Stress is an issue that interferes with the health and happiness of 8 in 10 Americans, according to a recent Gallup poll. Only seven per cent of those surveyed said they rarely feel stressed and somehow; could it be that this small percentage of people can lay claim to this sense of peace because they practice yoga? The statistics show that stress is an issue that should be taken seriously. We know that when present in a chronic state, it can cause heart disease, diabetes, and obesity. Mindfulness based activities like yoga can be a powerful antidote to stress, as can reliance on our Christian faith in the toughest of times.
What do Yoga and Christianity Have in Common?
Although yoga hails from Eastern religion and tradition, it has plenty in common with Christianity. The Yogic Limbs espouse ideas such as kindness to others but also kindness to the self. They stress the importance of faith in something larger than oneself and have a strong spiritual component. They shun revenge, negativity, and bickering and embrace an enlightened state that Christians also achieve through prayer and daily connection with their God. They both espouse the idea that the body and mind are temples; because God lives within us, we should protect our health both at a physical and mental level.
Why Should Christians Use Yoga to Fight Stress?
Yoga is one of many optimal ways to fight stress. Studies have shown that yoga can help so many people feel the welcoming sensation of calm: from school kids to college students, stressed executives to women receiving radiotherapy for breast cancer. Scientists at Coventry University have found that mind-body practices like yoga, meditation and Tai Chi actually reverse the molecular reactions in our DNA that cause health problems and depression. They stop the inflammation caused by stress, thus helping our immune system and keeping heart disease and other inflammation-related illnesses at bay. Yoga also significantly lowers levels of cortisol: a hormone that is linked not only to anxiety but also to premature ageing of skin cells. Inflammation affects our skin as much as it does our body, causing flaccidity, swelling, and breakouts. Consider yoga a way for your outer appearance to reveal the calm you feel inside.
Prayer is Powerful
When stress is strong, it is best tackled using more than one approach. Diet is important; during stressful times, feed your body with a high-vitamin and -nutrient diet to strengthen your immunity and energy levels. Prayer is also key. One study published by the University of Wisconsin-Madison found that the 75 per cent of Americans who pray on a weekly basis manage stressful emotions like anger, illness, and trauma, in a more positive and fruitful way. Another recent study showed that seniors prayer helps older Americans cope with stress. Other studies have shown that faith can help protect against depression.
If you are one of the millions of people who are facing stress, know that there are natural ways to overcome it. Yoga and prayer have many things in common, not the least of which is their ability to promote a state of calm. No matter how busy you are, try to make time for connection with God, as well as the mind-body connection offered by the much-loved practice that is yoga.
Written by Jane Sandwood.