Stress response is a normal part of life, and it can even benefit us in quite a number of ways, especially when it comes to managing our daily routines as well as responding to emergency situations. However, if we allow stress to accumulate too much in our bodies, then we run the risk of developing a number of physical and mental conditions that could drastically affect our quality of life in the long run. Some could end up being serious enough to cut our lifespan short. Heart problems, strokes, and other such conditions come to mind.
That being said, there are many ways to minimize stress, with one of the most popular being the practice of yoga. The Western idea of yoga, which is derived from the body of Hindu theistic and philosophical practices developed in ancient India, is a form of exercise that involves putting your body through stances and poses that help improve your flexibility, balance, muscle utility, and even peace of mind. Some look simple enough to do, while others look like they require a bit more skill and flexibility to pull off. You can see some of these yoga poses here for your reference: www.yogabaron.com/yoga-poses.
While we can easily infer that yoga does indeed help you become more flexible and have a better sense of balance, is it actually effective when it comes to helping us de-stress and clearing our minds? The answer to this is yes. Here are some of the major ways that yoga can do both of those things, while also improving your overall fitness and health in a low-impact and meditative way.
It helps your body relax and release tension
When you practice yoga with the correct forms and techniques, while also taking care to only do poses at your actual skill level, it can be one of the most soothing experiences that you can put your body through. While some poses such as forward bends and inversions may seem strenuous, the fact remains that they allow your body's muscles to move and stretch in ways that they usually don't, such as when you're on your feet at work or sitting behind a desk. This gives those muscles an opportunity to relax and release the tension that's been built up inside of them, which then in turn results in a calming and soothing sensation you can feel all over.
It helps your mind slow down and focus on the moment
Our day-to-day activities often force our minds to go into overdrive just to keep up. From managing coworkers and family members to juggling deadlines and personal goals, we get so preoccupied with so many things during the day that we are left with a lot of anxiety and mental stress by the time we're supposed to retire for the night. It can come to the point that we can't even focus on relaxing or falling asleep—our brains are continuously going at a hundred miles per hour even when we close our eyes.
Just like how yoga gives your body's muscles a chance to relax and loosen after a long and tiring day, so too does it help your mind slow down and center on the here and now. It does this by making you focus on your posture and balance, and letting you become keenly aware about your breathing and what your body is feeling at the moment. All this, while you're in the peaceful confines of a yoga studio or in your own home, puts you in a meditative state that quiets your anxiety and helps you calm down. Do this enough times and you can train your mind to let go of the day's stresses and troubles before you hit the hay, allowing you to get that restful sleep you need.
It helps you improve your breathing
You may not notice it, but being constantly stressed and having no outlet for that stress makes you breathe shallowly and rapidly. While this is usually enough to give the human body the oxygen it needs to function, it also has the side effect of making the body think that it is in danger, and as such, it can lead to a buildup of anxiety. Obviously, this can affect your ability to relax.
Practicing yoga regularly helps you perform deep and slow breathing, the type that allows you to utilize the full capacity of your lungs and diaphragm. In doing so, you get a lot more oxygen into your bloodstream, which allows you to focus better and generally feel a whole lot better as well. Deep and slow breathing also helps you relax by forcing you to slow down and focus on the here and now, like a light version of meditation.
It helps you understand yourself better
Another way that yoga can help you de-stress and clear your mind is to make you keenly aware of how your mind works through introspection. As mentioned earlier, our daily lives are often so busy that our perception is always focused outwards, on what is happening to us. It doesn't really give us a chance to focus on ourselves for a bit, on how we respond to stress and the world in general.
One example scenario is when your current Yoga session asks you to do a particularly challenging pose. Being a beginner at this pose, you will no doubt face difficulty in easing into it. From there, you can examine yourself and how you respond to such a challenge. Do you curse and swear at yourself for not being able to get it right the first time? Or perhaps you direct your frustration towards the pose itself, on how you feel that it's unreasonably difficult? Or maybe you address the challenge in a healthy manner, recognizing your limitations while also keeping in mind that with enough practice and dedication, you too can pull that posture off effortlessly.
Whatever the answer, the key here is that we are made aware of it. In doing so, we can figure out if how we respond to stress actually makes things worse rather than improve our condition. This allows us to understand ourselves better, and in turn, develop ways and strategies that can help us cope with stress easier.
It helps release stress through physical activity
Just like with other forms of exercise, doing yoga regularly and correctly floods your body with mood-enhancing endorphins. Moreover, the fact that this particular exercise system emphasizes working with muscles and joints means that certain body parts where stress-related pains are often felt—such as the neck, shoulders, and hips—are allowed to relax and unclench, which can help provide a palpable sensation of relaxation and catharsis. All this is a potent combination that massively helps in de-stressing.
Yoga: an exercise system devoted to removing stress from your life
It can be easy to pass off yoga as some sort of new-age fad. However, the unassailable fact of it is that it gives us the tools and methods necessary to temporarily remove ourselves from our hectic and toxic lives. Done correctly and regularly, yoga can help anyone, even the most stressed and high-strung of us all, find an inner peace and calm that will undoubtedly improve our health and well-being for days to come.
Best of all, it doesn't take or cost much to get started on yoga to get the relaxation and de-stressing benefits listed above—all we need is an empty and quiet room, a mat, and information about yoga that we can freely access online, such as from websites like Yogabaron. Just remember to take it easy and warm up beforehand, though!
Written by Guest Author for The Healthy Moms Magazine and legally licensed through the Matcha publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.