Stress is a normal physiological response pattern to a perceived threat. Stress in itself is neither good nor bad because it is just a natural physiological action. However, our response to any real or imagined threat can turn stress either helpful or harmful. Yoga can help us with the necessary insight to know at which point stress acts as a support system for our survival and growth and at which point it turns hazardous for our health and behavior.
Yoga is an ancient practice which includes asana, pranayama and meditation in its fold. The objective of these practices is to establish balance in mind, body and energy. A feeling of calmness and wellbeing is a natural outcome of yogic intervention in one’s life. Yoga has clear evidence of reducing the physiological stress among chronic patients as well as among normal persons. Let us see how Yoga helps in reducing the stress.
According to yoga stress is ‘speed’. It is the speeded up activity of our mind and emotion that turn a minute insignificant event or situation into stress. When a situation or event turns ‘stressful’, we have no option but to fight with that situation or run away from the scene. In both the cases a series of events occur in our physiology to cope with the situation. As a result the homeostasis in the body gets disturbed. Problem occurs when stressful situations become chronic and homeostasis is disturbed continuously.
Yoga practice creates a physiological state contrary to the ‘fight or flight’ (sympathetic) stress response. Yoga inhibits chronic stress responses by maintaining inner peace and balance and thereby protecting our physiology for negative consequences of stress.
With steady practice of Yoga a parasympathetic dominance is established over the physiology which contributes to emotional wellbeing and healing. Parasympathetic activity is anabolic in nature which works to nourish, heal and regenerate the body.
So we can say that stress is imbalance between the two opposite tones in body that maintains the homeostasis. These are the tones of arousal and relaxation. Yoga which is defined as skill to calm down the mind, promotes relaxation in mind and body to fight stress.
Yoga considers mind and body as one, where thoughts and perceptions affect all aspects of physiology. According to Yoga the root cause of stress is imbalance at mental body (Manomaya kosha). Emotional imbalances in the form of strong likes and dislikes brings imbalance in the vital body (Pranamaya kosha). This imbalance in vital body finally settles as disease in the physical body.
The stress accumulated in the body is systematically released by Yoga. Asana, which is the steady and pleasant body posture, releases the stress by calming down the mind. Slow body movement help in combating the rush from within. Pranayama further relaxes the mind by developing the rhythmic breathing. Observing all the subtle changes occurring in the body and mind by maintaining awareness removes imbalances at mental body level.
Thus, the holistic approach of yoga has complete solution to the problem of stress.