Yoga & Stress by Sue Fuller

Yoga on a BeachWhen stress becomes overwhelming it can be incredibly harmful and may damage health, moods, productivity, relationships and quality of life.  Yoga can help you achieve a healthy balance.

Stress is a normal physical response that is necessary for day to day functioning. When we are exposed to high levels of stress yoga can help bring back the balance.

Stress keeps us alert and focussed.  It increases motivation, enhances creativity and encourages us to rise to meet different challenges.

When we sense danger or feel threatened the stress response is the body’s way of providing protection, also known as the fight or flight reaction.  It can speed up reactions and provide us with extra strength.

The stress response can be lifesaving in emergency situations

However when stress becomes overwhelming it can be incredibly harmful and may damage health, moods, productivity, relationships and quality of life. 

Too much stress unbalances the nervous system, which today is a common occurrence.

To achieve optimum levels of health, a healthy balance between stress and relaxation needs to be developed.  It is important to be able to acknowledge when stress is detrimental and when it is necessary. Yoga helps to establish a deeper connection with ourselves this enables us to identify when stress is at an unhealthy level and act accordingly to help us re-establish equilibrium.

Gentle Yoga for Mindfulness by Sue FullerYoga postures, pranayamas, relaxation and meditation techniques counteract the stress response and balance the nervous system.  

Quite simply yoga increases health and vitality.  When we feel healthy, we experience less stress.  A little yoga every day will maintain a healthy balance between stress and relaxation.

A stress reducing yoga practice needs to contain sufficient winding down techniques to induce relaxation, balance and harmony.

What part do Pranayamas play in stress reduction?

Pranayamas can greatly help induce a state of deep relaxation. 

When we inhale we stimulate the sympathetic nervous system which is responsible for the “fight or flight response” this brings an energising effect to both body and mind.  The exhalation stimulates the parasympathetic part of the nervous system which is responsible for telling the muscles to relax, lowering your heart rate and blood pressure and helping you sleep better.

When practicing pranayamas to stimulate the relaxation response work to slowly lengthen the outbreath.

Meditation

Spending a few minutes in meditation will relax and calm the mind bringing peace and clarity.

Meditation will activate the relaxation response and also promote mindfulness, which helps us to recognize unhelpful patterns of thought that could trigger the stress response.

Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University found that meditating for 25 minutes for three days can significantly lower stress and boost the ability to endure stress.

Philosophy

Amongst many things yogic philosophy teaches that nothing is permanent.  There is a constant rise and fall of energy, emotion and action.  No one can control 100% what’s going to happen.  When we realize and acknowledge that we can’t control the future and that everything is constantly changing it can remove some pressure, this alone may lower stress levels.

“Take care of the present and the future will take care of itself.”  Hindu Sage - Ramana Marashi (30 December 1879 – 14 April 1950)

Diet and Lifestyle

Diet has a big impact on our stress levels. 

Eat a well-balanced healthy diet that contains plenty of nutrients and vitamins.

Studies show that vitamin C will reduce stress and return blood pressure and cortisol levels to normal after a stressful situation.

Cortisol is a hormone released by the adrenal glands in response to stress.

Sue Fuller is the creator of the Yoga 2 Hear range of audio yoga classes.  Sue has a range of over 60 different audio yoga classes available on CD or MP3, the range includes classes for the absolute beginner right through to strong classes for more advanced practitioners.  Sue is a columnist for the yoga Magazine and a regular writer for Natural Health, she is also a course author for The British School of Yoga.