Yoga therapy, is an emerging field and steeped in the history of yoga. It is derived from the Yoga tradition of Patanjali and the Ayurvedic system of health care.9 Yoga therapy framework allows the therapist to address each person’s unique needs and continually adapting the therapeutic practice. Modern science has begun to recognize the value of yoga’s ancient wisdom as it is being integrated into conventional medical care around the world. 10
We see lot of people suffering from stress, anxiety, depression, panic attacks, emotional issues, these are all psychosomatic issues. They may arise through your thoughts or through physical pain.
Yoga Therapy as an adjunct to therapeutic neuroscience and complements other therapeutic modalities as per Cheryl Van Demark:
Dr. Hans Selye was the first physiologist to study stress scientifically. His studies included understanding the physical reactions of animals to injury and disease. Based on his research, Dr. Selye concluded that there are consistent reactions across humans and animals in coping with stress. These changes represent our body's attempt to cope with the demands imposed by the illness or injury process.
Stress manifests as a function of the body and brain, both of which are essentially chemically driven systems. A wide variety of medications can be used to aid in the process of stress relief and prevention, however according to the study it indicates that, there is no one specific family of medicines that is used to decrease stress. Physicians may prescribe a range of medications to address specific stress-related symptoms. For instance, sedatives (also referred to as tranquilizers, hypnotics, and/or anxiolytics), antidepressants, and beta-blockers have all been used to help people cope with stress.2
Response behind these conditions is not only normal but it can be beneficial. Any disturbance to the environment, whether it’s physical (cold, hunger, infection, etc.) or emotional (fear, mourning, deadlines, etc.), triggers a response from the body aimed at guaranteeing its survival by maintaining its internal balance. It is a means of defense that is both physiological and cognitive, based on complex interactions between the nervous and immune systems; hormones and even the mind. These conditions can then become pathological and lead to cardiac, digestive, immune, or mental disorders, if disturbances are too intense and repetitive.3
Dr. Selye was one of the first scientists to suggest that stress could weaken the body's ability to resist infection and increase the likelihood of developing diseases. Today, we all take this idea for granted. In the 1950's, however, this was a revolutionary idea. Back then, the conventional wisdom was that diseases was solely caused by germs.4
Biological Factors of Stress
When a person looks at the world, he or she is confronted with an overwhelming amount of sensory information—sights, sounds, smells, and so on. Our body judges the situation of the event and decide whether it is stressful or not. The decision is made based on sensory input and the past experiences.
If the situation is stressful, the hypothalamus is activated. The hypothalamus, the amygdala and the hippocampus are part of the limbic system, which is formation of memory and emotions and is primary deals with the Stress. It is located at the base of the brain. This part of the brain is often referred to as mammalian brain or emotional brain.
Once the stress response is triggered, it sends the signal to the pituitary gland and adrenal medulla. Short term response is produced by the sympathetic nervous system, which is fight or flight.8
In acute stress, this response triggers the release of substances called catecholamine, which include epinephrine, norepinephrine, and cortisol, from the adrenal glands. These substances prepares the body to react to immediate danger by increasing heart rate, increasing oxygen delivery to the brain, dilating blood vessels in skeletal muscles, and increasing blood glucose levels.
In chronic stress, continuous stimulation of the fight-or-flight response leads to constant production and secretion of catecholamine. This has a variety of physiological consequences, including hyperglycemia (high blood glucose levels), which can lead to type II diabetes mellitus, and hypertension (high blood pressure), which can lead to cardiovascular disease. Some catecholamine such as norepinephrine act as neurotransmitters in the brain, these substances can alter cognition and other mental processes, leading to poor concentration, mood swings, agitation, depression, and anxiety. In addition, long-term stress-induced cortisol secretion from the adrenal glands can depress immune function, leading to increased risk of illness. High levels of cortisol also are associated with weight gain, particularly with the accumulation of excess abdominal
All these rapid reaction has one objective, to prepare body to face the stressful event. If these stressful factors continues then body moves into stage of resistance, this stage is call adaptation.
If the balance is not restore, then body enters into the third phase, exhaustion, and start to show evidence of wear and tear. It is possible to reverse the exhaustion phase with proper care and rest.
Prolonged and frequent intense stress reactions can also cause permanent stress-related health disorders such as ulcers, high blood pressure, arteriosclerosis, arthritis, kidney disease, and allergic reactions.4
Regular practice of yoga which can empower individuals, enhance mental and physical capacity to manage stress. However, yoga practice with a therapeutic intention can prevent and aid the recovery of psychosomatic conditions.9
Pancha Maya Kosha (The layers Of Being)
Our Body has five layers of being. They are transparent, interconnected and overlapped. One has the impact on the other. These layers cover every aspect of being, from the most gross to the most subtle. Practicing asana up to a certain extent, it adds great value to our anatomical structure, posture, and strength. In order to connect with our sense of being, one must adapt asana in service of pranayama (life force, or breath), adapt pranayama in the service of meditation, and adapt meditation in the service of higher consciousness.6
The first layer, Physical Body- Annamaya Kosha
Energy Body - Pranamaya Kosha (It is part of our subtle body)
Mind Body - Manomaya Kosha (It is a part of our subtle body)
Knowledge Body- Vigyanmaya Kosha (It is a part of subtle body)
Bliss Body - Anandmaya Kosha (Bliss body)
Working through Kosha for stress
Layer one involves, eating nutritional food, practicing yoga or any physical activity can help to keep body healthy and it will reduce the tension in stressed areas. Regular yoga practice will improve overall immunity, and promotes flexibility in muscles. Socializing and having good laugh with true friends can promote the feeling of safety, security and support.
Layer two, involves bringing awareness on to breathe while stretching will bring the balance to the energy body (Pranamaya kosha), and engages Parasympathetic Nervous System to counteract Sympathetic Nervous System. Breathe being a bridge between body and mind, will relax musculoskeletal system and helps the mind to bring the repressed emotions to the surface for integration.
Tools: Using different breathing techniques like Nadi Shodhana (alternate Nostril), Shitkari (cooling), and Ujjayi (victorious) to further enhance the effect of the practice.
Layer three, moving towards the Mind Body, which is the processing center of thoughts and emotions. It is directly connected to our breath and body senses. It is in direct control of the operation, through the prana, of the physical body and senses. Through Mindfulness or Mindful Meditation we become aware of our mental status in a positive way, which allows us to restore stillness in our monkey mind.
Tools: keeping positive attitude, reading uplifting scriptures, eating right with mindfulness can help to bring the balance.
Once above three layers are aligned, knowledge body plays a role to deepen the practice. Using wisdom, knowledge to become non-judgemental, seeking for higher truth, allowing to connect with sense of being.
Tools: One can practice Yoga Nidra, Tratak, and Imagery meditation to bring the balance at this layer.
Bliss body, this is the place where we understand the meaning of our existence, experiencing the openness and unity. We move from witness to witnessing our mind, body and breath.6
Sharmila's yoga therapy