Stress and stress-related disorders are emerging as a major health challenge. In the classical stress concept, stress can be broadly defined as an actual or anticipated disruption of homeostasis by certain physical and psychological events that are known as ‘stressors’. Prolonged exposure to stress can lead to a destructive, self-perpetuating cascade of neuroendocrine, metabolic and neuropsychological alterations that play an important role in the development and progression of cardio-vascular disease (CVD) like hypertension. Dysregulation of stress system is causally linked to pathogenesis of essential hypertension, which involves over activity of hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis (HPA) and sympathoadrenal system (SAS) and resetting of baroreceptors as the underlying pathophysiological mechanisms. Evidence suggests that regular practice of yogasanas and pranayama appears to cause down-regulation of the HPA axis and the sympathetic nervous system (SNS), increases vagal activity, improves baroreceptor sensitivity, and thereby helps to reduce blood pressure. Although the exact mechanism of beneficial effects of yoga are not known, evidence suggests that yogic intervention may be acting through multiple mechanisms simultaneously influencing diverse neural structures involved in the regulation of the neuroendocrine and the cardiovascular response to stress to cause neurohumoral modulations resulting in alleviation of stress and improvement in cardiovascular indices.
Part of the book: Effects of Stress on Human Health