Yoga Reduces the Fight-or-Flight Response

June 21, 2018 | Wellness Resources

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 Yoga Reduces the Fight-or-Flight Response
Happy International Yoga Day! Yoga day is celebrated annually on June 21st to honor the physical, mental and spiritual practice that originated in India. Today, the practice has moved from the East to the West and become a popular form of physical exercise and meditation. As the demand for alternative and holistic healthcare continues to grow, yoga offers a great way to relax naturally. Here’s why:

Yoga has been found to activate the parasympathetic nervous system, a branch of the autonomic nervous system that helps our body cope with stress. Your autonomic nervous system (ANS) regulates body functions that you don’t have to think about, like heart rate and digestion. The ANS can be further broken down into the sympathetic and parasympathetic branches.

Sympathetic vs. Parasympathetic

The sympathetic division is responsible for the “fight-or-flight” reactions. It helps you to escape threats or situations of perceived stress, shunting blood away from organs out to muscles where it can be used to provide oxygen for muscular contraction. The parasympathetic division is the ‘rest and digest’ branch. Parasympathetic stimulation is necessary for healthy digestion, blood pressure, relaxation and stress management. Yoga is an effective way of stimulating the parasympathetic nervous system and enhancing relaxation.

Chronically Stressed Out

All the hurry scurry of modern life is hard on our bodies. With chronic stress, the parasympathetic nervous system activity is overridden. Constant demands with no rest or reward locks in the “fight-or-flight” response. Sleep, digestion, detoxification, immune system function, and repair are compromised when this happens. Chronic stress  is also connected with irritable bowel syndrome, colitis, inflammatory bowel disease, GERD, and worsening of food allergies and intolerance and increased gut permeability.

What Science Says About Yoga

The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH) has funded studies exploring the benefits of yoga on diabetes risk, HIV, immune function, forms of arthritis, menopausal symptoms, multiple sclerosis, post traumatic stress disorder, and smoking cessation.

Current research
 suggests that practicing yoga may help reduce stress, lower blood pressure, relieve anxiety, depression, and insomnia, plus improve overall physical fitness, strength, and flexibility. Practicing certain yoga poses consistently has also been found to be helpful for low back pain, a common cause of disability in the United States and worldwide.

As research continues, the evidence supporting the health benefits of practicing yoga is sure to grow. Celebrate Yoga Day and enjoy a natural health boost!

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