Exercise is a great tool for stress management and yoga offers great benefits to your exercise plan. Find out why every stress management plan should include yoga.
Stress Management and Yoga: What does Yoga do for Stress Relief?
Everyone says yoga is good for stress. But why? What does yoga actually do that can relieve stress?
Yoga provides many benefits to your body, mind and emotions. Some of the benefits mirror other forms of exercise, but yoga goes beyond just exercise.
Yoga is detoxing.
Want to sweat the toxins out? Want to move the muscles, work the lymph system, increase circulation? Yoga will move toxins. Poses with twists will stimulate digestion. All poses will open the energy channels in your body to move your prana, your life force.
Yoga is a master at detoxing the body. When we are under stress, we don’t eat right, we don’t care for ourselves, and we accumulate the harmful biochemicals of stress. We must work extra hard to keep cleaning our system to prevent disease.
Keeping your body detoxed is vital for stress management. And yoga is a great tool for detoxing.
One form of yoga which is renown for detoxing is Bikram Yoga. You do you entire yoga sequence in a room that is 95-100º You get a little sweaty by the end!
Yoga provides stretching.
Yoga is known for stretching. Just mention yoga and people picture sore groins and back bends. And when it comes to reversing the effects of stress, stretching is good.
When you are stressed, you protect yourselves by getting tight. You knot your muscles and tend to close your shoulders into a tight “C”. Often you may sit a lot, and your hips loose movement.
Stretching increases circulation. Moving feels good. It opens your mind to new possibilities. This is the best of yoga and stress relief follows naturally.
Yoga increases oxygen levels.
Every time you inhale and exhale with your pose, you are bringing oxygen to your body.
Try this: the next stressful day you have, notice how you are breathing. Are you breathing into your whole being or just part? Are you breathing deeply or shallowly?
Your body has a very brief lapse into the parasympathetic nervous system (the rest and digest) phase with every exhalation. Machines which can monitor even the briefest change in heart beats notice that the heart slows minutely with each breath.
Yoga gives you air.
Air helps you relax.
Yoga releases serotonin
Have you noticed that after a good yoga class you feel euphoric?
The is the effect of the hormone serotonin. It calms your body and brings your stress level down. Anything you can do to reduce the cortisol and increase serotonin will help heal your body from the wear and tear of stress.
Reducing your cortisol levels is important to stress management and yoga is great to do that.
Yoga quiets the mind.
Gaining mental clarity and mindfulness is the top reason to use yoga for stress management.
When you first begin yoga, you may feel agitated. “I can’t do this.” “This pose is hard.” “Where do I put my foot?” Corpse pose, which is just lying on your back with your eyes closed, can be tortuous as you fight to keep the grocery list out of your mind.
But as with all things, with practice it gets easier. You can master your mind. You become quieter.
Eventually you can begin to apply the same quietness to your life outside the yoga studio. It is as if you have trained a wild horse and now you can ride together with discipline and beauty.
Yoga provides aerobics
Aerobic activity is good to reduce stress. Getting your heart beating has many benefits including lowering blood pressure, controlling blood sugar, boosting your mood, and increasing your immune system.
Yoga is generally not considered an aerobic activity with one notable exception: vinyasa yoga. Vinyasa is the word for a dynamic series of yoga poses, one after another in succession, usually accompanied by specific breath patterns. The most famous vinyasa series is the Surya Namaskar or Sun Salutations. Almost everyone has seen some version of this yoga series. When done one after another, with no break, the series can definitely get your heart beating.
Some yoga styles which use vinyasa series a lot: Power yoga, ashtanga yoga, Jivamukti, Kali Ray TriYoga, and White Lotus.
Yoga provides strength training
Strength building and weight lifting is great to move your muscles, reduce muscle tension, increase range of motion. Building your core can help protect your back from injury. Building your strength can also boost your confidence.
Again, yoga is generally not thought of as strength building (at least not in the context of lifting weights). Rarely do you see a ripped yogi.
However, when it comes to balance and internal strength, I would match a good yogi with a weight lifter any day.
For women, strength can be a challenge. This is particularly true with upper body strength. Because yoga is primarily about alignment, it is a perfect solution.
In yoga, proper alignment relies on stacking the bones correctly so that the weight of the body is supported. Strength is only needed to maintain alignment.
When a strong person does a hand stand, often they will hold their bodies up with the strength in the shoulders and upper back. If you stand sideways and look at their body, their back is not directly above their arms because their shoulders are not fully open.
A weaker person with good alignment can do a handstand by having open shoulders, and holding good alignment.
Yoga does build strength, and it does help protect your body from injury, but it operates very differently from the “3 sets of 15 reps @15 lbs” mentality.
If you want to work directly on strength, poses like plank, crane, warrior, and handstand do build strength. But even more important, all yoga poses improve alignment and build strength through good form.
Stress management and yoga are a natural fit. You will benefit physically and mentally by adopting a regular yoga practice.