NIH encourages deep breathing, mindfulness, and yoga to counteract effects of stress
What is the “stress reset button” and how can we access it?
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) recently updated their resource page for health information and stress, highlighting psychological and physical approaches like breathing, mindfulness, and yoga to release tension and promote the relaxation response.
“There is no drug to cure stress,” they report. “But we do have access to a built-in ‘stress reset button.’ It’s called the relaxation response. In contrast to the stress response, the relaxation response slows the heart rate, lowers blood pressure, and decreases oxygen consumption and levels of stress hormones.”
They go on to list a number of techniques people can use to counteract the negative effects of stress, and group these techniques into three domains: relaxation techniques (including deep breathing), meditation and mindfulness practices, and yoga. Research shows that engaging in the techniques listed can have a number of health benefits, including
- improved sleep,
- lower blood pressure,
- reduction of symptoms of anxiety and depression,
- help with coping ability, and
- increased well-being.
Yoga therapy involves drawing on techniques like deep breathing, meditation, and mindful movement to help achieve some of these outcomes. To learn more about the research and health benefits of specific relaxation and stress-reducing techniques, read the full article here.
Help yourself or a loved one find ease through yoga therapy by locating an IAYT-certified yoga therapist here.
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Deep breathing? I wonder where yoga texts have ever said to deep breathe? I’d prefer to see mindful, smooth, quiet breathing.
Hi Kendra, thanks for the comment! The NIH did not make any claims about deep breathing recommendations in yoga texts, but provided some evidence from recent research that shows the benefits of diaphragmatic breathing in reducing stress. From the NIH page:
“Studies have shown that slow, deep breathing (also called diaphragmatic breathing) exercises may modestly lower blood pressure and reduce levels of cortisol (a main stress hormone in the body).
A 2019 review of 3 studies, with a total of 880 participants, found preliminary evidence suggesting that diaphragmatic breathing exercises may help to reduce stress. Promising positive changes were seen in mental health self-evaluations and in certain physical measures, such as cortisol levels and blood pressure.
There is evidence that deep breathing reduces glycemia (the concentration of glucose or sugar in the blood) in people with type 2 diabetes, which may make it a useful addition to standard care for this condition.”
The definition of “deep breathing” can vary so widely; but researchers will typically share exactly how participants were instructed to breathe in the method section of the article. It would be interesting to see if mindfulness and rhythm were included in the breathing instructions for participants in these studies.