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Destress with Yoga

by Linda Knittel  |  Originally published here in Yoga Journal

YogaStudents_PrayerhandsOften, people who take up yoga report that they feel more relaxed almost immediately. And science now says there’s a physiological explanation for that: Yoga can reduce levels of cortisol, the so-called stress hormone.

In a recent study conducted by Thomas Jefferson Medical College in Philadelphia and the Yoga Research Society, 16 healthy new yogis participated in a 50-minute yoga class every day for seven days. On the day prior to their first class, they were instructed to sit quietly—reading and writing—for 50 minutes.

The subjects’ cortisol levels didn’t change appreciably during the sitting period; they showed just the normal decrease that usually takes place in the late morning. But when the researchers measured the cortisol levels before and after the yoga class—which included postures such as Sarvangasana (Shoulderstand), Salabhasana (Locust Pose), Vrksasana (Tree Pose) and Halasana (Plow Pose)—they discovered a significant decrease after the class.

In the scientific world, results are considered noteworthy only if they can be repeated. This particular study attained a “p value” (a measurement of the probability of attaining the very same outcome in the future) of .001, which means that if the study were performed 100 times, the probability of getting the same result would be 99.9 percent.

The study’s results don’t surprise George Brainard, M.D., a professor of neurology at Thomas Jefferson Medical College. In 1995, he conducted a similar study, which also showed a significant drop in cortisol levels of subjects following asana practice.

“When I did the first study, I was very surprised that a single set of yoga poses could make a significant change in cortisol,” Brainard says. “Now that we have repeated it, we have seen enough promise to consider studying it in challenging situations like chronically ill patients who have abnormally high levels of cortisol, such as those who suffer from depression, type 2 diabetes, Cushing’s disease, and high blood pressure.”

The findings suggest that practicing yoga—even for the very first time—can normalize cortisol levels that are either too high or too low, says Vijayendra Pratap, Ph.D., president of the Yoga Research Society in Philadelphia. “My hypothesis,” he adds, “is that yoga brings the body to balance.”

Exactly how it does this is still not clear. But Jennifer Johnston, yoga director and research clinician at the Mind Body Medical Institute in Boston has a theory. “The deep breathing we do in yoga elicits something called ‘the relaxation response,’ which invokes the restorative functions of the body,” Johnston says. “Yogic practices also help to reduce muscle tension and deactivate the stress response.”

So in addition to renewing your mind and spirit, yoga has now been proven to provide real benefits for your body. No longer do the everyday stressors of deadlines, a hectic schedule, and other pressures have to wear you down. Simply stop at the nearest yoga studio and let your tension decrease along with your cortisol.

Linda Knittel is a nutritional anthropologist and freelance writer in Portland. She is the author of The Soy Sensation.

WORKSHOP: Yoga for Winter Blues

Yoga for Winter Blues Workshop taught by Dr. Irina Diyankova 

depression

This workshop is for anyone who tends to get down during winter.

Whether you experience just a little bit of sadness or fatigue at times or a full blown clinical depression, you can benefit from the practices taught in this session. We will cover a wide range of yogic pauses, breathing practices, and meditations that specifically target mood improvement/stabilization and energy levels.

You will receive handouts for home practice with different exercises that can be performed no matter how low energy or down you are. No previous experience with yoga is necessary.

When: January 24, Saturday  2:00 – 4:30 pm

Fee: $40; discounts for advanced registration and for therapist’s referrals

Irina

Dr. Irina Diyankova

 

For more info or sign up, visit dr-irina.com and click on the “Yoga for the Winter Blues Workshop”

 

WORKSHOP: From Stress to Balance: A New Year of Self-Care

Start the new year off with an afternoon of delicious nourishment and self-care!

herbal-remediesJoin Knoxville herbalist Rachel Milford to explore stress as a root cause of illness and learn how it effects our immune, nervous, and endocrine systems. We’ll learn what medicinal herbs and foods we can use daily to decrease stress, increase strength and vitality,and bring balance back to our bodies. As part of this nourishing day, everyone will also get to make and take home their own 8 oz medicinal herbal tincture. Class will also include nourishing teas and homemade treats. Come relax and indulge yourself in an afternoon of self-care.

January 25th, 1-3PM

Class cost: $40 (includes 8oz tincture, teas, treats, and handout)

Prepayment is required to reserve a class spot.
To register, please contact Rachel (reclaimingyourroots@gmail.com)
or Patty (pattyyogamail@gmail.com) to sign up.


Presented by Rachel Milford
Wellness Ally | Herbal Medicine & Whole Foods

www.reclaimingyourroots.com  |  reclaimingyourroots@gmail.com