What is the benefit of relaxation techniques on your health?
We do this as a way to take time out and manage the stress of our day to day lives.
Stress is common, and ongoing stress can contribute to the onset of a range of psychological issues, such as depression and anxiety.
Meditation and yoga have a positive effect on the brain’s stress response system.
How the brain responds to stress
The body’s stress response is controlled by the autonomic nervous system. This is automatic. The autonomic nervous system plays a key role via the sympathetic nervous system (SNS) and the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS).
The SNS is to mobilise the body to fight or flight from stressful or threatening situations, via control of internal muscles, organs and glands.
The PNS counterbalances the sympathetic nervous system and returns the body to its natural baseline state after the systematic nervous system activates.
In many cases the PNS and SNS have opposite but complementary functions.
For example, the SNS increases heart rate, blood pressure and the downstream release of stress-related hormones such as cortisol, whereas the PNS decreases all of these factors.
So how does yoga and different forms of meditation influence the brain’s stress response system?
It has been found that meditation and yoga reduce diastolic blood pressure (the lower range) by 3-8 millimetres of mercury (mmHg), compared with people who engaged in another activity, such as aerobic exercise or relaxation.
This may not sound like much, but it is important because reductions in systolic and diastolic blood pressure of as little as two mmHg can reduce the incidence of heart disease and stroke.
Meditation and yoga reduced heart rate by three to four beats per minute.
This is similar to the effects of aerobic exercise, which have been shown to reduce heart rate by five beats per minute.
Meditations and yoga have both shown to decrease measures of cortisol in the blood.
WHAT IS CORTISOL
Cortisol is often called the “stress hormone” because of its connection to the stress response. Cortisol has useful effects in the body as well. Cortisol can help control blood sugar levels, regulate metabolism, help reduce inflammation, and assist with memory formulation. It has a controlling effect on salt and water balance and helps control blood pressure. In women, cortisol also supports the developing fetus during pregnancy. High cortisol levels can also contribute to changes in a woman’s libido and menstrual cycle, and may lead to Cushing disease. High cortisol levels has also been linked to anxiety and depression.
Studies have shown that meditation reduce physiological stress markers in one way or another, and therefore, are likely beneficial in managing stress.
When deciding what form of meditation or yoga is best for reducing stress, I would suggest practicing a form that is enjoyable and therefore you will practice regularly.
A good start would be some guided meditation, see below for some apps or podcasts that could be a good start. Yoga classes can be found in your local newspaper and online.
App and website-
Smiling Mind – Meditation and relaxation – smilingmind.com.au or Download app for free in iTunes
Reachout Worry Time – Learn to control your worries- Download for free in iTunes or Google Play
Reachout Breathe – Learn to control your breathing and calm your body- Download for free in iTunes
https://www.mindful.org/- click on meditation for some guided meditations