Over the last several decades, more and more research has been coming out about the health benefits of yoga and meditation. What has been long recognized and respected in the East is finally making its way to be understood in the West.
A shocking statistic from the American Psychological Association states that 44% of Americans suffer from chronic stress. Stress is our body’s adaptation to change. Unfortunately, most individuals do not have the proper modalities to handle or adapt to life’s constant changes and stressors. This is where yoga and/or meditation can come to the rescue.
When a person is stressed, their body responds by secreting stress hormones (adrenaline, cortisol, etc) that prepare the body to fight and defend itself. This response activates the sympathetic nervous system – our fight or flight response. When this happens, the heart rate increases, sweat glands open, our chest contracts, and the brain does not function at its optimum capacity. When this is experienced regularly, it can have detrimental effects to both the mind and the body. An estimated 75-90% of doctor’s visits are stress related.
Luckily, there are certain techniques and tools available to shift away from the sympathetic nervous system and find our way to the parasympathetic nervous system – our rest and digest setting. Yoga and meditation, according to School Yoga Institute, both activate the parasympathetic nervous system.
Yoga gets people out of their heads and into their bodies. This physical embodiment practice is a simple way to activate the mind-body connection that creates a sense of harmony and relaxation. The physical postures also release tension from the body where people may hold their stress. Yoga also emphasizes controlled breathing and specific breath-work that naturally slows down the heart rate and brings individuals into a more relaxed and present state.
Meditation allows people to calm their mind and create more space between their thoughts. Stress often causes the mind to race and people to feel overwhelmed. When time is created for meditation, people can become more aware of their experience and slow down from the craziness of everyday life. Meditation is proven to increase neuroplasticity. Neuroplasticity is the brain’s ability to reshape itself. When we train the brain through focused attention, we are more likely to react to the inevitable stresses of life in a calm and productive manner.
If you feel like stress has taken over your life, a yoga mat or a meditation pillow might be just what you need. These modalities are better for your overall health and will help you enjoy your life even during times of stress.