Stress is a powerful and emotive word and has many connotations. It occurs on a multiplicity of levels and originates from many different sources.
Stress is commonly defined as a state of mental or emotional strain or tension resulting from adverse or demanding circumstances.
Stress is a the body’s ability to adapt to changing environmental stimuli and can render some situations positively or negatively stressful. Some stress is always present and is a catalyst to activity.
However, when our nervous system is unable to cope with stimulation we can reach overload. A stressed nervous system cannot function well and symptoms appear. Because the nervous system is at the intersection of mind and body, we experience stress written large on the body in the form of psychological, physiological and social effects
Our perceptions of the external world are mediated through our thoughts and sensory processing; sometimes our mind thinks too much or in ways which are detrimental to our well being. This is where deep relaxation and yoga relaxation techniques can be of benefit to help dampen down our overstimulated nervous system and become aware of tension in our bodies and serve as a means to release it, helping to create the environment for positive thought processes.
The ultimate effect on our psychological and physiological heath as a result of stress depends in a large measure on how skilfully we adapt to continual change while maintaining our balance and sense of coherence, which in turn depends on the meanings we attribute to events large and small, our beliefs, values and how much awareness we bring to our state of mind and body. If we can become aware of our reactions we can intercede before they spiral into unhealthy responses and create an environment where we can feel more at ease.
Yoga can contribute to this process not only on a psychological level but also on a physiological level be alleviating the bodily symptoms of stress. It can help us regain control, retain the body in homeostasis and regain balance.Yoga touches on our physical and psychological well being, Although it is far more than a method of stress reduction it can have significant impact on reducing negative effects of stress.
Through elements of yoga we can work on the parasympathetic nervous system to slow the heart rate, lower blood pressure and calm a busy mind, this is why the parasympathetic nervous system is often called the rest and digest mechanism. Many yoga practices help do this: quiet asana, breath work and meditation.
The breath is the bridge between the body and the mind and working with the breath will help calm the mind and release tension in the body. The insight and effects it brings to breathing patterns, muscle tension and states of mind helps to offset the effects of stress and restore our internal equilibrium more readily.
Equally, working with meditation and relaxation will help counter many of the physical symptoms of stress. Relaxation can help people release tension and become more attuned to their bodies and emotions and how they interact. While meditation and turning the senses inward can reduce stress through calming the amount of input and managing our though processes. Both process involve developing awareness. Yoga can provide this therapeutic and healing environment.
Yoga as an ancient discipline and approach has much to offer us in modern life with its many demands upon our well being. Practising yoga can bring a sense of balance and alleviate many of the symptoms of stress as we have come to know it.