This study published in the journal Psychosomatic Medicine reveals something really significant. The bodies of regular practitioners of yoga had a much more positive response to stress.
Most of us know by now that stress is a leading cause of health problems. Stress triggers all kinds of chemical changes in our bodies. One of my favorite areas that we studied during Yoga Teacher Training is the endocrine system, a complex system of glands that regulate the delicate balance of our bodies. There are all kinds of hormones and chemicals being routed through our bodies. Stress can cause a rise in some hormones, such as the “stress hormone” cortisol, and a drop in other chemicals, such as melatonin.
There are many breathing, meditation and exercise techniques in yoga that can relax our nervous system. Over time, regular yoga practice re-trains your body in how it responds to stress. I like to think of my body as a separate being, in a sense. Even though I might think one thing in my mind, my body has not been trained yet to follow what my mind says. My mind says: “It’s not that bad, calm down”, but my body still has a reflexive reaction: tighten up in the chest, constrict the breathing, stop sleeping, etc. A regular yoga practice begins to train your body to respond to the queues from your mind, to better regulate the release of those chemicals and hormones that can temporarily make you a little crazy.