Unfortunately, stress makes an appearance in all of our lives regularly. It could be the day-to-day responsibilities of caring for children and working full-time that trigger it. It could also be what’s going on in the world. 76% of respondents in an American Psychological Association study said that the future of our nation was a significant source of stress for them.
It’s hard to hear that people feel so stressed so often. But the good news is that there is a way to navigate it healthily. There are many ways to do so, one of those being yoga.
Before we dive into the benefits of using yoga to manage stress and how to go about incorporating it into your life, let’s touch on why stress management is so crucial.
We can all count on stress to make a constant appearance in our lives. Anything that threatens our physical, mental, or emotional health can trigger our body’s sympathetic nervous system and the release of stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline. Then, we go into fight or flight mode to escape the danger.
We can’t escape stress completely. But stress management is crucial because chronic stress can lead to serious issues like high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease. Symptoms of various mental health conditions can worsen. Isolation and low-self esteem are common. And it can lead to destructive behaviors like substance abuse.
With the harm stress can do to your mental and physical health in mind, combating it is crucial. That’s where yoga can help.
Yoga is a discipline that involves controlled breathing, simple meditation, and other mindfulness practices that support a process of self-discovery, physical transformation, and emotional stability.
Its practices help you calm your mind and body and center yourself, something so crucial for immediate stress relief and long-term management. Let’s look at how your mind and body benefit from using yoga for stress relief in more detail below.
Stress can do some pretty nasty things to our minds. For one, if you’re already living with a mental health condition like anxiety or depression, stress can exacerbate your symptoms and send you into severe anxiety or depressive episodes.
Also, stress can do a number on your self-esteem. You start to feel so overwhelmed that you’re hopeless and lose confidence in yourself to be able to move through what you’re experiencing. Your mindset becomes inherently negative and it’s hard to come back from that.
Yoga promotes mental clarity and stability. So, it can help you keep any symptoms of mental health conditions in check. And as you get better at yoga and master more poses, your self-esteem will improve and your mindset will grow in a more positive direction.
We briefly mentioned the physical effects of stress. For one thing, the likelihood of developing chronic illnesses increases. Headaches, difficulty sleeping, muscle tension, chest pain, and exhaustion are also typical. So are digestive problems like Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) where you experience symptoms such as gas and bloating, heartburn, and difficulty swallowing.
One of the main things that makes GERD worse is stress. This is because stress can increase acid production in the stomach, aggravating the condition. As you relieve your stress with yoga, you can lessen the chances of GERD flair-ups.
Also, yoga, generally, can help you maintain physical fitness. You become stronger and more in tune with your body, thus helping with the physical effects of stress mentioned above.
The first step to using yoga for stress management is committing to it. Yes, doing yoga as needed when a stressful situation arises can be impactful. But the best results come from practicing yoga consistently. That’s how it’ll become a long-term stress management technique.
You should also think about whether you want to do self-led yoga or join a group with a certified yoga instructor. The latter might benefit you more if you’re a beginner and want to learn how to safely use yoga for stress management. But which one you choose depends on your needs and familiarity with yoga.
Finally, it’s a good idea to research the different styles of yoga. Some of the most common include:
We can’t say that one is better than another to manage stress because what helps someone navigate stress differs from person to person. So, it’s best to try a few styles and see which one helps you most.
If you’re simply looking for yoga poses to do when you’re feeling stressed, we’ve got you covered. Try some of these poses when stress strikes:
You can Google these poses to see them in action in videos and ensure you’re doing them correctly. You can also search for additional poses that are best for stress relief.
Stress will get us all at some point. Make sure you’ve got a coping mechanism like yoga in place so that it doesn’t alter your quality of life.
By Katie Brenneman
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