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Yoga for Stress

Stress is a common condition, a response to a physical threat or psychological distress, which generates a host of chemical and hormonal reactions in the body. However, when the stress reaction is attenuated, the normal physical functions that have been either exaggerated or shut down in response become dysfunctional in this extreme state

When a person experiences stress, the brain responds by initiating 1400 different responses including the dumping of a variety of chemicals to our bloodstream. This gives a momentary boost to do whatever needs to be done to survive. If left unchecked, however, the person can have a heart attack or stroke. Many people start drinking alcohol. They get depressed, find it difficult to sleep, experience chest pain. The body runs out of the immunity to fight diseases. So, very often, these persons die of disease such as cancer, pneumonia, etc. The stress will never be identified as the cause of the death. one can call the stress the proxy killer. Some other disease always takes the blame for it.

Doctors call the body's reaction to stress as General Adaptation Syndrome (GAS). There are three stages to GAS.

In the first stage of GAS called alarm reaction, the body releases adrenaline and a variety of other psychological mechanisms to combat the stress and to stay in control. This is called fight or flight response. The muscles tense, the heart beats faster, the breathing and perspiration increases, the eyes dilate, the stomach may clench.. Once the cause of the stress is removed, the body will go back to normal.

If the cause for the stress is not removed, GAS goes to its second stage called resistance or adaptation. This is the body's response to long term protection. It secretes further hormones that increase blood sugar levels to sustain energy and raise blood pressure. If this adaptation phase continues for a prolonged period of time without periods of relaxation and rest to counterbalance the stress response, sufferers become prone to fatigue, concentration lapses, irritability and lethargy as the effort to sustain arousal slides into negative stress.

The third stage of GAS is called exhaustion. In this stage, the body has run out of its reserve of body energy and immunity. Mental, physical and emotional resources suffer heavily. The body experiences "adrenal exhaustion". The blood sugar levels decrease as the adrenals become depleted, leading to decreased stress tolerance, progressive mental and physical exhaustion, illness and collapse.

Yoga is very good for stress. It offers gentle asanas, relaxation, pranayama, meditation, shat kriyas and hand Mudras. The complete breath exercise can be done at your desk, in the car or anywhere else when you start to feel stressed out. Meditation helps calm your mind, teach you to relax at will and giving you a quick mental vacation whenever you need one. And daily practice of three or four yoga poses will help ease knotted muscles. Try varying the poses daily to keep your interest high and to strengthen different parts of your body

Many of the healing effects of yoga are clinically verified. Yoga has healing effects. However, one of the most important benefits of yoga is its application in relieving stress, fatigue, invigoration and vitality and its anti-aging properties and its application for relaxation therapy.

Ardha Baddha Padma Paschimottanasana

Ardha (half), Baddha (locked) , Padma (lotus), Paschima (back) tana (stretch) asana (posture).


  1. Sit on the floor with the legs stretched straight in front.

  2. Bend the left leg at the knee, and place the left foot over the right thigh. The left heel should press the naval and the toes should be stretched and pointing. This is the half lotus posture.

  3. Bring the left arm round the back from behind and with an exhalation , catch the big toe of the left foot. If the toe cannot be grasped easily, swing back the left shoulder.

  4. Stretch the right arm forward and catch the right foot with the right hand, the palm touching the sole.

  5. Inhale, stretch the back and gaze up for a few seconds, without releasing the grip on the left big toe.

  6. Exhale, move the trunk forward and rest the head on the right knee.

  7. Stay in this position from 30 to 60 seconds, with normal breathing.

  8. Inhale, raise the head and trunk, release the hands, straighten the left leg and come to sthiti.

  9. Repeat the pose on the other side..


The half lotus pose helps in increasing flexibility of the knees and hips. It also strengthens the knee, hip muscles. Intense stretch of the spine during the forward bending releases accumulated stresses around lumbar spine. While maintaining the final posture you can experience the intensity of pressure on abdominal viscera. This improves blood flow to the intra-abdominal structure to improve their functional capacity.

This article has been written by Dr. R. Nagarathna, Dean, Division of Yoga & Life-sciences, SVYASA
This article is published online courtesy
and Arogyadhama

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