According to the American Psychological Association, stress levels are increasing, yet a sizeable portion of the population says they’re not doing enough to manage their stress. This can lead to anxiety disorders. Considering 40 million American adults are affected by anxiety every year, yet only about 37 percent seek treatment, this is a subject that begs for discussion.
Feeling stressed and anxious no longer needs to be a way of life. Whether you seek the assistance of healing essential oils or the benefits of yoga, you are in control of your health and destiny.
The Healing Power of Yoga
One 2017 study found that mind-body interventions, including yoga, do more than relax us.
With the ability to “reverse” molecular reactions in your DNA — more specifically, the effects of anxiety and stress on your body — these interventions enhance overall wellbeing.
Just some of the benefits of yoga include:
• The ability to relax your body and mind, combating stress at the source
• Becoming more aware of yourself, including potential anxiety triggers
• Learning how to breathe effectively, promoting a calming effect whenever needed.
Nervous System Regulation
Nowadays we hear a lot about how important it is to keep our stress levels in check. This relates directly to the nervous system and how revved up we allow ourselves to get on a day-to-day basis.
Paying special attention to breath with movement and learning ujjayi breath will strengthen your autonomic nervous system (the “rest and digest” system). The meditation and breathing techniques used in yoga classes can interrupt patterns of unhealthy, shallow breathing. When practiced on a regular basis, yoga conditions us to breathe properly both in and outside of our practice — and this means a calmer, less reactive nervous system.
Any style of yoga will help regulate and balance the nervous system as a whole. Studies show that while vigorous exercise does rev up the nervous system temporarily, it allows for a much calmer physical state in the hours following a workout.
Adrenal health is one of the most underrated health topics — particularly in this technology-driven culture that has developed around us. While it may seem impossible to avoid screens, research shows a troubling trend that technology can trigger a prolonged stress response. This stress response, if repeatedly triggered for extended periods of time, can cause a cascade of biochemical and hormonal imbalances in both men and women. The adrenals lie at the center of this issue, as these tiny glands control cortisol release and help you manage stress. The problem arises when we spend most of our days releasing cortisol – checking stressful emails, dealing with rude people, managing rowdy children, paying bills, etc. Before you know it, your entire day was spent in a cortisol-releasing stress response without you even realizing it.
The more exhausted and depleted you feel, the more gentle and restorative your yoga practice should be in the beginning. As you learn to interrupt the stress response and your energy levels return, you can then get into more vigorous yoga practices that will benefit your biochemistry.
With the long list of responsibilities we have in our lives, breaking away from practice with a private yoga teacher may seem impossible — or even selfish. However, if you are not healthy, you can’t effectively accomplish all of your responsibilities anyway. But you don’t need to meditate on a hill for hours upon hours — you just need to start somewhere. A class or two per week can set you on track to gain back your health, freedom, and sense of peace. When it comes to yoga, a little goes a long way.
Targeting posture to release emotional energy, which often leads to physical tension.
5 Yoga Poses That Promote Positive Change
To better understand yoga-in-action, here are five of the best poses to combat feelings of stress and anxiety.
1. Bridge Pose
This pose allows you to stretch your legs and spine while opening your chest. The bridge pose will also provide headache and fatigue relief as well as helping you combat stress.
Instructions: Lie on your back with your feet flat on the floor. Your arms should be alongside your body (palms down). Inhale, lift your hips and roll your spine off the floor. As you lift your chest, hold for six breaths, then release, exhale and slowly lower your spine back onto the floor.
2. Standing Forward Bend
Not only will this pose improve flexibility and circulation, but it will also reduce accumulated tension caused by stress.
Instructions: As you stand tall, exhale before bending forward at your hip joints. As your knees remain straight, place your palms on the floor. You should feel your spine stretch. Hold for five-eight breaths or up to 1 minute.
3. Corpse Pose
With the emphasis on total relaxation, this pose encourages slow, mindful breathing. It’s also been shown to quiet the nervous system and address high blood pressure.
Instructions: Lying flat on your back, place your arms at your sides (palms up). As you close your eyes, practice deep breathing. Focus your attention on your body, starting at your head.
Hold the position for 4-5 minutes, as you enjoy a quiet, relaxed nervous system.
4. Cow Pose
By stimulating organs and calming the mind, this pose encourages emotional balance.
Instructions: Start on all fours, dropping your tummy towards the floor as you inhale. While you lift your chest and head, look forward. Exhale and come back to your starting position. Repeat 15-20 times.
5. Child’s Pose
As you stretch your ankles, hips, and thighs, you will reduce fatigue and stress. This pose specifically benefits your lymphatic and nervous system.
Instructions: Kneel with your legs together, sitting on the back of your heels. As you pull your body forward, resting your chest on your thighs, your forehead will touch the floor. With your hands next to your feet (palms up) and your shoulders forward, hold this position for six-seven breaths.
Ram Dass certainly said it best, “The quieter you become, the more you can hear.” Allow yoga to guide you towards greater peace — get involved today.