Updated: Aug 21, 2021
Yoga dates back over 5,000 years and is considered by many to be the oldest defined
practice of self-development. The methods of classical yoga include ethical disciplines, physical postures (asana), breathing control (pranayama) and meditation (dhyana).
Many studies have found that a little yoga in the morning, in the evening or even in your lunch break, can help minimise stress.
It is believed that yoga is so effective for relieving stress because, aside from the physical benefits that yoga delivers, it also encourages mindfulness and a positive mood.
When we stretch our physical body, we are telling our brain to relax and activate the parasympathetic nervous system and as we use and focus on our breath during a yoga class (especially the exhalation), we also engage the parasympathetic nervous system and switch off the sympathetic nervous system.
Yoga involves controlled breathing, meditation, physical movement, mental imagery and stretching, all of which are considered to help support stress relief.
When we experience stress, our body secretes Cortisol. This hormone keeps us alert, but if the level is too high for too long, we can become stressed all the time and this affects our physical and mental health. By practicing yoga, we can help to regulate the level of Cortisol ourselves.
One research study in 2017 used three groups of adults doing different activities. One group did yoga, one did singing and one just sat quietly. The levels of Cortisol in the saliva of each participant was measured before and after the activity. Yoga lowered Cortisol levels the most. However, what was really interesting was that even before the session, the yoga participant's levels of Cortisol were lower - showing that doing yoga keeps your Cortisol levels low and therefore helps you to manage stress.
Yoga, which takes its name from the word 'yoke' - to bring together - does just that, by bringing together the mind, body and spirit.
So, whatever the reason you choose to practice yoga, the benefits are numerous!