How to reduce stress and tension with yoga | Yoga and stress research
Stress is worse than ever, with survey after survey showing that work-related stress is a growing problem.
Now you don’t want to get rid of all stress. But if you want to live a long, healthy, enjoyable life, you want to make living with stress manageable. One way is through yoga.
My relationship with yoga
Back in the 1990’s, I tried my first yoga session. It was an awful experience, held in a cavernous conference room with over 100 strangers. I felt more stressed than ever in front of so many people. It would be another 15 years before I ventured back to yoga.
But I was tempted back with the rise of YouTube.
For a couple of years now, I’ve been doing my yoga sessions in the comfort of my own home. I love it. Just me and my ipad. I can find the type of yoga I want, how long a session I want to do, whenever I want. Best of all, no-one is watching me as I grunt my way into a downward dog.
Yoga and stress research
The latest yoga and stress research is very exciting if you want natural stress management.
When I was first working in the field of Clinical Psychology (around 20 years ago) I was unable to recommend yoga to clients because there was no reliable evidence in yoga and stress research. Yoga had not yet been tested scientifically in rigorous studies.
Yoga has since built itself into a multi-billion dollar industry. So there is finally money to fund studies in the effectiveness of yoga for health.
Research shows that yoga can change your brain for the better.
GABA stands for gamma-aminobutryic acid and is the body’s natural calming agent in the neurons. It calms the firing process of your nerves. You know how when you are feeling nervous, your instinct is to go, go, go and your brain is go, go, go? Well GABA does the opposite.
It’s like someone comforting your brain and saying, “shhhhh, everything’s ok’. Yoga has been shown to increase this neurotransmitter naturally, and has similar effects to the benzodiazepine drugs prescribed for anxiety.
There are many other studies showing that yoga elicits a relaxation response, reduces stress and improves sleep.
Can yoga lower blood pressure?
Earlier this year, a 16 year old boy from Canada, Ashok Pandey, studied the effects of yoga on blood pressure for his high school science fair. The results were so phenomenal that he presented his findings at the European society of Cardiology.
He found that 15 minutes of yoga 5 times a week over a period of 3 months reduced blood pressure by 10%. That has to make the medical industry sit up and listen.
Overall, the studies, whether for mothers to be, women with breast cancer, those with chronic pain, menopausal symptoms…the yoga programs all eased stress.
Why is yoga good for stress?
I believe yoga is so healing because it works to connect our whole being. So body, behavior, social and spiritual connections are made stronger. When we are stressed these systems are out of balance.
Yoga seems to strengthen each of these connections. This provides a sense of well-being.
I explain more about this in my video.
Click through to watch my video on the benefits of yoga on stress.
What can you take from these results?
You don’t have to be an advanced, ultra-flexible yogi to gain benefits from yoga. You can seriously start yoga at home with a YouTube video.
The studies all show yoga to be effective if it is practiced over time. So, set yourself a program of at least 6 weeks.
Although if you’ve never done yoga before, have any physical issues or have been away from exercise for a long time, it’s probably better to go in person to a class and/or get checked out by a doctor first.
The conclusion is that yoga can reduce your stress levels and possibly blood pressure. It is of course a self-help technique and should not replace traditional methods of stress-relief your doctor may recommend to you.
Who to watch on YouTube
Using yoga for stress management and relaxation is possible while following along with Yoga channels on YouTube.
If you want to get started with yoga classes on YouTube for stress management, I recommend 3 channels. These are my personal favorites that I workout with most weeks.
I hope you are feeling encouraged to use yoga for stress management and relaxation.