What happens when we relax?
During relaxation the activity of the parasympathetic system increases, whereas the activity of the sympathetic system decreases resulting in slower heart rate, lower blood pressure and increased activity of the digestive system to conserve energy (Adamo R., 2012). Herbert Benson’s work with the Transcendental Meditators in the United States showed that during meditation/ relaxation, in addition to the above, the respiratory rates and oxygen consumption decrease, Alpha waves increase in the brain and the level of lactate in blood decreases. High levels of lactate are associated with anxiety attacks.
According to Herbert Benson there is a balancing response to the “flight or fight” response called a “relaxation response”. People with the lower ability to show the relaxation response after a stressful event tend to be more stressed throughout their life.
Physical exercises are very effective way of relaxation. They help to release the mind from worries by focusing on an activity, lose tension from tight muscles and burn stress chemicals. Yoga is especially helpful because it involves breathing and meditation which, when practised after an intensive physical exercise, are an excellent way of releasing pressure from the body and calming the mind. Other benefits include lower blood pressure and release of neurotransmitters.