By Dr Chandra Nanthakumar

The advancement of technology has bourgeoned over the past decade so much so that both adults and children are constantly being exposed to the state-of-the-art machinery. Even though media technologies such as the computers and cell phones are knowledge resources for all, their intense use has become worrying as there appears to be a regression in physical activities amongst the users, and this lack of mobility has been associated with various kinds of health issues [1].

On the contrary, expectations set by the learning institutions are higher. Today, learning and teaching do not only happen during school hours but continue after school hours. Teachers no longer relish lengthy school holiday breaks while students, on the other hand, are constantly surfing the web to look for current information for their assignments, reports… and the list goes on.

Malaysian students' mental health problems is on rise

In the homefront, parents unwittingly exert pressure on their children to excel in their studies. However, when children do not perform well, to some extent their level of confidence is affected, and this in turn, can bring about unnecessary worry and distress in them.

In the mean time, parents and teachers may choose to ignore tell-tale signs of mental stress in the children and continue to add pressure in the hope of making them competitive. Sleep is often compromised when children are unable to meet deadlines set by the authorities in schools or other learning institutions. Research has shown that when teens are deprived of sleep, they get anxious or stressed.[1]

According to the Ministry of Health in Malaysia, mental health problems are on the rise amongst Malaysian students. It used to be one in 10 individuals in 2011, but it has increased to one in five in 2016 [2].

It has been revealed that anxiety and depression are the main causes of mental health problems amongst students. Amongst the many types of mental health issues, anxiety disorder appears to be a common mental health condition. One of the main reasons why so many are inflicted with these ailments is because the body has succumbed to it.

It is imperative that not only teenagers but also adults be made aware of ways of beating stress and overcoming anxiety, and not allow these disorders to rule and wreck their lives. Research has revealed that mind-body cognitive therapy, mindful awareness and mind-body movements like yoga are effective in reducing cortisol concentrations, hence enhancing one’s mood and well-being [3, 4, 5, 6].

Yoga improve physical and emotional health

Yoga, which is an ancient practice, is one of the most popular mind-body disciplines. Pragmatic in its approach, yoga allows individuals to concentrate on the rungs that are beneficial to them and pay less attention to the others. These rungs, according to Patanjali’s classification, are yama (universal ethics), niyama (individual ethics), asana (postures), pranayama (expansion of life force), pratyahara (withdrawal of senses), dharana (concentration), dhyana (meditation) and Samadhi (state of bliss).

Yoga has been used as a complementary therapy for various physiological diseases and psychological disorders. Research does seem to indicate that it brings about multiple benefits in terms of improving flexibility and losing weight, but more importantly, enhancing one’s emotional and psychosocial health. Studies have revealed that stress reactivity is related to blood pressure readings, levels of adiposity and negative behaviours [7, 8, 9]. Children and adults not only face intellectual challenges at schools and workplace, respectively, but also interpersonal demands which may entail highly-developed self-regulation skills such as mindfulness, resilience and anger control. While there may be other solutions, the practice of yoga undeniably affords the opportunity to develop these skills.

Evidence from research maintains that a variety of yoga techniques can result in positive effects in an individual’s physical and also mental health through the down-regulation of the hypo-thalamo pituitary adrenal axis and sympathetic nervous system [10, 11].

Woodyard [12] reported that yogic practices encompassing asanas, pranayama and mindfulness/meditation sessions bring about a calming effect to the mind, thus diminishing stress and anxiety levels.

The restorative postures, shavasana (corpse pose), and pranayama lull one into a state of pratyahara, which enables downtime for the nervous system. Hence, it is clear that the practice of yoga brings about mind-body awareness, self–regulation and physical fitness, which in turn leads to improved behaviour, and mental, physical and emotional health.

As I see it, practising yoga is a cost-effective way in dealing with stress and its related disorders. All of us would be able to keep stress out of the way and doctors at bay if we include yoga in our daily schedule. Quote of the day: Beat stress before it beats you!


  1. Hagen, I. & Nayar,U.S. (2014). Yoga for children and young people’s mental health and well-being: Research review and reflections on the mental health potentials of yoga. Frontiers in Psyc. 5(35):1-6.
  2. Bernama. (2016). Mental health of Malaysian students cause of worry: Health Ministry. [Accessed 2017-03-10].
  3. Sharma M. (2014). Yoga as an alternative and complementary approach for stress management: A Systematic Review. J Evid-based Complement & Alternat Med.19(1):59-67.
  4. Kirkwood G., Rampes H., Tuffrey V., Richardson J. & Pilkington K. (2005). Yoga for anxiety: A systematic review of the research evidence. Br J Sports Med. 39(12):884-91.
  5. Li Aw, & Goldsmith C.A. (2012). The effects of yoga on anxiety and stress. Altern Med Rev. 17(1):21-35.
  6. Chong C.S., Tsunaka M., Tsang H.W., Chan E.P., & Cheung W.M.. (2011). Effects of yoga on stress management in healthy adults: A systematic review. Altern Ther Health Med. 17(1): 32-38.
  7. Roemmich JN, Smith JR, Epstein LH, Lambiase M. (2007). Stress reactivity and adiposity of youth. Obesity. 15(9): 2303-2310.
  8. Boyce W.T., Quas J., Alkon A. et al. (2001). Autonomy reactivity and psychopathology in middle childhood. Br J Psychiatry. 179: 144-150.