This really is one of the main reasons so many people start yoga… they ask the question: how can yoga help with stress? And the answers get them inspired to begin. The yoga we’re talking about is yoga asana, the actual yoga poses, the movement practice and yes, just 5 minutes of this practice can be the best kind of stress reliever.
Yoga Asana is a mindful practice and one of the main goals is to get the practitioner (that’s you) into the present moment. The reason why this is so important is that most stress and anxiety comes from thoughts of the past or thoughts of the future. The thoughts of ‘what if…?’ and ‘why didn’t I…?’
The amazing thing about Yoga is you don’t have to TRY to be present. The practice itself encourages you to do this. The way you balance, twist and bend in the yoga postures forces you to become present, otherwise, you’d fall flat on your face!
Ok. I’m intrigued. Tell me MORE… how can Yoga help with stress?
We really could talk about this all day long, practising yoga really is so powerful for the body and mind.
The thing is, it’s not all woo-woo, there’s some chemical changes happening within your body when you’re on your yoga mat.
When you practise yoga the amount of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) increases in your brain. This chemical is linked to stress and anxiety. In fact it helps lower anxiety levels and boosts your mood.
While we’re talking chemicals and hormones, your yoga class will also provide you with serotonin and dopamine, these help you relax and feel more able to deal with stressful situations. And last but definitely not least it has been found that when practising yoga, the stress hormone, cortisol, decreases.
So yoga really helps my nervous system?
Correct, you could call yoga a saviour for your nervous system. Especially when you combine the yoga postures with the breathing exercises. You may have heard of breathwork or Pranayama which is the sanskrit word for breathing exercises.
Within our MerryBody yoga classes we encourage deep breaths with your movement and we guide you to breathe in and out through your nose. This simple action of nasal breathing helps you to switch on your parasympathetic nervous system, which is your rest and digest system. This is the nervous system that allows you to restore, you know it is switched on when you feel your body relax, your heart rate slow and your mind at ease.
There are also many other breathing exercises and techniques that come from traditional yoga practices. For example, alternate nostril breathing which helps to balance the mind and body, Kapalabhati breath which helps to cleanse and invigorate the mind and body or Kumbhaka retention, where you are guided to hold the breath for short bursts of time.
There really are so many techniques to try and discover. The breath is a powerful tool that is always with you and can therefore very easily bring you into the present moment and relieve you of stress and anxiety.
Really, it’s about walking the yoga practice off the mat.
It’s all well and good to practise yoga and feel de-stressed while you’re on the mat but most importantly a consistent yoga practice helps you to manage stressful situations that happen in your daily life.
The more you practise yoga, the more you’ll find you can reduce stress in everyday life. The things that used to bother you don’t bother you so much, the emails that used to cause your heart rate to spike, no longer do that, you’ll find yourself more capable, you’ll find yourself enjoying life more. Yoga really helps with so much. It’s found to even help with addiciton.
We could go on and on about the benefits of yoga, the fact that it can help reduce stress and anxiety is just one of them.
Now you’re intrigued, it would be a shame for you to NOT try yoga! We have some classes over on our YouTube Channel, in fact, you’ll probably enjoy this one… it’s called Flexi Legs Yoga and is super fun!
If you have any questions about practising yoga, get in touch, we’d love to hear from you.
Emma + Carla