Can Yoga Therapy help people with chronic stress?
This article is copied from Yoga Therapy Institute, Australia, 8 June 2021.
Chronic Stress - What is it?
Chronic stress is the longer term/ongoing sense of inability to cope with demands of life. The Stress-response relates to our reptilian brain and survival mode (real or perceived). While stress is a part of life, certain forms and effects of stress can be detrimental to our wellbeing, for example, the Neuro-toxic effects of cortisol, increased visceral fat, compromised telomere maintenance and replication and so on. As we know, stress is an aggravating factor in many diseases.
Chronic Stress – it can affect us all
Chronic Stress can affect anyone. We can experience it ourselves, see it in our clients, or within the community. In some respects, it surrounds us.
We all feel the pressures, tensions, stresses of workload, juggling things, burnout, anxiety over things in and out of our control, and now surviving in a Covid-19 world. Too often though, we put this down to day to day living pressures, unaware of or dismissing the compounding effects leading to Chronic Stress, and the possibility of change.
How does Chronic Stress affect us
The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) says:
‘Stress can initiate the ‘fight or flight’ response, a complex reaction of the neurologic and endocrinologic systems. Continuous stress without relief can result in a condition called distress—a negative stress reaction that can lead to physical symptoms such as headaches, loss of appetite, increased blood pressure, chest pain, sexual dysfunction, and problems sleeping. Stress can also cause or influence a broad range of physical health conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, poor healing, irritable bowel syndrome, and mental disorders such as depression or anxiety.’
Stress stimulates the Sympathetic Nervous System – our fight and flight response, by releasing large quantities of epinephrine from our adrenal gland, and in turn increasing our heart rate and affecting almost every muscle and organ in our body as we prepare for the imminent danger (perceived or real). Ongoing, or chronic stress impacts on a range of bodily functions, including the balance of our autonomic nervous system.
Tools to manage Chronic Stress
Incorporating around five things into our day that bring us joy and calm is an ideal primary prevention for Chronic Stress, especially if the focus is on movement and connection. These can include, inquiry into the Yamas and Niyamas [ethical rules within yoga philosophy], movement through appropriate asana [postures], chanting, sharing through connection with other living beings.
How Yoga Therapy can help
Body signal awareness/interoception
Reduction of tension incl. relaxation response
Balances ANS and increases Vagal tone with
appropriate pranayama practices
Better self-regulation of sensory input
Improved mental clarity.
Increased capacity to identify triggers, label emotions and establish
Practices supporting self-study and unconditional love
Psycho-education on neuroscience and biology etc.
Yoga philosophy and working with Yamas/Niyamas can broaden outlook
Working with clients where they are, step by step
By incorporating the tools of Yoga that support us and our clients to deepen the felt-sense of connection with our inner lives, we can support alignment between our inner and outer
experiences and move forwards with trust and courage.
Continuous stress without relief can result in a condition called distress
Incorporating around five things into our day that bring us joy and calm is an ideal primary prevention for Chronic Stress