Yoga, an Effective Stress Management Technique

Stress is something every individual goes through in life.  When it “attacks,” it can drastically alter moods and in the long run affect one’s health and disposition.  In the worst case scenarions, stress can drive one insane or it can even “kill” if one were to push oneself too far beyond his or her physical and mental threshold.  In line with this, several techniques have been tried and tested in determining which works best against stress.  In this particular case, the researcher has decided that the ancient art of yoga is an effective technique in addressing stress.No one knows when yoga originated or who developed it.  It is believed to have been developed in India and has found its way further east in other Asian cultures and societies.  When thinks of yoga, what would come into mind are a series of stretching exercises as well as mediation.  To the practitioners of yoga, called yogi, the rationale behind these exercises is to ensure the “development of a state of mental and physical health, well-being and inner harmony.” (Khalsa, 2007, 449)  This is somewhat consistent to the Hindu-Buddhist principle of being one with the universe where one would “release” themselves from their consciousness in order to reconcile with the order of the universe and thereby bring about stability in one’s life.  Because of its religious affinity, yoga is originally intended to be a spiritual exercise and subsequent observations on the practice would notice that even though it focuses heavily on spiritual development, there are positive side effects.  It is because of this that yoga was able to make its way to the west and become not only a popular form of exercise but also as a form of therapy.The “secret” to yoga is what is called the “relaxation response.”  This calls for the relaxation of the brain’s cognitive and somatic functions, to lessen its ability to be stimulated or excited.  In this relaxed state, the practitioner is neither comatose nor catatonic but it full awake yet passive and calm.  It is through this technique, in addition to maintaining normal breathing patterns, that yoga can “heal” a wide variety of ailments such as asthma, hypertension, depression and anxiety attacks.  Studies have shown that certain yoga exercises can also treat these ailments the same way as the prescribed medication does (Khalsa, 2007, 452-454).Despite its apparent effectiveness and apparently lack of negative side effects, yoga is not for everyone.  With the many forms of exercises of yoga, the patient needs to choose (under careful supervision) the appropriate form of yoga exercise for him or her.  Not any technique will do and if not chosen very well could very well lead to adverse side effects.  Yoga instructors need to pay careful attention to the practitioner’s background to be able to prescribe the appropriate form of exercise for them (Khalsa, 2007, 452-454).In comparison to the other forms of stress treatment, yoga has an edge of such forms as Mantra Meditation and Stress Inoculation Training (SIT).  From the word itself, mantra medition wouls sound like it is related to yoga since it also involves meditation, as the name suggests and practitioners chant a mantra or a series of words as a form of “mental exercise” and entails being in a relaxed state like in yoga.  The only difference is that this method does not have the stretching or posturing exercises of yoga and can also treat the same kind of ailments as yoga can.  This method’s advantage is it is very easy to learn and does not require a lot of supervision compared to yoga.  However, this form has its disadvantages such as improper tension release and rapid behavior changes or even think that it is a form of hypnosis and may be counterproductive for those who feel the need to control themselves (too much) (Carrington, 2007, 363-364, 376-377).SIT is “designed to intervene with humans at the psychosocial level, provides individuals with experience with minor stressors that fosters psychological preparedness and promotes resilience.” (Meichenbaum, 2007, 499).  SIT takes a transactional approach to stress.  It follows the principle that stress is not a characterisitic of the environment or the individual but rather the result of the (wrong or improper) relationship between the individual and the environment.  It is made up of three interwoven phases – the conceptual educational phase, skills acquisition and consolidation phase and appication/follow-through phase. Its application will depend on several factors.  Among them would be the natue of the stressors and the ability of the clients to cope.  This would be considered a disadvantage as it would appear that SIT needs to wait for the right conditions to be effective although its strength is it can handle or be applied to large groups of people.  Another advantage of SIT is it is suited for those who suffer from Post Traumatic Distress Syndrome as well as “mid-life crises” and anxiety attacks (Meichenbaum, 2007, 501, 504-505).Nevertheless, yoga would still be considered more effective.  One of the reasons why is that this method has been around for centuries and the mere fact that it is still practiced is proof enough that this method is not an anachronism and still has relevance in the present.  To make yoga effective, one has to choose the appropriate kind of exercise and do it under close supervision.Reference:Lehrer, P., Woolfolk, R.L. ; Sime, W.E. (Eds.). (2007). Principles and Practiices of Stress         Management. New York: Guilford Press.Carrington, P. (2007). Modern Forms of Mantra Meditation.  In P. Lehrer, R.L. Woolfolk            ; W.E. Sime (Eds.).  Principles and Practiices of Stress Management. New York:   Guilford PressKhalsa, S.B.S. (2007). Yoga as a Theraputic Intervention. In P. Lehrer, R.L. Woolfolk ;             W.E. Sime (Eds.).  Principles and Practiices of Stress Management. New York:            Guilford Press.Meichenbaum, D. Stress Inoculation Training. A Preventative and Treatment Approach. In P. Lehrer, R.L. Woolfolk ; W.E. Sime (Eds.).  Principles and Practiices of Stress Management. New York: Guilford Press.