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Different people have differing levels to which they can effectively withstand stressing environmental conditions. Factors such as personality types, the emotional stability attributes of different people, and personal temperaments may determine this ability (Kumar & Sharma, 2011).
Exposure to stressing environmental conditions has negative consequences to both psychological and physiological health of an individual. Stress may have implication of low satisfaction in life and lead to incapacity for people to work both effectively and efficiently.
At organizational level, stress correlates positively with burnout, which constitutes an important factor for high labor turnover (Adhia, Nagendra & Mahadevan, 2010). In clinical settings, stress underscores one of the risk factors for cancer, hypertension, and diabetes among other chronic ailments.
Although stress may have some positive implications on people, its management mainly concerns dealing with its negative consequences in all lifestyles.
Stress management implies the deployment of psychotherapeutically designed techniques for reducing and keeping stress levels under check to ensure proper functioning of people in their everyday work. Yoga comprises one of these techniques having its historical roots in the Hinduism philosophy.
For instance, Karma yoga, which is one of Yoga types, aids in controlling stress through the development of appropriate attitudes in relation to work environment coupled with enhancing the ability to respond positively to professional anticipations for managers and employees in any organization, its industry of operation not withstanding (Kumar & Sharma, 2011).
This research paper argues that everyone should practice yoga as it reduces stress, increases flexibility and stamina, and it can heal common aches and pains. It first presents the background to Yoga before discussing stress and its associated health and organizational managerial challenges.
The goal is to show that if yoga can reduce stress, then stress-related health challenges and organizational management challenges like burnout can also be resolved by embracing the practice. The last part analyses the contribution of the yoga lifestyle in dealing with stress.
Background to yoga
Yoga is among the six main pillars making the Hindu philosophy. For over one millennium, the philosophy has been fundamental to explaining various experiences of people with regard to mental complexities.
Adhia, Nagendra, and Mahadevan (2010) posit that yoga constitutes a technique for lowering fluctuations of people’s mind to ensure that they reach reality of their real nature. It comprises various ethical and moral living guidelines.
Breathing exercises are the key components for enhancing people’s consciousness and growth spiritually under the yoga sutras philosophy.
Yoga Ashtanga comprises guidelines for moral behavior, cognitive learning processes, and various approaches to psychological coupled with physiological practices for improving life (Adhia, Nagendra & Mahadevan, 2010).
The concepts of Niyama together with Yama focus on inducing appropriate extrinsic behaviors in individuals with the main aim of lowering both bodily and mental disturbances in the quest to reduce stress levels.
Yoga attracted the attention of modern elites of western nations from 1850s and later it developed in early years of 1900s. In “the early 1980s, yoga emerged as one of the popular physical exercise practices among westerners” (Kumar & Sharma, 2011, p.19).
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This form of yoga is commonly known as Hatha yoga. The ability of Yoga in alleviating stress and improving the functioning of people’s bodies led to conducting many studies on its capacity to reduce illness associated with stressful situations like asthma, cancer, and heart ailments (Kumar & Sharma, 2011).
In this sense, it relates to the reduction of mental anxieties to induce mental peace with people’s healthy lifestyles. Its application in clinical disciplines of study relies on psychoneuroimmunology theoretical principles (Yadav & Sharma, 2012).
In fact, Yoga is practiced with the belief that it has the potentiality of altering people’s personality, emotional, and physical characteristics coupled with fostering and strengthening the capacity to cope with stress positively.
This assumption underlines the importance of teaching yoga practices like asanas, pranayama, mudras, and bandhas in physical practice lessons.
Stress and its associated health and organizational challenges
Lack of practice and excessive stress level that are beyond people’s stress thresholds may induce common illnesses such as aches and pains, inflexibility, and lack of mental relaxation. This aspect suggests that yoga principles can help to mitigate these challenges.
Chong, Tsunaka, Tsang, Chan, and Wai (2011) argue that any system of yoga may reduce stress effectively, which underlines its continued popularity. Stress implies uncomfortable life through the reduction of its joy by conditions like insomnia and headaches coupled with backaches.
These challenges constitute the symptoms of major epidemic illness like osteoporosis. Stress also correlates positively with vata derangement, which describes the condition of reduced instability and flexibility upon excessive rise of air related to the aspects in the body (Treven, 2010).
High levels of vita air have the implication of causing people to have mood swings due to lack of focus and sound mental state. Major symptoms for this condition include insomnia and anxiety and stress relates to these symptoms.
In organizational settings, high stress levels among employees may lead to low organizational productivity. Hence, mechanisms of reducing it concern every manager.
For instance, in hospital settings, addressing challenges that may result in high turnover levels among nurses remains crucial to hospitals’ management. Putting in place mechanisms of nurses’ retention is a critical measure for success of any heath institution.
Nursing management scholars consider nursing as one of the stressful professions. For instance, Force (2005) argues that nurses often encounter situations that make them burnout.
Handling injured and sick patients coupled with handling of almost dying people exposes nurses to emotional turmoil, which may result in higher workplace related stresses.
The value of service delivery within any organization depends on the extents of motivation of employees who deliver services to clients. In health facilities settings, nurses are the persons who are always in close contact with service seekers, viz. the patients.
Hence, it is crucial for nursing management to ensure that nurses remain motivated by handling various situations that may render them to having low self-esteem and poor attitude towards their work.
Consequently, if yoga practices can reduce stress levels, it implies that deploying it in the healthcare organizational setting can incredibly help in reducing the effects of turnover rates for nurses associated with burnout.
Burnout constitutes a response to interpersonal coupled with emotional stressors within work environments. It has inefficacy and disparagement coupled with mental and emotional fatigue as its main aspects (Adhia, Nagendra & Mahadevan, 2010).
In particular, work-related burnout has negative implications on the effectiveness of an organization and its workers’ health. Research in organizational management indentifies burnout and discusses its complexity in affecting work relationships, which leads to organizational conflicts.
In organizational settings, the relationship between stress and burnout suggest that yogic practices can offer holistic solutions that can foster its elimination (Adhia, Nagendra & Mahadevan, 2010).
Yoga lifestyle and stress management
From previous discussions, stress is responsible for many challenges encountered by people, both in terms of health and in organizational settings.
This aspect underlines the importance of posing the query on the effectiveness of yogic tendencies in managing stress in an effort to resolve challenges encountered in all lifestyles.
Adhia, Nagendra, and Mahadevan (2010) study on the yoga practices’ contribution in the reduction of burnout-associated stress among managers hypothesize that managers who engage in the practices have higher probabilities of managing burnout more effectively as compared to those who deploy other approaches to mitigate it.
The researchers conducted a controlled experiment involving 120 managers at Birla Cellulose Company, in India. They experimentally measured burnout with the help of standardized questionnaires demanding self-reporting after the administration of yogic practices (Adhia, Nagendra & Mahadevan, 2010).
The main yoga practices given to the people under experiment were spot-jogging, moving hands, and rotation of the body among others. Their experiment indicated that yoga practices reduce stress levels significantly among factory managers. The effect of stress reduction is the diminution of burnout.
The managers involved in the experiment showed improvements in contextualizing their work environment through paying focus on the operations of the organization by virtue of the reduction of concentration on other environmental stressors.
Therefore, the work of Adhia, Nagendra and Mahadevan (2010) challenges human resource managers across all industries to seek for mechanisms of implementing yogic practices within their organizations.
This aspect can help them to manage strenuous environmental conditions effectively to mitigate incidences of workforce’s burnout.
Strenuous stimuli can emanate from exposures to natural calamities. Hypothetically, the administration of yoga exercises to survivors of natural disasters can help to reduce stresses associated with the loss of both lives and property.
Referring to past literature on the effectiveness of yoga in reducing stress associated with exposures to natural calamities, Telles, Singh, Joshi, and Balkrishna (2010) note that research indicates that administering yoga practices to persons, who have experienced natural calamities, can be effective in managing their stress when the practices are done for one week.
The researchers sought to investigate the applicability of this scholarly finding in an Indian context. They administered yoga practices to survivors of the Bihar’s flooding one month after its occurrence in 2008.
The study used a sample of 22 male volunteers between the ages of 34 and39 drawn from a population of 1089 flood survivors. The sample was divided into two. The controlled group proceeded with its normal daily chores. The other group enrolled for yoga practices.
The practices were done for one hour each day, for one week. In a bid to determine the impact of the yoga practices, the researchers measured variability in heart rates for the two groups, their rates of breathing, and emotional distress.
The group undertaking yoga recorded reduced sadness levels, while the controlled group recorded increasing anxiety levels (Telles, Singh, Joshi & Balkrishna, 2010).
This aspect suggested that the controlled group members were likely to experience more stress associated with exposure to natural disasters as compared to that undertaking yoga.
The study by Telles, Singh, Joshi and Balkrishna (2010) suggests that yoga can eliminate negative feelings and thoughts in unconscious memory for people who have experienced natural calamities. Unconscious mind is the second part of the human mind from the perspective of the Freud’s theory of personality.
It acts as the principle storage for all thoughts, memories, and feelings coupled with urges that exist outside people’s conscious awareness. With regard to Fleeson (2004), most contents of the unconscious memory are unpleasant or unacceptable under normal circumstances.
They include feelings of conflict and pain coupled with anxiety among other issues. Emotional pain and anxiety experienced by survivors of natural calamities is most likely to be held in this part of people’s memory, which yoga can effectively remove.
Despite the inadequacy of controlled experimental and empirical studies on the effectiveness of yoga in treating stress, literature on its mechanisms of reducing stress provides sufficient grounds for its ability to constitute a promising way of managing various stress-related health challenges.
This goal can be achieved through the Kundaliniyoga school of thought (Granath, Ingvarsson, Thiele & Lundberg, 2006).
This pedagogy characterizes exercises with stimulation of blood flow coupled with increased blood supply in the brain and the nervous system. Exercises also foster supply of blood in the glands that control the endocrine system (Granath, Ingvarsson, Thiele & Lundberg, 2006).
The increasing concern over yoga to constitute an effective tool for managing stress prompted Chong et al. (2011) to conduct an intensive systematic review of various studies on the deployment of yoga in the management of stress. The focus was mainly on the RCTs and the CCTs.
The study evaluated the studies based on their results’ capacity to lower stress levels coupled with stress-associated symptoms among adults.
The studies reviewed by Chong et al. (2011) indentified various methodological challenges, especially limited availability of follow up information on the capacity of the administered yoga practices, to have completely lowered stress levels in the adults taken through them.
However, in all the studies reviewed, within the duration of administration of the yoga exercises, both male and female adult participants had lowered their stress levels coupled with recording reduced stress-related symptoms.
The identified challenges in the existing studies on yoga and stress management by Chong et al. (2011) highlight the necessity of conducting studies investigating the long-term impacts of the yoga practices coupled with indentifying biological processes, which result in lowering of stresses after administering them.
Granath, Ingvarsson, Thiele, and Lundberg (2006) compared various programs for managing stress with Kundaliyoga. The sample deployed in conducting the research was drawn from a big company in Sweden. Based on gender characteristics, the sample constituted 7 males and 26 females.
Through random selections, for every intervention, there were two groups. Since the main goal was to compare behavioral approaches to stress management and the yoga methodology, there were four groups of participants.
After administering different programs for the two mechanisms of managing stress for four months, based on variables like anger, mental exhaustion, and heart rate, no differences in results were indentified (Granath, Ingvarsson, Thiele & Lundberg, 2006).
Granath, Ingvarsson, Thiele and Lundberg (2006) study suggests that other approaches for managing stress can produce similar results to those realized after the administration of yoga.
This observation invalidates earlier hypothesis that yoga practices produce better results when applied in stress management as compared to other approaches such as cognitive and behaviors approaches to stress management.
Consequently, validations of Adhia, Nagendra, and Mahadevan (2010) finding require further research to determine the condition under which yoga comprises the most promising and superior approach to stress management in organizational settings.
Amid the necessary further research on the application of yoga in the management of stress among organizational executives, research discussed by Adhia, Nagendra and Mahadevan (2010) proves the effectiveness of yoga in the management of anxiety, which entangles a key component of stress.
The study utilized 91 patients drawn from a population of people having anxiety neurosis. The patients were requested to select their preferred treatment approach. Fifty-three (53) selected therapeutic treatment using drugs while 38 selected yoga therapeutic treatment option.
All the 91 patients were tested clinically and psychologically for anxiety before commencement of their respective treatment options. Similar tests were also conducted after completing the respective therapeutic treatments.
Those taking yogic therapy registered decreased anxiety, while ‘locus of control scale’ reflected higher levels of concentration coupled with higher attention. However, these changes were insignificant statistically (Adhia, Nagendra and Mahadevan, 2010).
The group taking drug therapy showed no changes when assessed on a different scale apart from the ‘locus of control scale’.
Arguably, this aspect indicated a possibility of effectiveness of yogic therapeutic interventions in reducing anxiety as confirmed by later studies such as Granath, Ingvarsson, Thiele, and Lundberg (2006) and Telles, Singh, Joshi, and Balkrishna (2010).
While deploying yogic exercises to manage stress, increase stamina, and enhance body flexibility or remedy common aches and pain, their proper administration is incredibly important. For instance, Treven (2010) notes that a vigorous asana lowers nervous energy, but care is vital while taking overdo.
This assertion holds as strenuous exercises lead to exhaustion, which when not well balanced with yogic practices to induce relaxation, may cause higher vata derangement levels.
This situation leads to symptom rebounds. Kapalabhati together with bhastrika may also counter higher levels of vata derangement (Treven, 2010). Reducing vata derangement requires yogic exercises like Malasana and Sarvagasana.
Pratyahara comprises an important yogic practice in stress management. Adhia, Nagendra, and Mahadevan (2010) argue that although people may not notice, auditory coupled with visual stimulations cause a large variety of stresses in the current world.
This stimulation emanates from cell phone vibrations, glaring at computers and television screens, street traffic noises, and interaction with other gadgets meant to make life comfortable.
Consistent breaks from these stimulations using the yogic concept of Pratyahara may help in reducing stresses instigated by these stimulations. Hence, by deploying yogic practices effectively and repeatedly, it may become possible to deal with social, physical, and environmental stressors proactively.
Yoga entails an effective approach for the management of stress. Conducting yoga practices enable people to manage stressing situations effectively at both mental and physical levels. Based on the discussions on the use of yoga in managing stress, it functions at intellectual levels, subconscious levels, and physical levels.
Although predominately employed in ancient India to induce stamina, its capacity to reduce stress in individuals makes it find applications in therapeutic interventions in medical settings to treat ailments associated with stress, and reduce risks factors for ailments whose symptoms are marked by anxiety and aches, which are also indicators of stress.
Researches discussed in this paper indicate a positive correlation between yogic practices and low stress levels.
Nevertheless, long-term research is critical to ascertain if the practices result in a permanent treatment for stress, or they should be done routinely to achieve long-term results in management of stress. Nevertheless, all people should practice yoga to attain the related benefits as espoused in this paper.
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