Stress is a feeling of emotional or physical tension. It can come from any event or thought that makes you feel frustrated, angry, or nervous. It also may culminate into anxiety or depression, suppressing your immune system, conflicting with your digestive and reproductive systems, increasing the risk of heart attack and stroke, and speeding up the ageing process. It can even rewire the brain.
There are multiple causes of stress and today’s busy lifestyle: over-demanding jobs, increasing competition and multiplied ambitions to be the best at everything has made life much harder and challenging. Chronic stress disrupts nearly every system in your body.
In fact, yesterday I met one of my friends over coffee after a long time of not seeing each other. We chatted about everything going on in our lives and she started telling me about her stressful job and how she started losing sleep and remaining sick for two to three days during the week. I also came across certain instances where people took the extreme step of committing suicide under some depressive bouts. When I started to dig around on this topic, I found that most of us are going through some sort of stress or depression due to one reason or another. Which is why we should all be taking the time to care for our mental wellbeing through self-care practices such as yoga!
Though there is a lot of emphasis on physical health, and very clearly set parameters and standards, issues related to mental health and care are mostly unacknowledged and not treated properly due to lack of awareness or hesitation.
When you are stressed, your adrenal glands release the stress hormones adrenaline and cortisol. Your heart beats faster to pump more oxygen and that increases the blood pressure, which also increases the risk of heart attack and subsequently slows down all others body functions.
In many cases, stress, depression or anxiety goes undiagnosed and untreated. And those that do seek medical attention and the help of antidepressants are at risk of some of the not-so-nice side effects of these medications, like weight gain, lethargy, and sexual dysfunction. Which brings into question whether medication is the only solution? In short, no; there are some positive and effective therapies like yoga and meditation which erve as a long-lasting and sustainable solution to the problem without any side effects.
Yoga is a mind-body practise that combines physical poses, controlled breathing, and meditation or relaxation. Yoga may help reduce stress, lower blood pressure and lower your heart rate by activating the parasympathetic nervous system, which has a counter-stress response system. With regular yoga practice, your chronic daytime stress hormone levels drop and your heart rate variability increases, which is a measure of your ability to tolerate stress. This has been shown to improve even after a few sessions of yoga. Yoga also works to alleviate depression not only by increasing brain chemicals that contribute to a feel-good response—such as endorphins, enkephalins, and serotonin—but also by providing greater access to feelings.
I personally practised yoga and meditation to come out of my depressive phase. I was very determined not to use any antidepressants because I felt medication would paralyse my inner strength and natural willpower. Therefore, I decided to seek alternative help and started practising meditation and yoga and it really helped to pull myself out of that chasm. Since then, I have been helping the people around me to achieve a balance and strength in their lives through yoga.
So make an effort to set a little time aside each day to practise yoga and Pranayam breathing! A regular yoga practice four to five days a week, whether it’s just sun salutations and breathing exercises (Anuloma Pranayama), will yield amazing results in just a few weeks. And soon, you’ll look forward to your daily yoga as it becomes part of your lifestyle. Not to mention, yoga will keep you mentally strong and sharp and may even increase your lifespan. So don’t stress out, just take a deep breath and feel your inner strength! Ommm!