April is National Stress Awareness month, and National Stress Awareness Day falls on April 16! This time of mindfulness was created by the Health Resource Network, who notes that chronic, long-term stress takes significantly more destructive toll on your body than acute stress does. Chronic stress can raise blood pressure, increase the risk of heart attack and stroke (two of the most fatal conditions in the US), increase vulnerability to anxiety and depression, contribute to infertility, and hasten the aging process.
Thus it is abundantly clear that management of chronic stress is one of the major factors in preserving health and preventing illness in 2019!
Since the growth in popularity of eastern spirituality in the 1970’s, meditation, yoga, and other mindfulness-based stress-reduction techniques have been on the rise and studied as treatments for a number of different maladies.
In the dawn of an era characterized by chronic stressors and busy lifestyles, we find people are taking and making the time to slow down, find their yoga mat, grounding and centering. One national survey revealed that about 7.5% of adults in the US had tried yoga at least once, and 4% practiced regularly in the past year.
That’s a lot of yogis!
So what draws all of these practitioners to the same ancient wisdom? Why it’s the power of the mind-body connection to transform lives and uplift practitioners into a lifestyle of reduced stress, and increased vibrant health.
Natural Anxiety Relief
Recent research indicates that relaxation induced by mindfulness practices such as yoga and meditation serve the function of stabilizing the autonomic nervous system. The autonomic nervous system plays the role of decreasing arousal (reducing the heart rate, lowering blood pressure, and easing respiration) when there is no cause for fear, and putting a rest to the bodies fight-or-flight response characterized by stress.
Yoga actually shifts the nervous system so that it functions with a tendency towards parasympathetic dominance, meaning it makes the body less reactive to stress, and helps to preserve the body’s sense of calm. Essentially, yoga trains the body to self-sooth, as well as reducing perceived stress and anxiety, thus modulating the stress response.
Why is this so important? Why, because of the physiological benefits which follow!
Mindfulness practices help yoga practitioners become more resilient to stressful conditions and reduce a variety of important risk factors for various diseases, especially cardio-respiratory diseases. Yoga’s stress reducing effects help it to exert further added benefits such as more sound sleep, reduced cortisol levels, reduced inflammation, reduced pain levels and increased pain tolerance, reduced blood pressure, reduced cravings for vices such as smoking, lower heart rate, sense of wellbeing, reduced anxiety and muscle tension, and slowed aging. There is also additional evidence that yoga practices help increase heart rate variability, an indicator of the body’s ability to respond to stress more flexibly!
The health benefits of yoga revealed by research are already quite boundless, and new research continues to reveal the importance not only of mindfulness practices, but stress-reduction practices in general.
This month, Better Living Yoga invites you and your loved ones to join us for a class in mindful celebration of Stress Awareness Month. Find the class schedule here to plan your commitment to living better with less stress: Class Schedule.
Parshad, O. (2004). Role of yoga in stress management. The West Indian Medical Journal, 53(3), 191-194.Although this is just a small sample of yoga benefits in relation to some conditions it does illustrate the value of a yoga practice as a worthwhile health care investment.
Harvard Mental Health Letter. (2018). Yoga for Anxiety and Depression. Harvard Health Publishing. Harvard Medical School. Retrived from: https://www.health.harvard.edu/mind-and-mood/yoga-for-anxiety-and-depression
Scott, E. (2019) The Benefits of Yoga for Stress Management. Verywell Mind. Retrieved from:https://www.verywellmind.com/the-benefits-of-yoga-for-stress-management-3145205