Stress is considered to be the number one health problem in many areas of the world. If you’ve ever experienced momentary anxiety or chronic anxiety, you know how it takes over all your senses. Your heart starts to pound, your eyes go fuzzy and you can’t think straight. You might experience cold sweats and a general feeling of nervousness.
The whole experience is awful and it not only affects you at the moment, but it can also damage many systems in the body. Cortisol is the stress hormone that is produced to help us fight or run away when we’re in danger. When we feel afraid about confrontations at work, we invoke the same chemicals to produce in the body which is totally unnecessary for the situation.
This causes a problem as this stress hormone has nowhere to go because you don’t fight or run from a situation. This energy gets stuck in the body and causes health issues like memory loss, an inability to think clearly, heart and blood pressure issues, and problems in the abdominal organs. You may experience disturbed sleep, chronic headaches, and feel a general sense of discomfort.
Studies have found that yoga is a powerful method to alleviate stress from the body. Yoga instructors have long sung the praises of yoga and its positive implications in life. It has been proven on a scientific and spiritual level that yoga can serve as an alleviator and healer to major health problems, i.e. stress.
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Waking up in the morning and doing a few yoga poses will help calm the mind for a little morning mindfulness. Sitting in meditation for 15 minutes each morning allows you to feel the part of you that isn’t ruled by ego. It is the ego mind that’s responsible for any rumination, storytelling, and worries you feel. When you remind yourself daily that you’re bigger than all of that, that you have a higher self, you help yourself to get out of the stories the mind chatters on about.
Mindfulness has been scientifically proven to ease psychological stress. The study showed that for people suffering general anxiety, they can reduce stress through mindfulness-based therapy. There was an improvement all around for patients that went through the 8-week therapy program.
Yoga Directly Helps Relieve Stress and the Symptoms
A Harvard Review found that yoga positively benefits the mind when it comes to mood disorders. This includes constant stress which leads to anxiety disorders. Studies found that many different types of yoga could reduce the effects of stress responses. Yoga works because it self-soothes the mind, body and soul. You exercise so you release endorphins.
Yoga helps to modulate the stress response system while reducing stress. The heart rate is reduced and blood pressure is lowered, especially through inversion poses like downward facing dog.
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When you breathe deeply, you ease stress from the body that would otherwise build up all day. Breathing usually works with poses but you can always use them in moments of chaos throughout your day. If you think about it, your body does this automatically when things get “too much.”
If you happen to feel stress coming on, take a deep breath and imagine unifying all that is troubling you, that cruel anxiety. As you hold your breath, take your mind away from the anxiety and lead it towards the exit. When you release it, imagine letting it all go out of your body and mind. Just the act of deep breathing will reduce anxiety because you’re activating the parasympathetic nervous system. Studies have found that breathing control therapy decreases cortisol which causes stress to sit in the body. So breathe deeply into all life’s mishaps whether you’re on your yoga mat or sitting at your desk.
When you do yoga regularly, you become aware of your body and flux of your thoughts. You’ll be able to feel even subtle tension sitting in the body. This is useful for one of the most powerful tools against stress, mindfulness.
Mindfulness is what your higher self does. It is the voice of reason whereas the ego is the 5-year-old child that is afraid of everything and causes you the grief that it does. Your ego will make you believe you’re going to die because you fell in front of a group of strangers. Embarrassing, yes. Life-threatening, no.
Your higher self watches the ego mind when you’re being mindful. When you notice that you’re noticing, your mind tends to quiet down. You become in control of your bodily reactions. You can turn stress into conscious clarity and it all starts with yoga.
Yoga poses that work to open the hips are helpful in reducing stress in the body as that’s where we hold tension. Downward Facing Dog takes pressure off the heart and gives it a break. Child’s pose is a deeply relaxing pose that makes you feel extremely safe. Sometimes you just need a little break from the chaos, fall into a relaxing and cleansing yoga practice and you alleviate stress little by little. You’ll notice greater results when you practice regularly.
Meera Watts is a yoga teacher, entrepreneur and mom. Her writing on yoga and holistic health has appeared in Elephant Journal, CureJoy, FunTimesGuide, OMtimes and others. She’s also the founder and owner of Siddhi Yoga International, a yoga teacher training school based in Singapore. Siddhi Yoga runs intensive, residential trainings in India (Rishikesh, Goa and Dharamshala), Indonesia (Bali).