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You can skip yoga class once in a while and still enjoy the emotional benefits of stress reduction. According to a study in the Journal of Nursing Research, just one class produces significant results.
Side Effects of Stress
Stress is a known trigger for:
- physical illness
- mental disturbance
- visible signs of aging
Long-term stress, known as chronic stress, reduces your immunity to disease and promotes dysfunction in your digestive, excretory and reproductive systems, according to the National Institutes of Health.
Unlike anxiety disorder, stress is not a medical condition. Actually, your mind controls how stressed-out you feel and tests to quantify stress measure stress levels based on your self-perception. However, feeling stressed-out does produce real health consequences.
Why Study the Effects of One Yoga Class?
Yoga is clinically shown as an effective way to release, cope with and prevent stress. The basis of the conclusions in the majority of past studies come from results obtained after students regularly attend about three months of yoga classes. A recent study, published in The Journal of Nursing Research, examines the benefits of taking one Hatha Yoga class vs. multiple classes.
As much as we would all love to do yoga regularly, the reality is busy schedules and other commitments can disrupt our ideal yoga schedule. Sometimes, you only have time to attend yoga classes sporadically. If you attend yoga classes with the purpose of reducing stress, you might wonder if you benefit from only going to yoga class every once in a while.
Stressed, but Healthy, Women
Sixty-three healthy women between the ages of 40 and 60 participated in this Hatha Yoga and stress study, with 30 women in the yoga group and 33 women in the control group. The yoga group completed one 90-minute Hatha Yoga class per week for eight weeks, while the control group had no intervention.
To measure changes in the psychological stress indicators, all the women completed the Perceived Stress Scale survey. To measure changes in physical stress, all the women took a heart rate variability (HRV) test. The researchers collected data before the first yoga class, after the first yoga class, and after the last yoga class.
Can One Hatha Yoga Class Reduce Stress?
– Benefits of One Hatha Yoga Class: After one 90-minute class, the yoga women had lower scores on the Perceived Stress Scale – a difference of 8.85 percent – compared to the control group, but no significant differences in HRV.
– Benefits of Going to Hatha Yoga Class Once per Week for Eight Weeks: After eight classes, the yoga group once again reduced their Perceived Stress Scale scores – 16.7 percent less than the control group – but the researchers concluded this was not statistically significant. Additionally, the women showed significant improvement in HRV scores, the physical measurement of stress in this study.
What’s the bottom line here? When you’re stressed-out, going to the occasional Hatha Yoga class can help you feel more relaxed. However, consistently attending yoga class once a week, can reduce your stress level even more and may also reduce the negative physical manifestations of stress.
Hatha Yoga Class for Stress Relief
The Hatha Yoga class for stress relief consists of several components: breathing exercises, Hatha Yoga poses and meditation training. The report in The Journal of Nursing Research provides a partial list of the poses in a random order. In an exclusive interview with YogaHathaYoga.com, researcher Fu-Jung Huang provided the “complete list of the yoga asanas in the yoga class and their exact sequence.” Regarding the amount of time the participants held each pose and repetitions, Fu-Jung Huang said, “The yoga classes were executed by specialized teachers who made time (and repetition) adjustments on a per class basis.”
Hatha Yoga Class Sequence for Stress Relief
A. 5 to 20 minutes of breathing exercises/pranayama
B. 50 to 60 minutes of yoga poses:
- Sun Salutation/Surya Namaskar
- Cobra Pose / Bhujangasana
- Downward Dog / Ardo Mukha Svanasana
- Child’s Pose / Balasana – a resting pose
- Warrior Pose / Virabhadrasana
- Triangle Pose/ Trikonasana
- Seated Spinal Twist / Ardha Matsyendrasana
- Cow’s Face Pose / Gomukhasana
- Seated Angle Pose / Upavistha Konasana
- Hero Pose 1 and 2 / Virasana
- Fish Pose / Matsyasana
- Camel Pose / Ustrasana
- Boat Pose / Navasana
- Shoulder Stand / Sarvangasana – added 5 weeks after the start
- Plow Pose / Halasana – added 5 weeks after the start
- Wheel Pose / Chakrasana – added 5 weeks after the start
- Finishing with Corpse Pose / Shavasana
C. The final 15 to 20 minutes were dedicated to meditation training and adjusting breathing
D. The class finished by chanting “om” three times to slow down breathing rates
References for 90-Minute Hatha Yoga Class to Reduce Stress
1. Huang, F., Chien, D., & Chung, U. (2013). Effects of Hatha Yoga on Stress in Middle-Aged Women. The Journal of Nursing Research, 21(1), 59-66
2. National Institute of Mental Health; Fact Sheet on Stress
Photo credit: City of Overland Park