One of the oldest forms of mind-body exercise, yoga was first mentioned in the Rig Veda and is believed to have originated over 5,000 years ago. The practice of yoga typically involves a combination of poses, breathing techniques, and deep relaxation – although there are many variations of this today. One of the most significant benefits of yoga is stress, something that people across the world have far too much of. Practitioners swear by yoga’s mind relaxing effects and use it as a tool for daily stress relief.
How It Works
1. Lesser Highs And Lows
There is a direct link between levels of stress and the degree of emotional response to events. The more extreme the emotional response, the higher is the accompanying level of stress. An article published by Harvard Medical School mentioned a study conducted by the University of Utah. The study found that yoga practitioners had higher pain tolerance and the lowest pain-related brain activity as compared with other groups. It’s a known fact among yogis that the practice can help stay calmer and much more emotionally stable in stressful circumstances.
2. Breathing Better
“Take a deep breath” is a classic piece of advice given to those with excess anger and anxiety. Asanas (yoga pose) are not about merely stretching and twisting the body. They require you to breathe systematically with every move. Pranayama, a vital part of yoga, consists of various techniques that control the breath and make it deeper. Deep breathing slows down heart rate, blood pressure, and significantly reduces stress.
3. Drifting Into Meditation
While the two are often looked upon as separate, meditation is an inextricable part of traditional schools of yoga such as Ashtanga yoga. Plenty of research has already proved that even as little as 20 minutes of daily meditation can reduce one’s cortisol response. Mayo Clinic published an article that shared the various benefits of meditation for stress. Deep yogic breathing, said the author, works as a technique to be more mindful, release negative emotions, and relax the body.
4. One Pointed Focus
It’s a well-known fact that overthinking, over a period of time, creates a state of stress. On the other hand, when you have lesser and more focused thoughts, you naturally feel more relaxed. While practicing asanas, one fixes their gaze at a single point. Forms of yoga that incorporate mantras and other sounds use them as aids to focus the mind in one direction. As the attention grows more focused, mental chattering reduces. And the breath follows too – it goes from shallow and unstable to deeper and rhythmic. Studies confirm that the result of this is a drop in stress levels.
5. Transforming Genes
Prolonged periods of inflammation have been linked to chronic stress. This can do a lot to damage both physical and mental health. Frontiers in Immunology published a striking study on the capabilities of yoga. The researchers reviewed more than 10 years of studies on the effects of practices including yoga. It found that mind-body exercises can suppress genetic pathways that increase inflammation in the brain and body.
The practice of yoga is thousands of years old. As more and more people adopt it for fitness and wellness purposes, they also add to its vastness with their own variations. As far as research on the effects of yoga on the mind, there is still some way to go. But going by the published studies as well as anecdotal evidence, one thing cannot be ignored – yoga offers something truly unique and special to modern humans. And it’s here to stay.