In the USA alone over 40 million people are diagnosed as clinically anxious. An alarming 15 % of the population is bound to experience some form of clinical anxiety disorder during their lifespan. Currently, America spends hundreds of millions of dollars on anxiety medications. According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Health, there are many forms of anxiety disorders including acute stress disorder, panic, phobias, obsessive-compulsive disorders, post-traumatic stress, and generalized anxiety. In addition, some psychological disorders have overlapping symptoms of anxiety disorders, such as adjustment disorders, mood, dissociative, eating, sleeping, and sexual disorders.
In our bodies, the Autonomic Nervous System (ANS) has two parts Sympathetic Nervous System (SNS) and the Parasympathetic Nervous System (PNS). During stressful or potentially hazardous (real or imagined) situations the SNS is immediately activated, increasing blood pressure, the flow of blood out of the muscles and slowing down the digestive system. The SNS activates and prepares the body for the fight-flight or freeze response and results on a fully alert system. The PNS, on the other hand, allows the body to rest and recover from the SNS mechanism. Today, most people are experiencing a constant activation of their SNS. Moreover, constant low levels of stress, although not enough to activate a full SNS response, inhibits the PNS resulting in the body’s inability to heal and rest. When fight or flight is not an option freeze becomes the response to real or imagined threats which also leads to SNS activation. SNS activation also impairs the body’s ability to absorb nutrients and directly affects breath patters. However, the good news is, conscious breath can also regulate ANS responses.
Benefits of Corporate Yoga and Meditation
Yoga results on decreased reactivity to external stimuli and increased tolerance to unpredictable events. Thus, yoga practice results in greater well-being and sense of perspective. It is effective reducing symptoms of depression, anxiety, and stress. A study by the University of Pittsburg School of nursing concluded that a regular practice of yoga reduces blood pressure, glucose levels, stress levels and lowers body weight (Yang,20017). Yoga has been proven to increases concentration, which in turn result in relaxation responses from the Parasympathetic Nervous System. When practiced on a regular basis, yoga has shown a positive correlation among years of practice and increased gray matter on the frontal, limbic, temporal, occipital and cerebellar areas of the brain. Practitioners also display less cognitive failures, such as forgetfulness, distraction, difficulty with decision making. Yoga also increased the production of GABA. GABA is a neurotransmitter responsible for reducing stress and anxiety and regulating other neurotransmitters. Researchers at Boston University School of medicine recorded an 27% increase in GABA after a single yoga session on experienced practitioners.
According to a Study done by UCLA, meditation practitioners had an increased amount of gray matter on the prefrontal cortex (Eillen Lurdes, 2009). The prefrontal cortex is related to attention, emotional regulation and mental flexibility. A 2012 study also performed at UCLA, demonstrated an increased gyrification (folding of the cortex) in meditators. Gyrification relates to information being processed effectively. According to this study, there is a positive correlation between the number of years practiced and this folding of the cortex (Lurder at al. 2012). Meditation practices also change the way the brain responds to negative thoughts by decreasing the density of gray matter on the amygdala. Trauma and stress increase the size and density of the amygdala making it more reactive and connected to other areas of the brain.