How Yoga Can Help With Stress
Whether it’s the tightness of your shoulders after a stressful day at work or the soreness from family problems, yoga can help. Try a gentle or restorative style of yoga, which is slower paced and less strenuous on the body.
Regular yoga practice trains the autonomic nervous system to become more adaptable, reducing stress responses. It also fosters self-compassion and a deep connection between the mind and body.
Focus on Breathing
Yoga helps calm the nervous system, which is triggered by stress and can cause a host of health problems, including heart disease, high blood pressure and headaches. Practicing yoga can reduce your body’s secretion of cortisol, the hormone that contributes to these conditions.
A large part of a yoga practice involves deep breathing and meditation techniques. Deep breaths, referred to as pranayama in yoga, help relieve stress and calm the mind. A common technique is to focus on the rising and falling of your abdomen as you inhale and exhale. This type of meditation is known as mindfulness.
Yoga focuses on the unity of the body, mind and breathing, making it one of the most effective practices to improve mental health and reduce stress. However, it’s important to find a qualified yoga instructor to ensure you’re receiving the most benefits from your routine.
Practicing yoga can help with anxiety by reducing your stress levels. In addition to its health and fitness benefits, yoga has been shown to decrease the secretion of cortisol, the stress hormone.
Cortisol is one of the body’s main stress hormones and has been shown to negatively affect your mood and lead to a host of health concerns including gastrointestinal problems, sleep problems, high blood pressure, fatigue, and cognitive issues. When you are under stress, your nervous system kicks into overdrive and you find yourself tense in the shoulders, back, thighs, and hips. Yoga can help to ease these tight muscles by stretching and relaxing the body.
In addition, many of the poses in yoga require you to breathe deeply which helps to calm the nervous system. This also increases the connection between your mind and body, which can aid in calming your emotions. Plus, many yoga sessions end with five to ten minutes of savasana or corpse pose, which is perfect for allowing the mind and body to fully relax.
Reduce Stress Responses
The way in which yoga combines movement, breathwork, and mindfulness makes it one of the most therapeutic types of exercise for stress relief. You don’t even need to climb on a mat to reap its benefits, as studies show that you can use yogic techniques in other settings, like on your commute or while sitting at your desk.
When you feel stress, your brain triggers a fight or flight response that floods the body with hormones that heighten senses, increase heart rate and blood pressure, and focus the mind’s attention. This can cause physical pain, especially in the neck, back, and shoulders.
Yoga helps reduce stress by triggering the parasympathetic nervous system, which causes physical relaxation and calmness. This is partially because yoga increases levels of psychosocial resources, such as mindfulness, spiritual well-being, interoceptive awareness, and self-control.
Many people find that a regular yoga practice helps them sleep better. This is a good thing, as getting enough sleep makes you more resilient to stress and enables you to manage emotions more effectively.
Like all exercise, yoga improves mood by reducing levels of the hormone cortisol and increasing the production of mood-boosting chemicals called endorphins. It also increases activity of a brain chemical known as GABA, which is linked to stress reduction.
One of the most important aspects of yoga is learning how to calm your mind and be present in the moment, a technique that can help reduce stress and anxiety. The slow, rhythmic movements of yoga help to induce a meditative state and a focus on breathing can promote relaxation. It also teaches you how to recognize and release negative thoughts that can cause stress, such as self-criticism and judgment. A yoga practice can also foster self-compassion, which can improve resilience to stress and anxiety.