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The Problem With Stress

Stress is a common condition, a response to a physical threat or psychological distress, that generates a host of chemical and hormonal reactions in the body. Stress is not all bad. The human body is designed to experience stress and react to it. Stress can help us stay alert and ready to avoid danger. Stress becomes negative when there is continuous pressure or challenge without any sense of relief or relaxation. With continual pressure or busyness we can feel overwhelmed, overworked and stress-related tension builds.

Continual stress can lead to a condition of distress with physical symptoms that include: aches and pains, headaches, frequent colds and infections, tummy upset, low energy, blood pressure problems, and insomnia. Research suggests that stress can also bring on or worsen certain symptoms or diseases. Emotional symptoms of stress include: agitation, frustration and mood swings, feeling bad, reactive or worthless and depression. There are no quick fixes to neutralise stress and seeking a quick fix through addictive substances such as alcohol, tobacco, or drugs in no way help with the underlying causes of stress.

What Does Research Tell Us?

In a German study published in 2005, 24 women who described themselves as “emotionally distressed” took two 90-minute yoga classes a week for three months. Women in a control group maintained their normal activities and were asked not to begin an exercise or stress-reduction program during the study period. At the end of three months, women in the yoga group reported improvements in perceived stress, depression, anxiety, energy, fatigue, and well-being. Depression scores improved by 50%, anxiety scores by 30%, and overall well-being scores by 65%. Initial complaints of headaches, back pain, and poor sleep quality also resolved much more often in the yoga group than in the control group.

Yoga Helps Neutralise Stress

Yoga helps with tension and the underlying causes of stress. Certain Yoga exercises practised daily help to regulate the breath and relax the body. This is done though a gentle releasing of tension from the large muscle groups, and a flushing of the body and brain with fresh blood, oxygen, and other nutrients. This will increase feelings of well-being. Certain “whole body” exercises such as the Sun Salutation are particularly helpful to encourage us to breathe deeply and rhythmically and this is a must for anyone who often feels “stressed out.” Yoga encourage a daily practice of stretching, relaxation and mindfulness which puts us in touch with how it feels to be stress free. At the beginning of a Yoga practise these moments of relaxation may seem sporadic at first and feelings of stress may return outside of the Yoga studio. But with a regular practise the benefits of the classes begin to ripple out bringing generally more peace of mind and ease in the body.