Home Health 5 ways that yoga can help with stress

5 ways that yoga can help with stress

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Breathing

Being aware of how you breathe, and practicing slow deep breathing, activates your Parasympathetic System. In some yoga disciplines, you might be using different types of breath-work to get a more conscious response around triggering the Sympathetic System, using techniques such as breath retention. These types of exercises don’t feel relaxing at the time of doing them – but training your brain to have conscious control over a perceived threat allows you to have a more controlled stress response in everyday situations.

Meditation

Meditating is a key part of yoga; not only traditional seated meditation but also during the practice when essentially yoga is meditation as movement. When we are focusing on our breathing and turning our attention inwards during practice, we are also reaping the benefits of meditation as we go.

Meditation helps us to get to know ourselves better. With regular mediation practice, we are more likely to become aware of any ingrained subconscious ‘markers’ that have defined how we act and react to situations. Once we notice them, we have more power to start to be able to take charge of them.

Chanting

Love it or hate it, chanting is part of Yoga, even if it is just the occasional ‘Ohm’. Chanting itself is ancient – all modern music is based on it and the general consensus is that for most of us, there is at least one type of music that just hearing makes us feel good. A study looking into the effects of chanting on wellbeing found that chanting in a group increased feelings of social cohesion, and that chanting in general “… focused attention, which may inhibit ruminative thinking and lead to increased positive mood.”

Furthermore, studies into chanting and wellbeing have found that chanting increases positive mood and that the vibration in the vocal chords when chanting ‘Ohm’ stimulates the Parasympathetic System – getting us nice and relaxed.

Philosophy

As we are talking about how yoga can help stress – it would be remiss not to mention philosophy and history.

Any amount of reading that takes you beyond the yoga poses and into the ancient traditions pretty much shows why so many people are drawn to practicing yoga as an escape from our busy modern lives. Yoga wasn’t (and isn’t) always the purely physical practice that is prevalent in Western culture today, and the core principle of not causing suffering in yourself or others is still very much alive. Stress is probably one of the biggest self-induced sufferings that modern people put upon themselves.

And, if you started to consider bringing the concepts of the Yamas (don’t hurt anything, be truthful, be happy with what you have, look after what you have and don’t be greedy) and the Niyamas (be clean, be content, keep learning and give everything 100%) into your day-to-day life; you would find navigating your way through the tricky decisions that we need to make in everyday life a lot less stressful.

Can yoga cause stress?

Yoga, like anything else, can be added to ‘the list’ of things you need to do each day. The more obsessive/compulsive types amongst us start to feel anxiety if they haven’t ‘done their yoga’ for the day which can cause additional stress.

We can push ourselves too hard and even cause physical injury. We should always work at a level that feels right – focus on alignment over full posture – and don’t do anything that hurts. Practicing acceptance and gratitude at the end of each session allows us to let go of any negative emotions, recognise our achievements and give ourselves a well-earned pat on the back for just turning up.

“Yoga is not about touching your toes, it’s about what you learn on the way down.” — Jigar Gor

To sum up, for me, practicing yoga is probably the one thing I can do that can pretty much guarantee I will see life from a much better perspective. And the more I practice, the more chilled, happy, and nice to be around I am.

And when I was trying to figure out what to write about today, instead of staring out the window and chewing anxiously on the end of a pencil – I should have taken a deep breath, and rolled out the mat.

“Yoga allows you to find an inner peace that is not ruffled and riled by the endless stresses and struggles of life” – BKS Iyengar.

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