Stress can affect people in many ways. Some experience painful muscle tension, while others may be constantly distracted by negative thoughts or suffer from loss of sleep. These days, with the hectic nature of our personal and professional lives, doing anything to help offset stress is important. While a certain amount of stress can be healthy, ongoing emotional stress like anxiety, anger or fear can contribute to a cascade of reactions in the body that, over time, can lead to high blood pressure, tense muscles and inflammation.
To help prevent or reduce the extent to which your body responds to stressful events, you may want to consider yoga. Studies suggest that the practice of yoga can calm the nervous system, cause a decrease in cortisol levels (a stress hormone), and elevate mood.
For those who may be unfamiliar with it, yoga is a practice centered on physical postures, which are used in conjunction with regulated breath, and the practice of “mindfulness.” It is a discipline that allows us to bring our bodies and minds into balance. Many of my patients describe feeling calm and relaxed after their session.
Others have described feeling a sense of “lightness.” This feeling may be related to the release of the hormone oxytocin (“ox-see-toe-sin”), which is associated with feeling relaxed and connected with others. The practice of yoga is thought to boost levels of oxytocin.
Beyond helping my patients feel less stress, I also see that their practice increases muscle tone, strength, endurance, flexibility, and concentration. Recent articles also suggest that yoga can decrease the severity of symptoms associated with asthma, back pain, heart disease and arthritis.
To learn more about yoga, call the Cancer Integrative Medicine Program to schedule an appointment with a certified yoga instructor. The Cancer Integrative Medicine Program allows for individual private sessions tailored to your specific needs. If you would like to try yoga, consult your physician and for more information, call (312) 563-2531.
Anjali Shah is a certified yoga instructor at Rush University Medical Center. She teaches private sessions and provides yoga therapy for the Cancer Integrative Medicine Program, which offers one-on-one personalized sessions that bring awareness to pranayama (control of breath), meditation, and gentle asanas (postures).