The overwhelming presence of the Internet, increasing competition, peer pressure, the breakdown of the joint family structure, escalating parental expectations, changing climate, and the parents’ lack of time due to high job and social demands are all contributing to an exponential increase in stress among children.
Stress can manifest in various ways: irritability, frustration, disobedience, anger, poor academic performance, frequent illnesses, and more. Mental health morbidities among adolescents were at 7.3% in 2017, and have risen to 12.1% by 2022, according to studies conducted by the National Institute of Mental Health and Sciences (NIMHANS). Mental health conditions account for 18% of the global burden of disease in individuals aged 10 to 19 years.
Mental health issues begin at an early age, usually between 5 and 8 years, and gradually progress to a troubled state between 9 and 15. It is a gradual process that is not immediately noticeable until it becomes severe. While many children suffer from stress and mental illnesses, a much larger number are unable to realize their full potential.
Physiology of Stress
Physiology of Stress: Now, let us delve into the physiology of stress. The Autonomous Nervous System (ANS) serves as the master control center for all involuntary functions in the body. It oversees over a million concurrent functions and is divided into two parts: the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems.
The sympathetic nervous system, also considered a “fight or flight” system, helps in activating physiological responses to high-stress situations. It enhances blood flow to skeletal muscles and lungs. It shuts down many body processes that are not urgent thus diverting the energy to combat the threat from outside. It diverts blood flow away from the gastrointestinal tract and skin and accelerates heartbeat and respiration.
The parasympathetic nervous system brings about “rest and digestion”, it promotes deep relaxation by slowing down heart rate and facilitating digestion.
Unfortunately, our physiology does not discern whether a threat is real or imagined. In today’s perpetually stressed environment for children, the body predominantly remains in the sympathetic nervous system mode, while the parasympathetic nervous system is not adequately activated. This imbalance between the two systems leads to high-stress levels and eventually results in both mental and physical ailments.
So, the scientists conclude for optimal mind-body health the balance between the sympathetic and parasympathetic systems is needed. It is known that inhalation stimulates the sympathetic nervous system while exhalation stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system. If this can be carried out with awareness, we have a perfect solution to the most difficult problem of mankind. Understood well early in life it can be the magical solution to stress and therefore all diseases and thus promotion of perfect health.
Yoga is precisely that solution. Understanding the mechanics of stress thousands of years ago, Indians devised a highly advanced technology that requires no equipment or any other aids. Through practicing breathing with awareness, one can ensure physical, mental, emotional, and even spiritual well-being.
Finally, let us evaluate the efficacy of Yoga in the context of ‘Quantum Science’ and ‘Epigenetics’, which represent the two latest frontiers in modern science opening new vistas in mind/body medicine.
The brain is plastic, influenced by thoughts, feelings, choices, and most important, self-awareness. The latest research in Quantum Medicine suggests mind is creating the brain as the brain is creating the mind. Epigenetics (the science has since gone beyond genetics) has proven beyond doubt that it is not only our genes but the “gene expression” that determines our health. Both Quantum Science and Epigenetics show us that the methods of Yoga are super effective in promoting perfect health.
In conclusion, the solution lies in instilling a correct understanding and practice of Yoga in children, by amalgamating ancient wisdom with the latest insights offered by modern science. This organization is precisely working towards achieving this, a rarity in the current landscape.