Benefits of Yoga
Yoga is grouped into a category which medical experts call ‘relaxation-response techniques.’ Such techniques have been subject to several studies which have shown that regular practice directly affects physiologic factors such as heart rate, blood pressure, stress, anxiety, oxygen consumption to mention but a few. My focus is stress and how Yoga benefits helps tackle the challenge that affect almost all of us.What we know as stress is actually a physiological response to what our body-mind perceives as life threatening.It is a condition that serves as a defensive mechanism of the human animal throughout the course of its evolution, enabling each one of us to defend ourselves against the aggression of hungry animals and to hold on to our daily activities. According to an Australian Yoga expert whom we grew up together, in a stressful situation, the mind alerts the body of the presence of a danger, in response to which the adrenal glands, located above the kidneys, secrete catecholamine hormones that then act upon the autonomic nervous system.The body then prepares for fight and flight, consequently jacking-up the heart rate, blood pressure, mental alertness and muscle tension. She explained to me recently that once the adrenal hormones kick in, there is bound to be some metabolic changes and the body begins to reprioritise, shutting down systems that are not of urgent priority.
The mother of three, who lives in Melbourne added that the first to be shut down are the digestion, elimination, growth, repair and reproduction systems. These adaptive responses have been a key factor in the survival of the human race over thousands of years, their excesses in the modern lifestyles have been the sources of many physical and mental ailments.Last year she was involved in a study that found Australians participating in the ‘relaxation-response program’ actually used fewer health care services in 2014 after their participation, compared to how many they used in 2013.Unable to resolve their stresses directly, human beings often lives chronically stressed as a result, with the adrenals continuing to pump out stress hormones. As a result, their digestion and elimination systems slow down, their sleep is disrupted, and they live in a state of agitation. In this chronically stressed state, the quality of life is at risk as the body’s capacity to heal itself is compromised, giving rise to conditions such as high blood pressure, ulcers, back pain, immune dysfunction, reproductive problems and depression.She did explain to me that the solution to stress is relaxation and a deep rest where there is no movement and no effort, and the brain is quiet, but it is different to sleep. In several scientific studies she’s been involved, there have recorded the benefits of relaxation in Australia, which include helping to treat high blood pressure, indigestion, colitis, insomnia and problems with the nervous system. One technique for stress reduction is restorative yoga which she specialises in.
In this practice, body is supported with props and alternately stimulate and relax the body to move toward balance. All one has to do is place yourself in a position that is most comfortable and focus on your breath, in and out. Then allow your thoughts and feelings come and go, then return your focus to your breathe. Allowing yourself not to think will only produce negative effect.Restorative poses are perfect for those times when you feel weak, fatigued or stressed from daily activities.The Yoga expert also revealed to me that it is also beneficial to practice when you feel the weight of pressure or depression after major life events such as the death of a loved one, a change of job, or a marriage or divorce. These poses are also good to practice when you are ill or recovering from illness or injury.Before settling into a restorative pose or practice, you may start out with a few minutes of gentle movement to warm up the muscles and create space in the body.Yoga props such as blocks, bolsters, straps, eye bags and yoga chairs are important, but you can use just about anything as a substitute.Some of the restorative sequence Yoga expert shared with me were Balasana or whats known as child’s pose, Supported chest opener, Cat and Cow poses among others. In time and with practice, you will be able to tap into that inner sense of deep contentment. The Gold Coast born Yoga expert told me in a nutshell that Yoga is all about stilling fidgety bodies and calming minds to enable us rest quietly in the present. Hopefully, from here you can enjoy Yoga and use it to manage stress effectively.