The main goal of Yoga is not about a fit body. The main goal of Yoga is to still the changing states of mind. Most of the modern Yoga practices that we see today have originated in some form or the other from the classical school of Yoga. The foundational text of this school is the Yoga Sutras compiled by an ancient Indian sage Patanjali who compiled learnings of Yoga in the form of 195 Yoga Sutras (aphorisms). According to the Yoga Sutras, the main goal of Yoga is Citta, Vritti, Nirodaha. This when translated means, stilling the mind.
Stress is psychological and Yoga with its main aim of stilling the mind helps in de-stressing. It has personally benefited me immensely. There are many individual experiences of Yoga practitioners across the world who’ve also reported to have seen a positive impact. More than individual experiences, there is also a large and growing body of scientific research, which has tried to explore more the effects of Yoga on the stress of an individual and how it helps.
The Science of Yoga and De-Stressing
I’ll share a few scientific studies that have empirically studied the effects of Yoga and analyzed its efficacy in managing stress. A study on 52 women for 12 sessions of Hatha yoga exercise, 3 times/week; 60-70 min of each session (postures, breathing techniques, meditation) found that Yoga has an effective role in reducing stress, anxiety, and depression that can be considered a complementary medicine and reduce the medical cost per treatment by reducing the use of drugs 1.
Also read – Hatha Yoga Health Benefits
Another study on 40 subjects who continuously attended meditation training for 5 days with 20 min of session per day found that training resulted in greater improvement in attention network, lower anxiety, depression, anger, and fatigue, and higher vigor on the profile of mood, a significant decrease in stress-related cortisol 5.
Research on a meditation group consisting of 67 subjects who regularly engaged in mind-body training found Meditation as mind-body training may influence stress, positive affect, and the sympathetic nervous system including dopamine activity 3.
A review of research has revealed that meditation, and Pranayama raise the levels of monoamines, increase parasympathetic activity, reduce oxidative stress; enhance the levels of endogenous antioxidants and activity of antioxidants, enzymes. Yoga is reported to reduce stress and anxiety and improve autonomic function by triggering neurohormonal mechanisms 2.
If you are trying to de-stress, Yoga can be an effective way. It is definitely not the only way, but a reliable way that can help you enjoy an overall good life. Overall mental health, as defined by the WHO also includes being in a state where you can cope with the normal stresses of life. Stress will come. What matter is how we deal with it. Yoga can better prepare us to deal with stress. Begin Yoga today.
If Yoga has helped you de-stress, share your experience in the comments below.
References and Further Reading
- Azami, M., Shohani, M., Badfar, G., Nasirkandy, M., Kaikhavani, S., Rahmati, S., Modmeli, Y., & Soleymani, A. (2018). The effect of yoga on stress, anxiety, and depression in women. International Journal of Preventive Medicine, 9(1), 21. https://doi.org/10.4103/ijpvm.ijpvm_242_16
- Bandyopadhyay, N., & Koley, A. (2021, January 21). YOGA AN EFFECTIVE THERAPEUTIC MEANS FOR MANAGING STRESS: A REVIEW. ResearchGate; unknown. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/349645348_YOGA_AN_EFFECTIVE_THERAPEUTIC_MEANS_FOR_MANAGING_STRESS_A_REVIEW
- Jung, Y.-H., Kang, D.-H., Jang, J. H., Park, H. Y., Byun, M. S., Kwon, S. J., Jang, G.-E., Lee, U. S., An, S. C., & Kwon, J. S. (2010). The effects of mind–body training on stress reduction, positive affect, and plasma catecholamines. Neuroscience Letters, 479(2), 138–142. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.neulet.2010.05.048
- Kiecolt-Glaser, J. K., Christian, L., Preston, H., Houts, C. R., Malarkey, W. B., Emery, C. F., & Glaser, R. (2010). Stress, Inflammation, and Yoga Practice. Psychosomatic Medicine, 72(2), 113–121. https://doi.org/10.1097/psy.0b013e3181cb9377
- Short-term meditation training improves attention and self-regulation. (2022). PNAS. https://www.pnas.org/doi/abs/10.1073/pnas.0707678104