Woman doing yoga

Yoga against stress

Our modern life is fast and often stressful. Yet stress is often still underestimated, even though it is a very dangerous health factor. One is sometimes tired, sometimes a little restless etc. – after all, everyone has a little stress. Yoga against stress.

Effects of stress

Much and continuous stress has been proven to be extremely harmful to health. Stress hormones normally activate our body and put it in a “state of alert” to respond to challenges. Too much can lead to various health problems, such as

  • gastrointestinal disorders (heartburn, irritable bowel syndrome, constipation),
  • circulatory problems (high blood pressure, palpitations, dizziness),
  • Insomnia, constant exhaustion,
  • concentration disorders, and
  • Eczema and other skin problems – to name but a few.

In the case of permanent stress, our body can no longer break down the stress hormones. The stress-related health problems range from various mental illnesses (e.g. eating and anxiety disorders, as well as depression and complete burnout), a strong weakening of the immune system to very serious long-term physical consequences (e.g. premature aging, increased risk of cancer and many other secondary diseases).

Stress is therefore a powerful negative health factor that should definitely be taken seriously. In the following I would therefore like to introduce you to some of the most exciting yoga studies (yoga reaches deeper into our mind and body than commonly known). I will also list some of the best exercises for your home that result from these research results.

Research: Yoga helps with stress and much more

As you surely know, yoga is very healthy for body and mind and can be recommended practically universally. Yoga helps with many health problems:

  • For example, Yoga helps to reduce heartburn and other gastrointestinal problems,
  • it improves your memory,
  • counteracts high blood pressure,
  • fights inflammation in the body,
  • relieves back and joint pain,
  • relaxes you and thus plays a big part in reducing stress (and much more).

Yoga is therefore a key to mental and physical balance, relaxation, freedom from fear and much more. But why is this so?

Through the yoga exercises (asanas) you consciously concentrate on your body and your breathing. Through this focus you switch off on the one hand. But because of the better oxygen supply your hectic pace slows down, your blood pressure drops and you can think “clearer”! But only through simple breathing exercises and a little movement should stress be reduced? That sounds a bit too easy, doesn’t it?

But what you might not know is that yoga is one of the best researched health practices ever. Many scientific studies prove that you are doing your health a great favor by doing yoga regularly!

Especially the factor stress is very common nowadays and is a cause for many other health problems. Stress is – as mentioned above – very dangerous.  Therefore, I would like to present you some highly exciting studies today, which prove scientifically that yoga can be very effective in fighting every day, modern permanent stress and can also fight many other problems “on the side”. Yoga is about focusing on yourself, about “letting go”. The following results show us that, from a medical point of view, all this is much more than just a placebo or “a little exercise”, for example, by providing evidence through blood tests and brain scans (MRS).

Dru-Yoga at work fights stress and relieves back pain

A study conducted by the British government in 2012 shows that short yoga sessions directly at the workplace significantly reduce stress for employees and also relieve back pain almost “by the way” (source 1).

The study participants practiced a gentle form of yoga (Dru Yoga) for 8 weeks, once a week for 1 hour. They also had a DVD with exercises for use at home. Compared to a control group that did not practice yoga during the study, stress levels and back pain had decreased significantly after 8 weeks and overall mental well-being had improved significantly!

The exercises were divided into activation, release of energy blockages, two selected simple yoga poses and a relaxation part (breathing exercises, visualization, etc.). The two simple asanas used here were:

  • Bhujangasana (the cobra)
  • Majariasana (the cat)

The study shows us: A few gentle Dru Yoga exercises during the lunch break provide for a clearly improved health and will certainly also save the employer the one or other sick note.

Iyengar-Yoga improves mood and reduces stress and anxiety

An opinion often heard is something like this: Yoga is like chicken broth – it can do no harm, or yoga is as good or bad for health as any other form of exercise.That this opinion is not correct is shown by other interesting research results (source 2).

In 2010, researchers from the University of Boston had participants practice Iyengar yoga for more than 12 weeks. A comparison group did walking at the same time. As you probably know, Iyengar yoga focuses mainly on physical exercises and aids also play a major role,

The results show that the Iyengar Yoga group had a significantly reduced stress and anxiety level compared to the walking group, and their mood improved significantly. The yoga exercises were shown to increase the level of an important neurotransmitter. Thus, the results were not based solely on surveys of the study participants, but were objectively readable in magnetic resonance scans of the participants’ brains.

A German study of the Essen-Mitte Clinics found very similar results using a different method (source 3).

Yoga protects our genetic material from stress-related ageing

As already described at the beginning, stress is enormously harmful for body and psyche.Under stress we produce large amounts of the stress hormone cortisol. This makes sense in the short term and activates our body and mind for stressful challenges. In the long run, however, too much cortisol shortens the “caps” (so-called telomeres) of our DNA, which makes the aging process run faster.

Nowadays stress cannot be completely avoided. But there are ways and means to circumvent it or to reduce stress biochemically much faster. Canadian researchers found out that yoga is very effective for exactly this faster biochemical breakdown of stress hormones and thus the protection of our DNA against premature aging.

During the 3-month study (source 4), a group of participants practiced yoga and meditation exercises from a special, scientifically developed Canadian yoga program for cancer patients (Yoga Thrive) for 45 minutes daily. A comparison group did not practice yoga, but only attended a lecture on anti-stress measures.

At the end of the study, blood tests showed that the yoga group had significantly lower cortisol levels and also the “caps” of their DNA were unchanged in length compared to the other group. These research results suggest the following: Yoga and meditation have a positive influence on our aging process and generally have a positive effect on the health of human cells.

Conclusion

  • Stress is omnipresent in today’s world and a very negative health factor.
  • Yoga is healthy for body and mind in general, but especially against the harmful stress, yoga has proven very effective.
  • This is not just talk of yogis, but has been proven by objective scientific studies.
  • We have presented 3 of the most exciting studies and their results to you in a crisp and concise way.
  • Especially the Hatha-Yoga and Iyengar-Yoga (which is classified as part of Hatha), produced impressive results.

I hope we were able to show you some facts about yoga and meditation that you might not have known yet.

Sources

  1. N. Hartfiel, C. Burton et al. Yoga for reducing perceived stress and back pain at work. Occupational Medicine, Volume 62, Issue 8, December 2012, Pages 606-612.
  2. Chris C Streeter et al. Effects of Yoga Versus Walking on Mood, Anxiety, and Brain GABA Levels: A Randomized Controlled MRS Study. Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine. 2010 Nov;16(11):1145-52.
  3. Andreas Michalsen et al Iyengar Yoga for Distressed Women: A 3-Armed Randomized Controlled Trial. Evidence-based Complementary and Alternative Medicine. 2012; 2012: 408727.
  4. Michael J. Mackenzie, Linda E. Carlson et al. Affect and Mindfulness as Predictors of Change in Mood Disturbance, Stress Symptoms, and Quality of Life in a Community-Based Yoga Program for Cancer Survivors. Evidence-based Complementary and Alternative Medicine. 2013; 2013: 419496.

Read more: “India Yoga Trip