Yoga helps to relieve stress. Here is how.
The benefits of yoga for general health have been recognised by the medical community for some time now. In fact, yoga – or some elements of it – is excellent in providing complementary support to conventional therapies.
An increasing number of physicians and physiotherapists confirm that yoga is effective in alleviating musculoskeletal pain, migraines and chronic headaches, as well as menstrual and menopausal symptoms. Yoga has also proven to be helpful as a complementary remedy in the treatment of hypertension, cardiac arrhythmia and asthma.
Above all, however, yoga is one of the most effective tools for stress management at our disposal, as it promotes a state of calm and relaxation, and helps to reduce anxiety and overcome depression as well as prevent burnout.
The effect of yoga on the nervous system
It has been proven that a holistic form of yoga, which includes postures (asana), deep breathing, relaxation and meditation, has measurable effects on both the body and the mind.
When we do yoga, our brain releases a neurotransmitter called GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid), which influences our well-being on many levels, especially mood and emotional stability. When we are under stress, some groups of neurons can become hyperactive. One of the functions of GABA is to “calm them down” and promote a feeling of relaxation. Its effect is similar to that induced by benzodiazepines, i.e. tranquillisers. We can therefore say that yoga can prompt the body to produce its own natural tranquilliser.
Additionally, yoga reduces neuronal excitability by influencing the autonomic nervous system, and the vagus nerve in particular. Also known as “the nerve of serenity”, when activated the vagus nerve lowers stress hormones, reduces muscular and mental tension, and improves the body-mind balance and the ability to process emotions.
Breathing is key
Stress is an emotional state that is often associated with shallow and irregular breathing and repetitive, inconclusive thoughts that tend to cause anxiety. Yoga helps us to change that and adopt a calmer, deeper breathing that restores our nervous system to a state of calm. This way, our mind is freed of negative thoughts and regains clarity. As a consequence, stress factors get resized and the focus shifts from obsessing over problems to finding possible solutions, making it easier to navigate life.
Recommended yoga styles against stress
There are several different types of yoga, all of which can help us manage stress to some extent. The best style for you depends on your specific situation. For example, those who find it difficult to relax will find greater benefits in gentle forms of yoga that focus on relaxation, breathing and meditation, such as Hatha Yoga soft, Yin Yoga and Yoga Nidra. Those who, on the contrary, prefer a more physical approach are better suited to other styles such as Power Yoga. By alternating between intense, dynamic postures and relaxation phases, we train our ability to focus on the “here and now”, which allows us to relax in a more mindful way.
Individual yoga sessions are a good alternative to group lessons for people with high levels of stress or vulnerable health, or for those who just prefer a more tailored experience. Yoga teachers can create personalised programmes based on your specific needs, and follow you throughout your training. By helping you understand the principles underlying each exercise, they can help you learn the correct movements and postures so that you can repeat them at home on your own and achieve your health goals.
Our life paths will always be strewn with obstacles, but yoga teaches us how to be calm and weather even the harshest storm, giving us the right mindset to overcome any difficulty with confidence. This is why we can say that yoga is a holistic healer.
Your yoga team at ADLER