Yoga is an effective way to release stress because it stimulates both the mind and the body.
Until recently, when most people thought about yoga, they had images of being bent into a pretzel. However, the ancient practice of yoga, with a history of 5,000 years, is more than convoluted exercises. It improves our physical and emotional health. Movie stars, models, athletes, politicians, as well as everyday people, attest to its benefits. Furthermore, research affirms that yoga is a stress reducer.
Stress is our reaction to something in the environment or a social situation that poses a real or perceived threat. In order to ward off the threat, the individual has to mount a physiological, physical, or psychological response. Some stress can be positive, useful, and even necessary as motivation in everyday life and emergency situations.
The danger comes when stress is chronic or unmanageable because a person's responses may be inadequate. Intense stress can lead to physical illness, emotional problems, or interpersonal difficulties. Many Head Start staff and families experience challenging and overwhelming stress, including financial pressures, community and domestic violence, divorce and other losses, substance abuse, physical illness, and homelessness. Yoga is an effective way to resolve stress because it works on both the mind and body, reducing the feeling of being overwhelmed and burned out by life's circumstances. Yoga stimulates the natural healing resources of the mind and body so that the individual is better able to cope with stress.
Yoga is a combination of exercise postures, breathing exercises, and a philosophy about the way one lives life. The different yoga postures, called asanas, are specifically designed to stretch and relax certain muscles and stimulate various organs and glands to balance them for optimal health. Stephen Cope (1999), psychotherapist and yogi, states that the body records and holds the memories of how we were touched, held, soothed, or traumatized and frightened from birth. When tension becomes locked within the fascia, or connective tissue of the body, emotional and physical reactions to stress can cause painful symptoms.
Muscles that are tightly held can result in shortened or chronically contracted muscles. Stress is then put on the opposition muscle groups. They may become weak and flaccid from under-use. With regular exercise, the stretching, relaxing, and stimulating yoga postures bring a sense of well-being, a feeling of ease within the body and the emotions.