You’ve probably heard it before… “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.” Well, don’t believe it. It’s pure bunk. Especially when it comes to stress.
Psychological stress takes a terrible toll on your body. In fact, a study in the prestigious Proceedings of the American Academy of Sciences came to a startling conclusion. A high-stress life left women with cells that appeared at least ten years older than women with low stress.1
And let’s face it, who isn’t under a lot of stress these days?
But there’s a simple way to beat stress. It’s easy, it’s fun and – best of all – it’s absolutely free.
Breathe Your Way to Better Health
I’ve told you about some of the benefits of yoga before. It’s wonderful, gentle exercise that increases flexibility and leaves you feeling energized. But the easiest yoga exercises – breathing – do even more.
Indian yogis have practiced pranayama – “restraint of the breath” – for centuries. But it’s only in recent years that science has started to catch up to what practitioners have always known. Yogic breathing safely lowers stress, boosts your immune system and increases feelings of optimism.2, 3
And when I say yogic breathing lowers stress and boosts immunity, I don’t just mean it makes you feel better. In one study, researchers found participants’ levels of natural killer cells increased “significantly.”4 Another study measured the participants’ antioxidant levels. Practicing breathing techniques caused the levels of three important antioxidants – SOD, catalase and glutathione – to shoot way up.5
At this pint, you may be thinking, “That sounds great… but I can’t twist myself into a pretzel.”
Don’t worry. If you can sit up straight, you can benefit from pranayama.
Discover the Easy Side of Yoga
Here’s a simple and effective yoga breathing exercise:
Find a quiet room without distractions. Sit on the floor with your legs crossed. Or sit in a straight-backed chair with your feet flat on the floor.
Relax. Keep your spine straight, your hands resting lightly on your lower thighs. Breath in slowly.
Start by expanding your belly like a balloon. (This uses your diaphragm.) Then expand your chest upward and outward. The goal is to fill your lungs fully.
Hold your breath briefly, then slowly exhale. Let your chest deflate, then your stomach.
Keep your mind focused on your breathing. If your attention wanders, simply bring your attention back to your breath.
Start with just a few minutes. Eventually, try to work up to 20 minutes a day. If you’re like most of my patients who’ve tried this technique, you’ll feel the stress “melt away” long before you reach 20 minutes.
Added Benefits for Your Active Lifestyle
If you love sports, yogic breathing may be your perfect workout recovery tool, too.
Italian researchers recently tested pranayama techniques on athletes undergoing a heavy training regimen. Some athletes practiced yogic breathing after their workouts, while others relaxed for the same amount of time.
Yogic breathing significantly increased the athletes’ post-exercise antioxidant levels compared to the relaxation-only group. And it did something else, too. It lowered their levels of cortisol – the major stress hormone.6
Stress is a killer. And it’s difficult to avoid it in today’s high-pressure world. But if you’re ready to get rid of that stress, there’s no simpler, safer way than yoga breathing techniques.
Best Life Herbals Wellness Team
Best Life Herbals
1 Epel ES, et al. Accelerated telomere shortening in response to life stress. PNAS December 7, 2004 vol. 101 no. 49 17312-17315.
2 Kjellgren A, et al. Wellness through a comprehensive yogic breathing program – a controlled pilot trial. BMC Complement Altern Med. 2007 Dec 19;7:43.
3 Sharma H, et al. Gene expression profiling in practitioners of Sudarshan Kriya. J Psychosom Res. 2008 Feb;64(2):213-8.
4 Kochupillai V, et al. Effect of rhythmic breathing (Sudarshan Kriya and Pranayam) on immune functions and tobacco addiction. Ann N Y Acad Sci. 2005 Nov;1056:242-52.
5 Sharma H, et al. Sudarshan Kriya practitioners exhibit better antioxidant status and lower blood lactate levels. Biol Psychol. 2003 Jul;63(3):281-91.
6 Martarelli D, et al. Diaphragmatic Breathing Reduces Exercise-induced Oxidative Stress. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2009 Oct 29. [Epub ahead of print]