How Yoga Can Relieve Stress

Angela Sykes - Yoga Kula LeedsYoga can teach us how to bring stress under control, not only on a physical level, but on mental and spiritual levels too.
Stress is an integral part of our daily lives. How the mind reacts to perceived stress directly affects the body. If the mind interprets a stressful event as an emergency or danger, it triggers an immediate response from the automatic nervous system which activates a stress response from the sympathetic nervous system. The senses become heightened, the heart rate increases and the body and mind are ready to respond with energy and focus.

20130806-183428.jpgThe parasympathetic nervous system responsible for relaxation and emotional calm (rest and digest) can sometimes become overwhelmed by the sympathetic response. The mind and therefore the nervous system can over-respond to the pressures that we face day to day, even if the emergency exists purely in our imagination it can still trigger the sympathetic nervous system (fight or flight response), leaving us with feelings of being tense, anxious and stressed out. Chronic stress can then appear in a host of many ways: Scattered nerves, insomnia, depression, chronic pain and so on.

Yoga helps to balance the two nervous systems, informing the mind and body how to respond subjectively Becky_Hill_031_lowresto stress by being in the present moment rather than being caught up in reaction.
Stress begins with our mind’s response to a perceived obstacle or situation. The mind creates a latent impression and particular patterns of thoughts (vrttis) that in turn become ingrained grooves and habitual ways of thinking.
The practice of yoga, consisting of postures, breathing and meditation gives the mind clarity and balance so that we can learn new thought patterns and the nervous system can learn new ways of reacting to stress. Yoga isn’t mystical, it’s completely logical and rational as it enables us to see things as they really are, empowering us to have the ability to see alternative solutions, handling life in a balanced and steady way.

Helen Ince - Yoga Kula Leeds‘Yoga Chitta vrtti nirodha’.
Yoga is to still the fluctuations of the mind. The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. 1:2

At the heart of our practice we use the breath to bring us to the present moment.
The mind can go in many directions in a split second, the breath has only one path: Inhale and exhale. By controlling the breath and observing its rhythm, we learn to breathe into any areas of physical and emotional stress. Returning the mind, body and consciousness back to a place of equilibrium.

Clare Kerrigan. August 2014