Quit Stressing and Start Stretching: How Yoga Combats Anxiety (According to Science)
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It seems that there is never enough time within a day to get anything done anymore. Everything seems to be thrown at us, without more than a moment’s notice, from work to family obligations to having to rush to the vet because Tinkerbelle decided to go and dig for things she shouldn’t in the garden (We need to get better with our dog names).
But while life just seems to be a never-ending to do list, with a movie and milkshake date far too unachievable for even the best of us, there is a way out of this merry go round. You see, we were already provided with at least part of the solution five thousand years ago, but science has recently come out with a whole bunch of research that shows that yoga may be the answer for stress and not another glass of wine.
The science behind the benefits
Yoga is a practice that combines both physical poses with the mental acts of meditation and the focus on one’s breath, according to the Mayo Clinic. A study published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine that compared yoga and walking, they found that the yoga group had far greater improvements in mood, lowered levels of anxiety, and greater levels of GABA activity within the brain.
GABA is a neurotransmitter that allows our bodies to enter into a state of relaxation and calm, without it, we are held in a constant state of ‘emergency’ by the continual release of other neurotransmitters that serve to keep us alert, such as adrenaline.
While this might have been useful for a bygone era in which getting hunted down by lions was a real threat, in today’s age of threats such as heart disease, it is a tad cumbersome.
Most people attempt to increase their GABA through a glass of wine, however, the Boston University Medical School states that those who merely practice yoga for an hour can expect an increase of 27% of GABA production within their brains.
According to clinical psychologist Deborah Koshaba, from the Hardness Institute of California, when people enter into a deep space of calm and relaxation, it impacts you not just on a physical level, but on a neurobiological one too, as the very cells within your body relax as well.
There has been researching into how yoga can aid in the treatment of those suffering from PTSD, the results have so far shown that there is a reduction in the symptoms of PTSD, lowered levels of anxiety. The veterans themselves reported that they had lowered levels of hyper arousal. This is especially significant as the final impact is what is considered most harmful to their quality of life.
In a study by the University of Minnesota, pinning yoga against cognitive behavioral therapy in the treatment of depression, there was no significant difference in the success rates of either program, leading to the conclusion that yoga produces equal results to conventional therapies. So next time everything feels overwhelming, maybe head out for a yoga class, at the very least your body will be over the moon.
How to apply this in your life
Well, if you haven’t started yoga yet, the ideal suggestion would be to start right now. All you need is a yoga mat, a top that is not too baggy and a pair of leggings or fitted shorts, then you are on your way to performing all the tree and warrior poses that your heart desires.
One of the best ways to invest in your physical fitness is to book a yoga retreat; this is basically a holiday camp for adults. To those fearing that they might not be experienced enough for a full retreat or just dread the idea of only doing yoga for five days straight, fear not, there are multiple retreats covering all levels and filled with a wide variety of alternative activities, to ensure that you keep coming back for more.
The aforementioned studies showed that doing yoga for as little as an hour per day gives numerous benefits. However, in order to reap the most benefits, it is advisable to make yoga a part of your habitual workout regimen on a weekly or daily basis. And this will also result in you reaping the countless physical effects, apart from the mental effects already mentioned.
Some of yoga’s physical benefits include improved flexibility, better posture, weight loss, increased muscle tone, improvements in physical strength, an enhanced sense of vitality, and a better quality of sleep. It has also been reported to even aid some women with infertility through the lowering of their stress levels.
All in all, yoga seems to be the hidden secret to kicking back anxiety due to its numerous psychological and physical benefits. It is clear to see that yoga has far too many advantages for it not to be added to your daily routine. What are you waiting for? Pull out your yoga mat and get straight into a low-stress lifestyle today.
For more tips to combat anxiety and stress, read Sarah’s articles at Relax Everyday.
Don’t have much time for yoga? You really just need a free weekend. Try a short yoga break and renew yourself!