Americans are stressed. Undoubtedly, you can list half of a dozen things that are stressing you out right now. The adverse health effects of stress are on the rise, too.
A survey by the American Psychiatric Association found that the number of Americans who reported experiencing stress-related health issues increased from 71 to 80 percent.
Respondents saw both physical and emotional symptoms, everything from headaches to feeling overwhelmed, nervous, anxious, or depressed.
Countless studies have investigated the effects of long-term stress on overall health and longevity. The biological responses to stress–increased blood pressure, the release of cortisol into the bloodstream–are great for keeping us alive in emergencies, but continuous activation adversely affects us.
Long-term stress can cause damage to the arteries and plaque formation. Prolonged, unrelenting stress leads to inflammation in the body, suppression of the immune system, and lengthens the amount of time needed to recover from injuries.
Old Solutions to New Problems
So, that’s the bad news. The good news? Scientists are finding new ways to combat stress and the damaging inflammation it can cause. They are studying the effects of much older practices like meditation and yoga on the modern ailments caused by stress.
One study found that a mindfulness-based stress reduction treatment plan can calm even the most anxious of us.
Scientists are beginning to study the effects of stretching on connective tissue. Connective tissue is the tissue that connects, supports, or surrounds other tissues, organs, muscles, and more. You are probably familiar with some types of connective tissue, like tendons and ligaments.
However, you may be unfamiliar with another type of connective tissue: fascia. And fascia often harbors inflammation caused by stress.
Research also shows that the symptoms caused by stress are connected to the fascia. Sufferers of painful disorders caused by high levels of inflammation in the body, like fibromyalgia, can find relief in myofascial release. There are many methods of myofascial release including massage, foam rolling, and acupuncture.
Holding stretches longer, as practiced in Yin yoga, is a form of myofascial release as well. Practicing Yin yoga allows muscles and superficial fascia to release giving therapeutic stress to deep fascia.
To better understand fascia, picture an orange. Peel the orange and underneath you find the pith. Below the pith, there are wrapped orange segments. The orange segments themselves are made up of smaller encased pieces.
Similarly, fascia surrounds each of our organs, muscles, nerves, arteries, and veins. By practicing Yin yoga, you are both applying therapeutic stress to the fascia and preparing yourself for the equally beneficial practice of meditation.
An Ancient Practice Rediscovered
Yin yoga, in its current form, is relatively modern. Founded in the 1970s by Taoist pupil and martial artist, Paulie Zink, Yin yoga is based on the ancient Daoist Yoga practice, also known as Dao Yin and is unlike a typical vinyasa class.
Students are guided into poses and then instructed to “find an appropriate edge” and hold for three to five minutes. To those who haven’t tried it, Yin yoga may sound easy, but many practitioners consider it as difficult to as a dynamic heated vinyasa class.
If there are no Yin yoga classes near you, hold on. They’ll be coming. As more and more research makes its way to the public, yoga studios are beginning to offer Yin yoga classes. Curious to try? A directory of certified Yin yoga teachers can be found at [http://www.yinyoga.com/yin_teacher_directory.php].
Can’t make it to a studio? Master teacher Bernie Clark offers videos  explaining and demonstrating many poses and Yoga International features several specialized yoga sequences, include this yoga sequence to relieve anxiety.
The quieter you become, the more you can hear”
What do students of yoga find difficult about Yin yoga? Stillness. Many find Yin yoga challenging because they grow restless or bored while holding a pose. In some cases, drowsy yogis have fallen asleep! Both restlessness and boredom stem from an internal imbalance, and Yin teaches students to remain cognizant of their thoughts in the current moment .
That is why it is essential to find that ‘appropriate edge’ in the pose. The sensation should register around three to five on a scale of one to ten, but it should never feel painful. If you experience pain in a Yin yoga pose, then you should come out of the posture slowly and deliberately.
Finding the appropriate edge of a pose and holding for a time also teaches yoga practitioners how to cope with discomfort. By holding poses for a longer amount of time, witnessing discomfort in the body, and spending time experiencing it, we are better equipped to deal with discomfort in day-to-day life.
By adopting a Yin yoga practice, you will be able to relieve both physical and emotional stress. And less stress.