Yoga: How Well Does it Relieve Stress?

A couple days ago, I left my dorm room stressed, in a rush to catch a bus to work because I would have been late if I walked, as I live in East Halls and my work is on West campus. That and the many assignments I had coming up were in my mind, further stressing me out. As I’m impatiently waiting for a Red Link or White Loop, I notice a group of students doing yoga in the East quad. It made me wishing I was doing aerial yoga with my friends, as I needed that relaxation. They were breathing in and out, getting the relaxation that made me wonder: Does yoga actually de-stress people? I always wondered if people who did yoga regularly actually feel less stressed when they do yoga, or if they do it because they think it’s taking the stress off. I decided to search for any insight on this subject.

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An article goes into detail on how there is not a specific and official mechanism on what from yoga relieves anxiety, but it insists that studies on yoga have positively made impact on people. It goes into describing that it could reduce high blood pressure, help with heart failure, and other benefits. What I thought was the most interesting was where it tells us that yoga has the ability to help with cognitive duties and relieve stress. I kept researching, and here are some studies that bettered my curiosity:

According to NCBI US National Library of Medicine National Institute of Health, an article on the effect of yoga goes into depth for this matter. They explain how yoga is to have beneficial impacts on stress through its usage of meditation mechanisms. Yoga was believed to have positive effects on coordination, concentration, and relaxation. The article explained that a study had found that meditation and yoga decreased belligerent behavior in students, while another study found improvement in emotion health. The present study was then explained, which offered great intel. An experimental study was conducted to determine what impact yoga had with stressful subjects, specific to academics.

Participants: The study consisted of 800 students with an even spread of 400 males and 400 females of 14-15 years of age. The experimenters had 13 types of stress to measure, and chose to measure 1) academic stress and 2) achievement stress, with a total 132 items. The students were taken into their test for an hour, then their scores would be measured.

Experiment Method: Split into an experimental and control group, selected students were subjected to take a pre-test in 3 academic subjects: Social Studies, Math, and Science. The experimental group went through a series of yoga exercises(in the morning for an hour), ranging from pranayama and meditation, to a value program that lasted for seven weeks. In addition, both the experimental and control groups took post tests for the academic subjects afterwards.

Results: The top 30% of the participants were students with a low amount for stress, while the bottom 30% of participants were high-stressed out students ( ½ of them were control and ½ were experimental). It also indicates both groups’ academic scores differed, meaning that one group performed better. Looking at the ANOVA (analysis of variance) table from the source, it tells us that the mean of the experimental (32.63) was bigger than control (22.44). This means that the students who did yoga for the 7 weeks did a better job.

A report talks about PubMed giving us more information on the relationship between yoga and stress. Before it talks about the experiment conducted, it gives a little history and background info which deeply fascinated me. Yoga has been practiced for more than 5000 years, and has been a promising fix to relieving anxiety. The objective of the experiment done was to assess the role of yoga in determining its effectiveness in relieving stress/anxiety.

Experiment: This was an interesting approach, as PubMed conducted literature searches from 1974-2010. They looked up articles under stress-related relationships with yoga(56 articles), and anxiety-related relationships with yoga(42 articles)—there were studies with participants, clinical trials, as well as randomized control trials. PubMed used 35 of the articles for their report, which actually offered data that showed decrease in anxiety; but the data spread of these results were inconsistent. Even though a majority of the experiments showed significant results of lessening anxiety after yoga, the results were too weak to claim official significance. This was interesting to me because even though yoga is normally affiliated with fixing stress, this study was unable to claim that.

The same source notes an additional study conducted with women to give a more specific take on yoga’s effects. 8 females with dementia participated in a 6 week yoga trial, as the objective was to seek any improvement in their stress and anxiety levels. They found that the yoga had reduced their STAI scores (State-Trait Anxiety Inventory). However, another study regarding the same procedure found results that tells us different results.

I’m glad I researched this, because yoga has been practiced with full intention on relieving stress and ensuring relaxation. While most studies I looked at were able to support this, one study was unable to commit to that conclusion. So there is no official mechanism of yoga as a stress reliever, but there are multiple studies that show a correlation between yoga and stress. So next time you feel like your head is running a million miles and you just need to relax, maybe yoga instead of Netflix, and you might feel more relieved!

For more studies on yoga, here’s an interesting report from Harvard Medical School that talks about another correlation with yoga: yoga and depression.

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1 thought on “Yoga: How Well Does it Relieve Stress?

  1. Celine Degachi

    I loooooooove yoga. Personally, doing it always allows me to feel more relaxed and at ease but I was curious to see if it actually can reduce stress. While there is no mechanism to support whether yoga reduces stress or not, since you found that most studies were able to support that it does and that only one study differed, through a meta-analysis you can conclude that there at least is some kind of correlation between yoga relieving stress. Depending on how many studies came to the same conclusion, there’s a very low possibility that chance is the reason behind yoga reducing stress.

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