Research on Yoga as a Stress Relief Technique

Yoga Begins Relieving Stress Quickly!

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You may already know that yoga is a great stress reliever–the breathing, mild to moderate exercise and sense of presence involved can all add up to reduced stress and greater feelings of wellbeing. Interestingly, research from the United Kingdom shows more specific benefits that yoga can bring–mainly, a relatively small amount of yoga can bring lasting benefits to mood and performance, and increased resilience to stress, and could bring real benefits to employers by reducing job stress and increasing productivity in workers.

For the study, which was a randomized controlled trial at a British university, researchers recruited 48 employees and randomized them into either a yoga or a wait-list control group. The yoga group was offered six weeks of Dru Yoga, comprising one hour-long lunchtime class per week with a certified Dru Yoga instructor. The wait-list control group received no intervention during this six-week study. Participants were administered psychological tests that measured mood and wellbeing before and after the six-week period.

Results showed that the yoga group–a group that practiced yoga only once a week for an hour for six weeks–reported marked improvements in feelings of clear-mindedness, composure, elation, energy, and confidence. In addition, the yoga group reported increased life purpose and satisfaction, and feelings of greater self-confidence during stressful situations. Researchers concluded that even a short program of yoga is effective for enhancing emotional well-being and resilience to stress in the workplace.

They suggest that employers should consider offering yoga classes to their employees, and I think this is a terrific idea as well. (Employers, are you listening?)

So you might just want to forward this research to your boss, but if your company doesn’t offer lunchtime yoga, this is another reminder that fitting yoga into your life, even if it’s just once a week for a few weeks, can bring real benefits to your health and wellbeing.

You can break it into two or three shorter sessions. You can practice during lunch, in the morning, or even before bed. You can grab a buddy and take classes at a local yoga center or gym, or you can get a video, a book or visit a yoga-focused website. (I highly recommend About.com’s own yoga site, which has excellent and thorough content.) The point is, a little effort can go a long way with yoga, and it’s well worth whatever you put into it.

Have you tried yoga for stress relief? What about other strategies that can reduce stress and build resilience in a relatively short amount of time?  Here are a few other recommendations:

General Exercise

Exercise in general has been found to carry stress management benefits in the moment, and build resilience over time.    Exercise is one of those stress relief activities that can be difficult to talk yourself into when you're stressed, particularly if you don't already work out on a regular basis, but can bring some of the strongest benefits once you get past your initial hurdles.

 And once you begin a regular exercise regimen, it becomes easier to continue.  Here is more about exercise and stress management, and here is About.com's exercise site, which has a wealth of information and resources to help you to develop an exercise habit that works for you.

Meditation

Meditation has also been shown to reduce stress in a relatively short amount of time, with greater benefits as your practice sessions add up.  There are many different forms of meditation, so if you've tried meditation and haven't felt fully comfortable with it, you can try other types of meditation that you may connect with more.  If you already have a meditation practice that works for you, you may want to try more, to keep things interesting.  Either way, here are 12 ways to relieve stress with meditation.

Listening to Music

Music can work quickly to relax you, energize you, or help you to change your emotional state.  Listening to fast-paced music can lift your mood and get your moving.   Calming music can soothe your stress.  A beloved melody can take you back to a fond memory more thoroughly than you may realize, and help you to feel less stressed.  The key is to choose music that you enjoy, and listen when you need to.  Here's more about how to use music for stress management.

Sources:

Cervellin, G., Lippi, G. From music-beat to heartbeat: A journey in the complex interactions between brain and heart.  European Journal of Medicine, August 2011, Vol. 22 (4), 371-374.

Chiesa A; Serretti A,.  Mindfulness-based stress reduction for stress management in healthy people: A review and meta-analysis. Journal Of Alternative And Complementary Medicine, 2009 May; Vol. 15 (5), pp. 593-600.

Cramer H; Lauche R; Langhorst J; Dobos G, (2013).  Yoga for depression: A systematic review and meta-analysisDepression And Anxiety, Nov; Vol. 30 (11), pp. 1068-83.

Hartfiel N, Havenhand J, Khalsa SB, Clarke G, Krayer A.The effectiveness of yoga for the improvement of well-being and resilience to stress in the workplace.Scandanavian Journal of Work Environmental Health. April 6, 2010.

Ramirez, E., Wipfli, B.  Exercise and stress reactivity in humans and animals: Two meta-analyses. International Journal of Exercise Science Oct2012, Vol. 5 Issue 4, p144.

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