CHENNAI: How many times has it happened that we feel stressed and a brief deep breathing exercise helped us release that stress for some time, if not forever? We all must have tried doing this at some point. Breathing exercises being an inalienable part of yoga, gives an indication of how yoga, being a major component of naturopathy, can play a pivotal role in containing mental stress.
Practising yoga regularly and consuming the right type of naturopathic diet can help manage chronic stress and anxiety to a large extent. Stress is the human body’s natural response to a difficult situation. When the body perceives a threatening situation, the mind activates its ‘fight or flight response’. This activation mechanism results in the release of stress hormones that helps us deal with difficult situations in everyday life. However, when this stress response remains chronically activated, it predisposes the person to a series of health issues, including anxiety, depression, weight gain, sleep deprivation and even heart disease.
Stress also makes it difficult to control blood sugar levels and blood pressure. Unfortunately, mental stress has emerged as the epidemic of our times. In a survey conducted by a health insurance provider a few years back, 89% of the respondents in India said they were suffering from stress as against the global average of 86%, as reported in a national daily. This is unfavourable news for a country that is facing an overwhelming burden of lifestyle diseases such as diabetes, hypertension and cardiovascular disease.
Therefore, it is essential that our healthcare approach incorporates stress management as a key element of preventive healthcare. Naturopathy and yoga can play a vital role in better management of stress and its beneficial effects. Yoga reduces the impact of stress by easing respiration, reducing the heart rate and lowering blood pressure. It increases the body’s ability to react to stress more easily by stretching the muscles and releasing tension. Similarly, as prescribed by a naturopathic doctor, the right choice of food can enable the body to balance the nervous system quickly. Our body needs many micronutrients when we are stressed out and we can only get them mostly through plant-based diets.
Regular practice of yoga and the adoption of naturopathic remedies can also help people with severe anxiety to reduce their dependence on drugs for various ailments, mostly stress-related ones.
Asanas for alleviating anxiety
This is also known as the Eagle Pose. Our shoulders and hips are the points in our body that are known to carry a lot of stress. This asana works on these points to release that stress and make one feel liberated. One has to concentrate while performing this asana fully.
This asana lengthens the spine and opens the hips. It helps one in calming down and reducing anxiety. Sukhasana is also known as the lotus pose, where one has to sit cross-legged with chest open and spine straight. While sitting in this position, one has to maintain the physical balance.
This asana is known to calm the brain and stimulate the kidneys and liver. It helps in stretching the hips, calves, and hamstrings. While performing this, one has to stand straight and bend forward until one touches one’s feet with the palm. Take deep breaths while holding the position and one is bound to be in a relaxed state of mind.
Plant-based foods & herbs to manage stress
Rich in carbohydrates, sweet potatoes are full of nutrients like vitamin C and potassium. It helps in reducing the cortisol levels in the body. Notably, cortisol is the main stress hormone that is released by the adrenal gland when the body is dealing with a stressful situation.
Chamomile is a herbal remedy used by the traditional medicinal system for its calming and stress-busting effect, since centuries. This herb has a mind-relaxing ability as it contains flavonoids, phenolic, and antioxidants that help reduce stress while also soothing the effects of stress such as headache and anxiety. Consuming chamomile tea on a regular basis can help cope with stress much better.
Out of the several health benefits that blueberries have is, it works as a mood booster. Blueberries are rich in flavonoid, which has antioxidants and reduces stress-related inflammation.
Ashwagandha is a widely used herb in Ayurvedic medicine for its multifarious medicinal qualities. This is also a mentally relaxing and rejuvenating adaptogen that helps the body cope with stress and its effects, such as anxiety and poor sleep. This herb contains a series of medically beneficial chemicals such as anolides, sitoindosides and alkaloids that help prevent oxidative stress and provide a series of health benefits. A study published in the Indian Journal of Psychological Medicine in 2012 concluded that Ashwagandha root extract significantly helped improve resistance towards stress. Both yoga and other components of naturopathy are effective ways to deal with chronic stress and reduce its effects on the body and mind.
This nutritious vegetable contains sulforaphane, a sulfur-based compound that has neuroprotective properties. Eating it regularly can have a calming effect on the brain, and it also works as an antidepressant.
(The writer is the deputy chief medical officer at Jindal Naturecure Institute)