The documented benefits of yoga are growing. People come to yoga for many different reasons: stress, fibromyalgia, arthritis, body aches and pain, for example. Doctors even recommend it for reducing back pain, depression or fatigue. Perhaps the most immediate benefit of yoga is its ability to reduce anxiety and stress and to calm the central nervous system.
Yoga tops walking. Through a 12-week study on a yoga group and a walking group, psychologists and neurologists at Boston University’s School of Medicine found that compared to the age-old stress reliever of walking, yoga appears to have a greater impact in relieving stress and anxiety.
Boosting key amino acids has a calming effect. Gamma-Amino Butyric acid (GABA) is an amino acid which acts as a neurotransmitter. It inhibits nerve transmission in the brain, calming nervous activity. GABA has a quieting influence in the central nervous system and the rest of the body. Without GABA, nerve cells fire too often and too easily. Anxiety disorders such as panic attacks, seizure disorders, and numerous other conditions including addiction, headaches, Parkinson’s syndrome, and cognitive impairment are all related to low GABA activity.
Breathing is a powerful stress reliever. Scientists are still studying the different ways GABA is released in the body, but it is known that it is released through exercise and deep breathing. Some yoga classes are gentle and some are more powerful, but a yoga instructor will help you settle in at the beginning of any class and tune in to your breathing. Is it fast and shallow? Is it slow and deep? The state of your breathing is a good indicator of your state of mind and stress level. Throughout an entire class, you will focus on your breathing, paying special attention to slowing down and elongating the breath and therefore calming the body.
Yoga rejuvenates. As the nation suffers through bad economic times touching nearly every single person – whether through unemployment, foreclosures, or worry about money – people are looking for an antidote to rising stress levels. Many have turned to yoga. People are traveling less, eating out less, and many are even trying to find ways to stay healthy so they do not need to spend money on doctor visits. One of my students has an extremely stressful job and recently she told me that she absolutely “needs” yoga, she can feel a difference in her body and mind when she can’t make it in to a class. The studio has become her place for rejuvenation.
Handling stress or anxiety is not something that is taught to us, and many people handle it the wrong way. Yoga can help people tune in to their body in a deeper way and notice imbalances in mind, breathing, and body aches which will in turn help them to stay balanced and better equipped to handle stress when it arises.
Liz Nierzwicki is a WBOM member and the owner of Solace Yoga Studio in Mishawaka, Indiana offering classes for all levels of yoga experience, including hot yoga classes. For more on the health benefits of yoga visit their web site at www.solaceyogastudio.com or contact Liz at firstname.lastname@example.org