Anyone who does yoga is aware of the powerful stress reducing effects of this ancient mind-body practice but now, scientists have the data to prove it.
According to a recent study published in the journal Psychosomatic Medicine, women who maintain a long-term yoga practice recover from stress faster than women who are yoga beginners.
Yoga experts in this study were defined as women who practiced once or twice a week for the past two years. Novices were women who participated in six to twelve yoga sessions. Biochemical markers of stress were shown to be less in the expert practitioners. The biochemical markers under question are the same ones that are also indicators of heart disease and Type 2 diabetes. Researchers also found that in reaction to a stressful event, experts had a lower heart rate than the novices.
But yoga novices shouldn’t just roll out their yoga mat up – the study, which was funded in part by the National Institutes of Health, National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCAAM), also demonstrated that yoga boosts mood irrespective of whether you’ve practicing for two weeks or two years. The study offers motivation to continue with a yoga practice, even if it feels like your hamstrings will never loosen or that your head stand will always require the support of a wall. The take-home message is that yoga’s breath work in combination with the postures offer a progressive and gradual shift in how we react to stressful events. Change doesn’t happen overnight, but it does happen.
A full description of the study can be found on the NCAAM website.
May 9th, 2011