We often hear claims that yoga can help with stress relief. In order for us to determine that yoga can relief stress we first need to look at what is stress.
A state of mental or emotional strain or tension resulting from adverse or demanding circumstances.
‘he’s obviously under a lot of stress’
Some well-known researchers on stress state that stress occurs when a person’s assessment of external events exceed their internal ability to cope with these events. Stress can be measured in two ways: subjective – the way we perceive stress and assess situations in our lives or objective – biological changes that occur in our bodies when we experience stress. This could be increased heart rate or ‘fight or flight’ response which results in cortisol releasing hormones which kicks into action the Hypothalamic-Pituitary-Adrenal (HPA) Axis, a stress response system. Chronic stress could lead to HPA Axis dysregulation or Adrenal Fatigue and can lead to high levels or low levels of cortisol in our bodies, resulting in low energy levels and inflammation.
According to fellow yogi blogger, Sandy, in her blog ‘Can yoga actually improve regulation of the HPA-Axis’, the best way to regulate the HPA Axis is to destress. Yoga is known to activate the parasympathetic nervous system ‘Rest and Digest’ which has a calming effect on the body, bringing balance between the sympathetic, ‘Fight and Flight’ and parasympathetic nervous system. Through this balance we are better able to respond to stressful situations. By over exercising we can cause the HPA Axis to dysregulate. This is where slow yoga can help to bring balance and with it stress relief.
Another positive impact that yoga has on our stress levels is through the awareness of the breath. We often hear, take a deep breath, when you are under stress. What is really required is to inhale into the lower parts of the lungs, thereby activating the parasympathetic nervous system. By changing the ratio between the inhale and exhale we can also help to regulate or stress levels. A longer exhale automatically calms the body.
By becoming aware and listening to our bodies, we are able to deploy methods that can help us cope better with our perceived or real stressful situations in our daily lives.
The blog I referenced – there is also a video that demonstrates the HPA axis beautifully
These are for me for future reference: