The Benefits of Yoga for Stress Management
The raves about yoga are more than just a current trend or a flash-in-the-pan fad. The physical and psychological benefits of yoga for stress management have been taking America by storm.
The regular practice of yoga can help decrease stress and tension, increase strength, balance and flexibility, lower blood pressure and reduce cortisol levels in the brain – which in and of itself is a very positive step in preventative health care. It also yields strong emotional benefits due to the emphasis on breathing, grounded and focused release of negative thoughts and the interconnection of mind, body and spirit.
Frequent practice of yoga for stress management can result in better sleep, help you not to focus on things beyond your control and spend more energy learning how to be mindful and live in the present. While it won’t erase or remove stressors – it can, in effect, makes a stressful event a lot easier to handle, whether it’s family, work, health, relationships – or something else.
Whatever misconceptions you have about yoga and stress management, perhaps they should take a back seat. While most people have the notion that you have to be flexible in order to do yoga, the truth is, anyone will benefit from yoga regardless of age. In fact, many times people who aren’t very flexible at all will actually see results even faster. It’s perfectly suited to all levels because yoga is a practice geared to helping you become aware of your own highly individual mind/body connection.
There are many different styles of yoga to suit your preference. Hatha yoga is one of the most flowing and gentle options that is a good choice as starting point. Vinyasa is more athletic while Iyengar concentrates on proper alignment. However, Bikram or “hot” yoga, is not recommended for beginners. (In fact, no one, regardless of fitness level, should begin any “hot yoga” practice without speaking with their physician first.)
It doesn’t matter if you join late in a yoga class. It’s not about doing it better or worse than the others, it’s not even a competition with yourself – nor a competition at all. It’s about how you feel in the moment of each stretch in your body. What matters most is how present and relaxed you can allow yourself to become.
Yoga is considered as a deeply personal practice and no two people can or should hold a pose in exactly the same manner. A person has to work at his or her own level of flexibility, one that is challenging but not overwhelming. If you don’t feel good with what the instructor is telling you to do, don’t do it. Your body will warn you if you are about to get hurt. It is important that you listen to your body, push the limits gently, but don’t let yourself be overcome by ego. Allow your body to guide you and be your friend.
The goal of yoga is to synchronize the breath and movement. When you inhale and exhale as you work through poses is important. Breathing only through your nose keeps heat in the body and keeps the mind focused. Concentrating on your breath is the key to yoga for stress management, as it helps you let go of external thoughts and anxiety, requiring you to focus on your body in this moment. The easiest way to bring yourself into the present moment is to focus on your breath. Feel how it goes down your nose and into your body. It helps you let go of the worrying thoughts.
Bear in mind that yoga is a slow process. Forget about expectations. Let go of competition and judgment. As yoga brings you into the present moment, you will experience joy not only in the physical movement and mental benefits but in spending time in the now.