Wish it could be simpler? Choose Yoga
This is where yoga represents an easy choice. The essence of all yoga practice centres around attention to breath and movement, which can bring about a reduction in the symptoms of stress.6 If you're stressed, the good news is: yoga can help. Choosing yoga, and learning the mindfulness and breath practices at its heart can calm the nervous system, improve respiratory function, cardiovascular fitness, hormonal balance, concentration and meanwhile the ability to manage stress.
In my experience, the effect of calming the breath – on the body, and resultantly on the mind – has been profound. Having experienced extreme physical tension in my lower abdomen, which seems to be my physical holding-zone for mental stress, which was particularly acute while I was suffering severe depression and anxiety a few years ago, the only thing that finally helped me at a transformative level was yoga. I had had countless prescriptions, medical investigations and procedures, which included being on antibiotics for a year to treat the suspected infection behind my pain and inflammation, but none helped, and my condition became debilitating. However, by learning to open up from the inside out, through slowing and deepening my breath, I started to learn how to let go of some of what I was holding onto. For me, the mind-body connection could not have been proven more strongly: mental stress manifested itself physically, and therefore by responding to it physically, I experienced significant mental relief, not merely because being in physical pain is inherently stressful! Yoga can be a catalyst for change in mind and body, and with regular practice, as many yogis the world over will attest, physiological function adapts and the effect can be of huge restorative benefit.
Respected studies (and the testimonials of millions) suggest that yoga has a positive effect on anxiety and depression, pain, cardiovascular, autoimmune and immune conditions, respiratory difficulties, mood disorders, psychological conditions such as PTSD and some of the symptoms of alcoholism.
So if you are looking for a way to de-stress, yoga is an easy choice. With yoga, something is always better than nothing, and once you get started, seemingly endless possibilities for mental and physical transformation can open up. This is because, in addition to calming the body down through controlled breathing, Yoga offers the practitioner a priceless gift to the mind: an alternative view. Through yoga, we may come to address not only the symptomatology of stress, but our whole attitude towards it. Yoga philosophy encourages us to look inwards, to become aware of our experience and to ask questions, to investigate our habits, patterns and reactions. For me this was a process which opened up the space for change because it opened up an opportunity within myself for choice, which proved empowering.
If we can work intelligently with stress – identifying triggers, noticing reactions – then we can begin to accommodate profound changes in our wellbeing. Many people find they can decide how to respond, rather than remaining trapped in a cycle of auto-pilot reactivity commonly experienced under stress. Stress caused by tension held predominantly in the body may also be released by poses designed to stretch out the fabric of our muscles and connective tissues, and as we move with our awareness rooted in our breath, we may reconnect the mind-body link that so often has been lost in stressed individuals. Once we reconnect with that link, we regain access to mental and physiological states – often of clarity, relaxation, peace – profoundly different from where we started. We find that the potential to overcome stress lies within us, rather than outside of us, which perhaps explains why so many yoga practitioners claim to have 'found' through yoga, the sense of self they'd lost to stress. I know I have. Camilla Walker Yoga 2017
22nd February, 2017
4 de Quervain et al., Stress and glucocorticoids impair retrieval of long-term spatial memory. Nature , 394, 787-790 (1998) 5.http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/health-and...