Stress is an international epidemic that can suck the joy out of life and cause conditions such as migraines, insomnia, osteoporosis, and heart disease.
You don’t have to be the victim of your stressful lifestyle however. There are several ways you can reduce your stress level and mitigate the harmful effect it can have on your health.
One of these ways is yoga.
How Yoga Can Decrease Your Stress And Agitation
Sanskrit, an ancient language from India where yoga has been practiced for many years. The goals of the practice are to not only improve your physical health but to encourage a connection to a higher consciousness.
According to an article written in the International Journal of Gynecology & Obstetrics in 2009, yoga reduced stress in a test group of pregnant women by almost 35%. These women had practiced yoga and deep breathing exercises for one hour daily for the duration of the study.
The control group, on the other hand, who just did regular prenatal exercises, saw their stress increase by almost 7%. This just goes to show the immense power of yoga in reducing stress levels.
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How Yoga Works To Decrease Your Stress
To understand how yoga can help you to de-stress, you need to understand just how stress damages your body.
When you’re relaxed, the brain slowly releases a hormone called cortisol which helps your muscles work effectively.
However, if you’re experiencing a highly stressful situation, your body begins to rapidly release cortisol. This would be ok if your body needed it to heal something serious like a broken bone. But when you’re just stressed without any serious physical injury, that cortisol becomes harmful. The extra cortisol in your system can lead to stomach ulcers, high blood pressure and weight gain.
Your nervous system is made up of several parts. One of them is known as the sympathetic branch. Also known as the “fight or flight” state, it becomes is activated when you’re stressed. The other branch is called the parasympathetic branch or the “rest and digest” state.
It’s the part of the nervous system that controls your daily functions. If you want to de-stress, this is the part of the system you need to activate. Controlling your breathing patterns, through yoga, can help you do that.
The Benefits Of Yoga
Yoga Improves Your Breathing
When you’re in a stressful situation, your breathing-rate increases. This can deny the body of much needed oxygen and cause additional stress on your internal organs.
One of the ancient yogis’ greatest discoveries was the link between breathing and physical health. The yogic breath is deep and slow. The lungs become filled with life-giving oxygen and the body is replenished. Yoga teaches you to breathe through the nose, which naturally induces the body’s respiratory rate to slow down. Nasal breathing also filters the incoming air.
Breathing deeply and slowly calms you down. Studies show that slower, deeper breaths are much better at drawing oxygen into the body and not releasing more carbon dioxide (CO2) than is desirable.
Yoga Releases Tension
When you’re stressed, the muscles in your shoulders neck and back become tense. Yoga poses are great for loosening you up in those areas and giving you a sense of ease and relaxation. Though many of the poses tend to focus on the back, neck, shoulders and legs, other parts of the body can benefit from them too.
It truly is a full-body experience.
How To Get The Most Out Of Yoga
Be In The Moment
When we’re stressed, we’re often thinking about what we need to be doing in the future or regretting something we did or didn’t do in the past.
When you’re doing yoga, think about what’s happening to your body, mind and soul in the present moment. Focus your mind on breathing in and out slowly and stretching your body as far as you can.
When you train your mind to be in the present moment more often, your powers of concentration will intensify. This will help you to better deal with those inevitable stressful situations that pop up in your life.
Do What You Can
Many of us think of yoga as just being about stretching ourselves into complicated pretzel-shaped poses. Some of us even become intimidated by these complex yoga poses and decide that it’s not right for our fitness level.
But yoga is all about the present moment. It teaches you to start where you are in terms of your fitness level. There are simple yoga poses that are meant for beginner yogis. As you continue the practice, you’ll find that your body will become stronger and you’ll be able to attempt the advanced poses that require more flexibility.
Yoga’s ability to reduce stress increases with daily practice. Here are some poses you can try to help you reduce the harmful effects of stress in your life:
Lower Back Stretch
- Sit a couple inches from a wall with your legs crossed
- Reach for the wall, stretching from the lower back. Keep your back flat
- Crawl your fingers up the wall
- Lift and separate your shoulder blades. Try not to tense your shoulders
- Rest and repeat as many times as you can
- Stand close to a wall. Bend over and put your hands on the wall at waist height. Your hands should be shoulder width apart
- Walk back until your legs are directly under your hips
- Press your hands into the wall as though you’re trying to push it over
- Stretch your spine as far as you can and try to keep your knees and elbows straight
- Stay in the pose for 30 to 45 seconds. When you’re ready to release the pose, walk toward the wall
Keep doing yoga consistently and you’ll soon find yourself living stress-free and getting the most out of your life. Go out and join a class today!
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