avoid the activities that cause stress. What you can do is to counteract it with an activity that drains all the stress from your body and your mind.  Yoga is one such activity.

Hatha yoga is a relaxation technique designed to prepare the mind for meditation.  The breathing and physical exercises help you to slowly extricate your mind from the complexities of everyday living.  The ultimate goal of meditation is to consciously empty your mind of all thoughts.  As anyone who has tried it would know, this is not easy to achieve.

The first thing you learn in Hatha yoga is slow breathing. You'll have to concentrate as you inhale, and visualize the fresh air fill and cleanse your lungs.  You'll then have to exhale slowly and imagine all the contaminated air leave your body.  When you are doing this, you are too busy trying to get it right to allow the outside world to intrude into your thoughts. You learn to let go and just be.

Yoga incorporates slow and easy movements as you inhale and exhale. Unlike in the other forms of exercises, you don't have to tax your body more than it is willing to go.  Your muscles are not overly taxed and yet, you learn to feel every single one of them.  Over a period of time, you'll find that most of your chronic health problems have slowly disappeared.  You'll feel pleasantly relaxed with your mind and body functioning in optimum condition; like a well serviced car.

Note: If you are over 40, it's a good idea to consult your GP before you start practicing yoga for the first time.