Why Can Yoga Relieve Stress and Anxiety?
Stress and anxiety are everywhere. When I am stuck in traffic after a long day at work, I get stressed. When the checkout line in the supermarket is long, I feel anxious.
I consider myself a healthy person; I go to the gym, I jog, and I eat healthy food.
However, when I tried yoga, I realized I was getting more than just physical wellness; I was getting spiritual and emotional wellness as well. I am now a yogi – one who engages in yoga.
Yoga is a Sanskrit word which means yoke or union. From the word itself, yoga unites body and mind through breathing exercises, poses, and meditation.
Altogether, it works to relieve stress and to promote relaxation.
For beginners, hatha yoga is a good choice because it’s slower in pace and the movements are easier.
Here are the basic components of yoga:
- Postures or poses, which are a series of movements that work on flexibility and strength. It can be as simple as lying on the floor, and as complicated as postures that stretch all your muscles;
- Controlled breathing which quiets the mind and aids meditation;
- Relaxation or meditation is being aware of nothing else but the present moment.
Top Reasons Why Yoga Is Good For You:
Helps ease levels of cortisol
Cortisol is the stress hormone in our bodies. Working with the brain, it controls our emotions, moods, fear, and motivations.
It is also called the alarm system in our body. When it is in high level, we feel utterly stressed and anxious. Studies show depressed people have higher levels of cortisol.
Yoga, especially its rhythmic breathing, decreases the production of cortisol, which means, it lessens the stress hormones in our bodies.
A study was conducted where the cortisol level was measured before yoga and after yoga. Results showed the remarkable decrease after a yoga session.
Helps decrease feelings of anxiety
Meditation focuses on the present, on the now, and the moment. It does not think about the past and what could have been done or changed, nor does it focus on the future – on what needs to be done and the problems that await.
This change in focus creates inner peace and does not worry about the past or the future.
With the help of yoga, I can manage my reaction to perceived stressors and avoid anxiety symptoms.
This change in mindset also affects me physically. It reduces my heart rate, eases my heavy breathing and lowers my blood pressure.
Helps reduce chronic pain and inflammation
Inflammation is our body’s alarm system when a virus or bacteria is creating havoc inside us. Our auto-immune system sends out ‘soldiers’ to fight them off.
When inflammation periodically occurs, it becomes chronic and has an adverse effect which can lead to more serious ailments like heart disease, cancer or diabetes.
A study among senior citizens who were asked to do six months of yoga showed that yoga improved their level of health, particularly in eliminating fatigue and creating the better mood.
Health professionals also recommend yoga to relieve carpal tunnel and osteoarthritis.
Since the movements are controlled and slow, yoga, unlike exercises, does not result in an intense physical impact on the body.
Its magic is under the control of the movement that creates enough tension to relax the muscles and remove chronic pain and inflammation.
Improves heart health
I thought only cardio work out was good for the heart. However, with the breathing exercises of yoga, it can improve the health of our heart.
Having oxygen in our bodies is good for the heart, and helps in the proper and efficient distribution of the blood throughout our system. Improved heart health eliminates the risks of heart diseases like heart attack.
More than just blood, an efficient circulation system also provides nutrients to our other systems.
A healthy heart means better heart rate, blood pressure, cholesterol and glucose levels.
Helps enhance sleep quality
Have you ever had the experience of being too tired physically yet you are unable to sleep?
Those are such terrible moments when I feel like every nerve, muscle, and cell of my body aches so much.
With yoga’s meditation and breathing exercises, I have improved the quality of my sleep.
Where usually I would toss and turn over problems and to-do lists, focusing on just the moment diverts my attention and lessens my stress.
The stretching exercises, on the other hand, have a positive effect on my body’s strength and endurance. Because I am not so tired, I can sleep better.
Helps improve breathing and lung function
I can feel my lungs are stronger from the breathing exercises I do in yoga classes.
Pranayama is the practice of yoga that promotes controlled breathing through various techniques and exercises.
Outside of yoga class, I have come to exercise proper and controlled breathing as well. When working sitting down, I set an hourly alarm for me to stand, walk around and do breathing exercises.
Not only does this activity help with my circulation, but it also exercises my lungs and relieves stress. I feel like I am breathing out toxins and worries from my body.
May relieve migraines
There are certain times of the month that I suffer from terrible migraines.
This is not your ordinary kind of a headache; it is more intense with throbbing, persistent pain. It practically renders me useless as I fight off dizziness and nausea.
During this time, the slightest sound or faintest light can set off more pain, so I spend a dark day under covers, with curtains drawn close.
Yoga stimulates the vagus nerve, which is the longest nerve in our bodies. It controls our parasympathetic nervous system (PNS) which encourages our rest and digest activities.
Therefore, because yoga stimulates our PNS, it reduces the pain intensity of migraines and its frequency.
Helps promote healthy eating habits
Even the simple task of eating can be influenced by yoga’s concept of being in the moment. This is called mindful or intuitive eating.
It encourages appreciation of more than just taste, but also of the texture, the smell of food and the sensations while eating.
Since mindful eating means eating for a more extended period, and not just a quick sit down, this healthier way of eating controls weight gain, treats eating disorders and manages our blood sugar.
Also, I find myself being more cautious about what I eat as I try to preserve and protect my health.
It would rather be ironic that I take pains to exercise and do yoga, yet kill myself with what I eat. There is an overall awareness of wanting to be healthy.
Can boost strength and endurance
Yoga can be gentle, but it can also be strenuous. It depends on your capacity and general health. You also need a healthy and nutritious diet.
For my first time, I worked with a licensed yoga teacher who asked about my medical history and health issues.
I started out with simple basics, and as time passed, I moved on to more complex routines that required flexibility and balance. Because of the slow transition, I did not feel anybody pain or any discomfort.
The movements in yoga help in increasing strength, flexibility and endurance of the body. In my character, I developed patience and determination.
Yoga is not only good for the body, but its positive effects extend to the mind and the soul.
To enhance the effectiveness of yoga, I combine the practice of yoga with a healthy diet, eating lots of organic vegetables and fruits. I especially enjoy green smoothies, a great way to consume the fruits and vegetables with just a ninja blender.
Having been a yogi for a year now, my body is toned, muscled and flexible.
My mind is conditioned to relax yet still being aware and alert.
My soul is free to feel and embrace emotions.
Yoga is a holistic approach to better health.
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By Marion Reeves
Marion is a content writer and editor. Her posts are always informative and up-to-date due to her admirable professionalism and distinctive way with words. In her free time, Marion plays with her two beautiful kids and takes care of her garden.
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