Influence of Yogic Techniques on Stress Management

What is Stress ? When stress was first studied in the 1950s, the term was used to denote both the causes and the experienced effects of these pressures. More recently, however, the word stressor has been used for the stimulus that provokes a stress response. One recurrent disagreement among researchers concerns the definition of stress in humans. Is it primarily an external response that can be measured by changes in glandular secretions, skin reactions, and other physical functions, or is it an internal interpretation of, or reaction to, a stressor; or is it both?DescriptionStress in humans results from interactions between persons and their environment that are perceived as straining or exceeding their adaptive capacities and threatening their well-being.

The element of perception indicates that human stress responses reflect differences in personality, as well as differences in physical strength or general health.Risk factors for stress-related illnesses are a mix of personal, interpersonal, and social variables. These factors include lack or loss of control over one's physical environment, and lack or loss of social support networks.

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People who are dependent on others (e.g., children or the elderly) or who are socially disadvantaged (because of race, gender, educational level, or similar factors) are at greater risk of developing stress-related illnesses. Other risk factors include feelings of helplessness, hopelessness, extreme fear or anger, and cynicism or distrust of others.Causes and symptomsThe causes of stress can include any event or occurrence that a person considers a threat to his or her coping strategies or resources.

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Researchers generally agree that a certain degree of stress is a normal part of a living organism's response to the inevitable changes in its physical or social environment, and that positive, as well as negative, events can generate stress as well as negative occurrences. Stress-related disease, however, results from excessive and prolonged demands on an organism's coping resources. It is now believed that 80-90% of all disease is stress-related.Recent research indicates that some vulnerability to stress is genetic. Scientists at the University of Wisconsin and King's College London discovered that people who inherited a short, or stress-sensitive, version of the serotonin transporter gene were almost three times as likely to experience depression following a stressful event as people with the long version of the gene. Further research is likely to identify other genes that affect susceptibility to stress.One cause of stress that has affected large sectors of the general population around the world since 2001 is terrorism. The events of September 11, 2001, the sniper shootings in Virginia and Maryland and the Bali nightclub bombing in 2002, the suicide bombings in the Middle East in 2003, have all been shown to cause short-term symptoms of stress in people who read about them or watch television news reports as well as those who witnessed the actual events. Stress related to terrorist attacks also appears to affect people in countries far from the location of the attack as well as those in the immediate vicinity. It is too soon to tell how stress related to episodes of terrorism will affect human health over long periods of time, but researchers are already beginning to investigate this question. In 2004 the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released a report on the aftereffects of the World Trade Center attacks on rescue and recovery workers and volunteers. The researchers found that over half the 11,700 people who were interviewed met threshold criteria for a mental health evaluation. A longer-term evaluation of these workers is underway.A new condition that has been identified since 9/11 is childhood traumatic grief, or CTG. CTG refers to an intense stress reaction that may develop in children following the loss of a parent, sibling, or other loved one during a traumatic event. As defined by the National Child Traumatic Stress Network (NCTSN), "Children with childhood traumatic grief experience the cause of [the loved one's] death as horrifying or terrifying, whether the death was sudden and unexpected (for example, due to homicide, suicide, motor vehicle accident, drug overdose, natural disaster, war, terrorism, and so on) or due to natural causes (cancer, heart attack, and so forth). Even if the manner of death does not appear to others to be sudden, shocking, or frightening, children who perceive the death in this way may develop childhood traumatic grief. In this condition, even happy thoughts and memories of the deceased person remind children of the traumatic way in which the deceased died. Any emotional, physical, social, economic, or other factor that requires a response or change. Examples include dehydration, which can cause an increase in body temperature, and a separation from parents, which can cause a young child to cry. Stress can be positive or negative. Ongoing chronic stress can result in physical illness. Stress has been theorized as a major contributing factor in many physical diseases, such as asthma. Stress may also be applied therapeutically to promote change, such as implosive therapy for phobic patients, in which the patient is given support while being exposed to the situation that produces anxiety and is thereby gradually desensitized. The nature and degree of stress observed in a patient are frequently evaluated by the nurse as part of the ongoing holistic nursing assessment. Stress, almost all is victim of this drastic term. People from all occupations are facing stress in their life in one way or the other. In this article I would like to summarize the causes and cure for stress through natural therapy called "YOGA". But before coming to that point we should have clear understanding of what exactly the stress is. Stress is usually a mental pressure exerted due to fatigue or excessive work. It is also caused from worrying about the work or happenings in the past, present or future. Suppose there is a businessmen exporting his products to several countries, his business is doing fine and growing but somehow a situation comes and he finds his business on decline though there might be some cause for this and it could be short lived making his business to bloom once again, but within this short span the person develops stress which may lead to severe mental hazards.In the modern world we face stress in every sphere and every step of our life, whether we are in schools, colleges, offices etc. Students face stress due to exams, serviceman face stress due to huge pile of pending work etc. As a result people often practice medications like taking sedatives, narcotics and tranquilizers (medicines to cure anxiety) which calm the mind but in future it creates serious other maladies.But still there is a therapy which is purely natural and is considered to be the best weapon against stress and that is "YOGA". Yoga is the ancient mantra for sound health and also to retain juvenility to a great extent. It has been practiced by several Rishi-Munis in ancient India and now has become a major concern among the modern genre too.So back to stress management, Yoga provides a unique way of managing stress through Prayanama (A breathing technique), in this technique an individual do slow and steady breathing - like inhaling through his one nostril and exhaling through other. Besides there are fast breathing movements like intake of air through nostrils and exhaling through mouth at fast pace, this way air is passed properly through blood capillaries and the person feels himself / herself in light mode i.e. he / she feels that there is no burden over their mind and soul.Dhyana (Meditation) is also a good method of controlling stress, in this part of Yoga a person sits in a posture (usually in relaxing mode) and concentrate his / her mind over one point with eyes closed. The mind is concentrated upto an extent when an individual feels that he / she has no interaction with the surroundings, infact the mind reaches in a neutral stage thereby relieving mental exhaustion. Hence yoga provides the best cure to this serious ailment which is disrupting the life of millions of people daily. Anyone practicing yoga daily is rarely suspected to stress, as yoga creates the mind and body immune to stress.Finally Yoga has and is proving itself as "Stress Management Tool" and now a days it is being used in Western world too as a major alternative to the offensive allopathic drugs.Effect of Yoga on the Body Systems Various techniques in yoga have been documented to help in stress management. These techniques work at an individual level and also at a collective level to ensure that there is significant respite from the condition of extreme stress. They help in relieving the physical as well as the psychological negative effects of the problem by ensuring a healthy and productive response to the stress stimuli.Yoga can have a positive effect on the parasympathetic nervous system and aid in lowering heartbeat and blood pressure. This reduces the demand of the body for oxygen. Yoga can also improve digestion, strengthen immunity, help in effective elimination of toxic wastes and also increase lung capacity. Effective use of this practice can also reduce the chances of stress culminating in anxiety and depression.The practice of yoga involves forming various body postures, slow stretching movements, breathing exercises that can at times lead to progressive relaxation, imagery and meditation. All these specific techniques are meant for a specific purpose and they culminate into a higher awareness of what is happening to oneself during stress " emotionally, physically, mentally and energetically. One develops an understanding of each part of the body by being more aware of it. The practice includes paying attention to each and every part and therefore ensures a holistic therapy.The start of the practice is with becoming aware of what the stressful stimuli is so that one knows what one is fighting. Understanding the enemy is an important factor in combat and similarly in an understanding the factors that cause stress can help you in deciding how it needs to be tackled. Yoga enables and empowers you to control the natural and immediate reactions to a stressor. With practice the psychological responses can also be mastered. This means that the previous reactions that put the body in an alert or alarm mode do not take over as soon as a stressful situation occurs. And this leads to a situation wherein irrespective of the challenges you face, you remain calm, composed and capable of tackling the situation with a level head.In his review of the current literature on physical activity and mental health, Kenneth Fox concludes, "Currently the evidence suggests that factors associated with the process of exercise rather than the physiological adaptations resulting from regular exercise training are primarily responsible for improvements in short and long-term well-being." The factors he is referring to, he explains, are issues of self-esteem and body image, the empowerment that achieving change provides, an improved perception of competence, and the social interaction that activity can offer. Similarly, it is not the physical activity alone that makes Yoga transformative. Headstand, for example, might lead someone into great panic. Meditating may cause more, not less, anxiety. Pranayama might lead to increased obsessiveness, not more calm. What, then, makes any of these practices beneficial instead of harmful? It is possible that some of the most beneficial aspects of Yoga practice are the sense that things are improving and that one has some control over what is happening, two factors that help mediate stress. There is the support and encouragement of the teacher and the social interaction of the class or center, both of which provide a buffer from isolation, another well-known stressor. Of course these things are not automatically positive: What about the critical teacher, the competitive class, the environment of coercion that exists in some situations? These might elicit advanced performance of asana, but certainly not a reduction in stress. Yoga postures, breathing, and meditation may or may not be stress-reducing. Under some circumstance they might actually increase stress. Yoga to Stop the Stress ResponseThe recommendations for asana practice to change the stress response are different in different traditions. A Yoga practice that focuses only on physical remedies is limited, for it deals only with physiology and not psychology. Similarly, a practice that is formed around moral precepts and exhortations to change one's lifestyle has distinct limitations, for behavior modification is not simple. K. N. Udupa suggests, "Thus, a combined practice of physical postures, breathing exercises and meditation in a sequence is the best compromise to meet the present day needs of the society. The results of these practices can be enhanced much more if one follows all the recommended restraints and observances in everyday. The restraints and observances he refers to are the yamas and niyamas of Classical Yoga. The ethics and morality of the traditional texts help lay the groundwork for moderate, compassionate living, but behavior change is complex and one's personality is rooted in layers of unconscious conditioning. Some teachers recommend a simple, varied asana practice with specific pranayama techniques. An example of this approach is contained in Swami Shivapremananda's Yoga for Stress Relief?^ He suggests a three-month program that begins with simple chest opening in a seated, cross-legged position. He introduces nadi-shodhana (alternate nostril breathing) and ujjayi (breathing with a slight contraction in the glottis) in the first weeks. He then moves into forward-bending postures that are dynamic in nature in order to open the hips.To become Familiar with Relaxation.Introducing sarvanga-asana (shoulder stand) along with variations. This is followed by setu- bandha-asana (bridge pose), then a dynamic pashcimottana-asana (seated forward bend). shitali (tongue curled on inhale) and sitkari (tip of the tongue to palate) pranayama are suggested. Finally, after eight weeks, come ardhashirsha-asana (modified headstand with feet on the ground), shalabhaasana (locust), vyaghra-asana (cat), dhanur-asana (bow), and ardhamatsyendra-asana (simple twist). Inthe last weeks of the program one is introduced to Sun Salutation and kapalabhati (cleansing breath), along with meditation and deep relaxation." In other words, a complete and varied Yoga practice is prescribed. Judith Lasater advocates supported restorative poses, gently opening the chest in moderate, supported back bends and inverting in viparitakarani-mudra along with supported forward bends. Nothing that requires exertion or is uncomfortable. Roger Cole, taking a more traditional Iyengar perspective, outlines a rigorous relaxation sequence that aims at changing the physiological response of the stress response. He advocates the following: "To promote deepest relaxation, one must (1) minimize stimulation of the brain's reticular activating system (RAS), posterior hypothalamus and sympathetic nerve centers in the brainstem, and (2) maximize stimulation of the brain centers that actively inhibit the RAS and promote parasympathetic activity."^''Cole's series of postures begins with adhomukha-shvan-asana (downward dog), uttana-asana (standing forward bend) with head support, and short adhomukha-vriksha-asana (handstand) is preparation for 5alamba-shirsha-asana (headstand). This is followed by supported dvipada-viparita-danda-asana (back bend supported on a chair), supported kapota-asana (again, back arching off chair with arms in headstand position on the floor), setu-bandhasarvanga-asana (supported bridge), salamba-sarvanga-asana{caix-su ported shoulder stand), hala-asana (supported plow), viparita-karanimudra (supported partial shoulder stand), supta-vira-asana (reclining bent-knee pose), supta-baddhakona-asana (reclining, soles of feet together, knees apart), reclining ujjayi-pranayama (with an emphasis on the exhalation), sukha-asana or padma-asana (sitting posture to elevate baroreceptor firing and so increase alertness without excess physiological activation), and finally shava-asana. This sequence emphasizes the head-down positions and chest expansion. Cole adds, "Note that many physiological changes require a good deal of time (e.g., ten minutes to one hour) to express themselves, so devote sufficient time to each relaxation practice.Repeated practice of relaxation techniques improves their effectiveness by reducing novelty, increasing physical and psychological comfort and creating conditioned relaxation responses in the nervous system."^' Relaxation In order to change the stress response it is necessary to become familiar with relaxation. Shava-asana (corpse pose) provides the perfect training ground for relaxation. Here is an area where Yoga clearly differs from a simple exercise prescription for stress relief. Training the body to respond to the request for relaxation on a muscular level and breathing deeply create a habit of relaxation that can be very helpful in turning off the stress response. But shava-asana practice is not the solution for everyone. A severely stressed and depressed person, or someone in acute mental distress, might find that shava-asana practice worsens his or her symptoms. Likewise, meditation is not always good; for some people it may cause increased disorientation and disturbance. Each person's approach to stress reduction must fiow from his or her particular situation. For some, the aerobic challenge of a powerful ashtanga practice, generating endorphins and profuse sweat, is the best way to learn the sensation of release, as the body is flooded with chemical change and the mind quiets when the practice ends. For others, the profoundly relaxing, supported, restorative postures are the best solution to stress. All these practices are only tools to achieve certain states of mind. No matter how many postures one does, in whichever sequence or style, no matter how many cycles of breathing in intricate patterns of inhalations and exhalations, no matter how many hours of meditation one sits in, chanting or not chanting mantras, the stress response may or may not be affected. In the complex cycle of body and mind there are no mechanical answers. Searching for one would only be a stressful endeavor. Conclusion Many have noted the benefits of exercise in diminishing the stress response, and a host of studies points to these benefits. Yoga, too, has been recommended and studied in relationship to stress, although the studies are less scientifically replicable. Nonetheless, several researchers claim highly beneficial results from Yoga practice in alleviating stress and its effects. The practices recommended range from intense to moderate to relaxed asana sequences, along with pranayama and meditation. In all these approaches to dealing with stress, one common element stands out: The process is as important as the activity undertaken. Because it fosters self-awareness. Yoga is a promising approach for dealing with the stress response.

Updated: Feb 22, 2021
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Influence of Yogic Techniques on Stress Management. (2019, Aug 20). Retrieved from

Influence of Yogic Techniques on Stress Management essay
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