The Effects of Stress The Effects of Stress

The Effects of Stress







Before learning about how Yoga solves the stress problem, it is important to identify that stress problem and to understand the physical and chemical aspects that correlate with the condition. When a person becomes stressed, many changes occur inside the body. In any case, the bodyís reaction to everyday stress is the same as its reaction to a dangerous and potentially harmful situation. The "fight or flight" response, technically understood as sympathetic activation, occurs inside the body to prepare for and to offer protection from any risk of harm. In such an instance, the brain signals to release certain hormones, for example, adrenaline. The body reacts by dilating the pupils, stimulating the tear glands, increasing the heart rate and blood pressure, and by inhibiting digestion and bladder contraction. As a frightening or intimidating circumstance can soon be resolved, stress can last for hours to days to weeks to years. As long as a person is stressed, their body will react with sympathetic activation, which can be potentially harmful to many systems of the body, as well as state of mind. According to Judith Lasater, Ph.D., P.T., on the consequences of stress,

"The bodyís capacity to heal itself is compromised, either inhibiting recovery from an existing illness or injury, or creating a new one, including high blood pressure, ulcers, back pain, immune dysfunction, reproductive problems, and depression. These conditions add stress of their own, and the cycle continues" ( ).


According to Leighton, "Stress is the number one killer in the industrial world today . . . Stress directly causes some diseases and contributes to others" ( ). In the Journal of Cardiovascular Nursing, 1997, is a suggestion that "Mind-body exercise programs will be a welcome and necessary addition to evolving disease management models that focus on self-care and decreased health care use" ( The results of long-term mental stress, including anxiety and depression, can become potentially dangerous to the state of the physical. Without proper digestion, the body is not evenly distributed with the nutrients it requires to function efficiently. Hence the immune system becomes overwhelmed and is more susceptible to foreign agents. For this reason, a person is more likely to develop a cold when dealing with the stresses of any major life change, for example, going off to college.

Not only does stress cause damage to the immune system, but it also wears on the body. "Itís the accumulation of all the stress and tension that makes so many elderly people look old, fragile, and hunched over" ( .) Various yoga stretches release unnecessary tension from the body. "Relaxation is the only positive way to control undesirable nervous tension" (Newbury, 1979.) Through stretching, Yoga exercises offer more flexibility and posture. "By doing yoga, you stand taller, move more easily, stay strong longer, and otherwise rejuvenate mind and body every time you practice" (

Many people have already developed their own defense mechanisms to deal with the stresses of life. As each person differs, so do his or her resolutions. Lasater offers one solution: "The antidote of stress is relaxation," and she makes it clear that relaxation is not necessarily defined as sleep. "Deep states of sleep include periods of dreaming which increase muscular tension, as well as other physiological signs of tension. Relaxation is a state in which there is no movement, no effort, and the brain is quiet" ( ). Other sources agree. "Deep relaxation techniques, [for example] Yoga, can alter physiological responses, slow heart rate and breathing, [and] resume normal maintenance functions allowing repair and restoration of the entire system" ( ).



Psychology Department

The Health Psychology Home Page is produced and maintained by David Schlundt, PhD.

Vanderbilt Homepage | Introduction to Vanderbilt | Admissions | Colleges & Schools | Research Centers | News & Media Information | People at Vanderbilt | Libraries | Administrative Departments | Medical 

  Return to the Health Psychology Home Page
  Send E-mail comments or questions to Dr. Schlundt


Search: Vanderbilt University
the Internet

  Help  Advanced

Tip: You can refine your last query by searching only the results by clicking on the tab above the search box

Having Trouble Reading this Page?  Download Microsoft Internet Explorer.