Stress is a natural part of life, but it can be hard to manage. Yoga can help. We all know that yoga helps you relieve tension in your body, which provides relief from stress and anxiety. However, there are other benefits to practicing yoga too! In this blog post, we’ll share how yoga can help with your stress levels and tell you how it might do the same for you.
In addition to being a great way to release built-up tension in the muscles, studies show that when done on a regular basis (3 times per week) yoga also reduces cortisol levels and improves moods by lowering blood pressure and heart rate through deep relaxation techniques like meditation. As an added bonus these practices have been shown to improve sleep quality, balance hormone production, and improve the immune system as well.
However, yoga practice is not only stress-relieving in itself, it can also make you more adaptable to stressful situations in general. A recent study by the University of California at Berkeley showed that subjects who engaged in daily yoga were less affected by anxiety-provoking stimuli than those who did not partake in yoga. Yoga has been shown to increase GABA levels (the neurotransmitter responsible for alleviating anxiety) and decrease cortisol levels (your body’s main stress hormone).
By strengthening your parasympathetic nervous system through stretching and deep breathing exercises, long-term yoga practitioners are better able to handle stressful situations. In addition to reducing activity in the hypothalamus area of your brain, yoga helps to increase the GABA levels in your brain, making it easier for you to cope with stress by reducing anxiety and improving sleep quality.
When practiced on a regular basis yoga can make you more comfortable with being uncomfortable; perfect for those who experience high levels of stress during times of change or transition.
Effects of Yoga on our body and mind:
- Increases our body awareness and the ability to relax
- Decreases blood pressure, heart rate, and oxygen consumption
- Strengthens our back muscles
- Improves balance and concentration
- Enhances creativity through meditation
- Gives us a general feeling of peace and well-being.
How to start Yoga as a stress-reliever?
A great way to get started with yoga is by choosing a class that’s right for you. Group classes are a great introduction but can be intimidating if it’s your first time. First-time yoga students should choose small group or private sessions in order to get more personalized instruction from the teacher and build confidence when practicing on their own.
The following poses are easy enough to do at home without any experience because they follow a simple step-by-step progression. Go slowly and don’t force yourself into positions – just breathe deeply as you move through each one. As you become more comfortable, try out more advanced variations!
Cat-Cow: Begin on hands and knees with shoulders over wrists, back flat, and head neutral. Inhale as you arch the spine, lifting the head up and tucking your chin toward your chest. Then exhale to round your upper back and tuck your tailbone under towards heels. Start by doing 10 of each movement, then do 5 rounds with 1-2 breaths between rounds.
Yoga Mudra: Made famous by The Beatles in the 1960s, this mudra is more than just a fun hand shape! Close hands into fists, stacking middle fingers on top of one another with palms facing outwards. Place fists at the heart center in front of the left breastbone so that the knuckles touch slightly below the sternum (right above where your rib cage ends). Relax every part of your body, starting at the top of your head and working all the way down to your toes. If you get distracted close your eyes and bring attention back to your breathing. Continue this for 3-5 minutes, or until you notice a shift in your thoughts or emotions – then let go of the mudra and hold hands with both palms facing up. Remain seated for 5 breaths, inhaling deeply through your nose and exhaling fully through your mouth.
Table Top: Start by kneeling on a padded surface with knees directly under hips, heels about an inch off the floor (or use a yoga block if uncomfortable). Slowly lower upper body onto forearms so that shoulders are directly over wrists and forehead is resting on the floor.
Child’s Pose: slowly move onto your knees, rest head on the floor, and place hands underneath your body with palms facing up.
Shoulder Stand: Start lying on back with knees bent, feet flat, and arms at sides. Interlace fingers behind the neck (or hold a yoga strap if you prefer) and slowly extend legs into the air until they’re perpendicular to the ground. Bend elbows slightly and press them against the lower rib cage to relieve any pressure in the neck or upper back. In order to stay here for a few minutes taking deep breaths into your belly while consciously relaxing all of the muscles in your upper body, face, jaw, scalp… While planted firmly on earth allow yourself to imagine that you are floating freely high above it – this will help you relax and open both the mind and body.
Use your new mindful breathing techniques to bring yourself back into the present moment! Notice how you feel emotionally, physically, and mentally at that very moment. If you’re practicing yoga in a group session, try not to make any big decisions for approximately one hour after practice. Instead, meditate on what went well or didn’t go so well during your session.
Doing this before making any new plans will help you to make better choices for yourself because you’ll be more aware of what kind of mood you are in at that very moment!
If you’re looking for a way to manage your stress, consider adding yoga to your life. Yoga combines many popular stress-reducing techniques, including exercise and learning to control the breath, clear the mind, and relax the body. As more people learn about how much of an impact it has on their lives as well as the benefits, they can experience from practicing regularly over time (according to research), we expect that this ancient practice will continue gaining popularity in our modern world. One of the best ways to start is with a beginner-level class or routine designed specifically for those who are stressed out but don’t have enough time. Give it a try! Please share any thoughts on this blog post below.
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