Stress has become synonymous with modern living. Such are the travails of modern times that stress has reached pandemic proportions. And its deleterious consequences can be seen everywhere in the form of a rampant increase in many psychosomatic illnesses – hypertension, susceptibility to cardiac problems, peptic ulcers, irritable bowel syndrome, migraine, insomnia, anxiety, depression, eating disorders, to cite but a few.
Given the seriously detrimental effect on the human race, it is about time that we regard stress as not only a precursor of diseases but a disease in its own right. However, the ground reality is far from it. Most people will not even acknowledge that they are stressed. They will nod their heads when asked if they have frequent headaches, if they can’t sleep well, if they are highly irritable, if they are prone to indigestion etc. But they don’t equate these as being symptoms of stress. The fact is, they are. Stress itself is unpleasant but it also leads to serious health issues caused by adrenergic and cortisol surges which has a harmful domino effect on every bodily system. Even the mind is not spared leading to all sorts of mental imbalance and emotional upheavals which in turn further increases the stress levels.
So, the first step is to acknowledge that stress has become ubiquitous. Once we accept the universality of stress with its detrimental effect, and we recognize that there is no stress relieving magic pill, do we come to a cul-de-sac? Is there no solution at all? Fortunately for all of us, there is. There is a drug free entity called yoga Nidra. A gift from our sages, this ancient tool is well documented in our Upanishads and is a widely recognized step on the path of raja yoga.
‘Nidra’ means sleep. The usual state of sleep is not only unconscious but also predominantly associated with dreaming, hence not restful. Yoga nidra, on the other hand, is a state of deep yet conscious sleep-thus also known as yogic sleep. Besides being an important tool in spiritual ascension, this unique technique imparts deep relaxation at all levels-physical, emotional and mental. Thus, it not only acts as a powerful stress buster but heals the body right at the cellular level. The benefits of practising this ancient art are innumerable but to speak specifically in context of hypertension, it is a highly effective anti-hypertensive.
However, many educated people find it difficult to accept stuff that has no scientific validation. Where is the proof, they ask! Well, for the benefit of the masses, I am glad to say there is. It is precisely for this reason that a pilot study was carried out by a group of scientists at the National Institute of Nutrition ICMR, Hyderabad, India and was sponsored by Rishi Chaitanya Trust, India.
A team of seven experienced doctors studied the effects of yoga nidra in patients with established hypertension. Besides measuring blood pressure, they also carried out blood tests for specific markers like lipid profile, glucose, insulin, cortisol etc. And thirdly, they evaluated the effect of yoga nidra on stress, depression and anxiety. There was a control group (who did not practice yoga nidra) and an intervention group (who practised yoga nidra).
The details of this study and its results are available for anyone who would like to do so. But to summarise the main results: there was a significant rectification of blood pressure levels, a significant improvement in mental status, and a significant lowering of harmful chemicals like cortisol and lipids like triglyceride; lowering of blood glucose, glycated haemoglobin and increase in beneficial substances like adiponectin.
This may all seem like medical jargon to lay folk but the take home message from this study is that yoga nidra has been scientifically found to be a highly beneficial tool in treating hypertension, stress, depression and anxiety along with added benefits which will help people suffering from obesity and diabetes as well. And the icing on the cake is that there are only desirable effects-no unwanted side effects whatsoever! Readers can find more details in the book Yoga Nidra by Anandmurti Gurumaa, available on Amazon Kindle.
Practical instructions can be downloaded from the website www.gurumaa.com