Does Yoga Reduce Stress?

Does Yoga Reduce Stress?

With an estimated third of American adults admitting to chronic stress, especially in the workplace, finding ways to reduce stress levels should be a top priority for us. When we experience unrelenting stress, it’s not just our hearts and minds that are affected but our bodies as well. With symptoms such as headaches, insomnia, muscle pain and chest pain, stress can create and exacerbate all kinds of conditions; these include hypertension, cardiovascular disease and even cancer.

At this point you’re thinking, “Hypertension? Cancer? I’m going to be proactive and reduce my stress levels right away to nip this in the bud!” But once you’ve realized you don’t have the time or money to pamper yourself and take a load off, this mission is going to become yet another source of stress in your life. Fortunately, there’s a way to reduce mental and physical stress levels without sacrificing much time or resources: yoga.

Does Yoga Reduce Stress?

Yoga and meditation have long been regarded as relievers of mental stress that bring tranquility and peace of mind; however, recent studies show that even basic meditative breathing exercises can benefit our body at the cellular level, strengthening our immune systems and enhancing gene expression. With regular practice and training, yoga may be able to relax our nervous systems and calm our response to high levels of stress.

According to a recent study performed by various medical professors on an untrained group of participants, yogic breathing, repeating mantras and forcing out intrusive thoughts can induce positive changes in our gene expression. The activation of metabolic energy, mitochondrial function and telomere maintenance were all observed in the participants’ blood. In layman’s terms, breathing deeply and meditating for 20 minutes can support maintaining healthy weight, increase energy levels and fight cancer. After six weeks of training, the researchers performed two sets of blood tests on the group: one before their meditation exercise, and another 15 minutes after. The results showed that every member of the group experienced an increase in their levels of gene expression. Knowing that the changes were not permanent, the researchers decided to perform the same experiment using another variable: experienced meditators. Unsurprisingly, this group yielded even stronger results, revealing that practicing meditation has increasing benefits over time. The changes may not be permanent but are almost instantaneous and ever growing, making yoga and meditation an incredibly practical and satisfying form of stress relief.

Why Yoga for Stress?

Why choose yoga for stress relief? If the information above isn’t enough to convince you, look at the numbers — over 20 million Americans practice yoga today (a 29% increase from 2008), and almost 60% named stress relief and general health improvement as primary motivators. What’s more, almost 45% of non-yoga-practicing Americans claimed an interest in doing yoga, considering themselves “aspirational yogis.” Considering all of the amazing results from recent studies, it’s no wonder that yoga’s popularity is on the rise!

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