Yoga is touted as being a remedy to stress and for good reason. The proper practice of yoga can lead to a reduction in many of the symptoms we associate with stress, such as high blood pressure, rapid heartbeat, muscle tension and heightened levels of stress hormones.
The stress we experience is a product of our modern lives. We devote much of our consciousness to anticipating the future or remembering the past. This leads us to living our lives in a blur around where we actually are. Living a life constantly anticipating what happens next, means the only way we find out what is happening now is when we look back on an event after is has already happened.
Our bodies are designed to deal with the stress of the moment. Our nervous systems are designed to fight or flee from perceived danger. When we anticipate the future, we are imagining only one of many possibilities. If our anticipation involves worry about a future possibility, we cause our bodies to release stress hormones designed to help us fight or flee. Since the moment we are anticipating isn’t here and now, these hormones don’t do us any good, because we are not currently fighting or fleeing. In the same way, if we remember stressful events, we also cause the release of stress hormones.
In order to develop control of our body in yoga, we learn to be in the here and now. Keeping our focus on the here and now means we only release stress hormones when they can do us good, in the present moment. This doesn’t mean we don’t plan ahead or learn from our past. It means we learn to dwell in the present, the only time where we can truly take action.
Here are some studies that show yoga’s effect on stress: