How can yoga help you relieve stress?
Most of us experience some form of stress in our daily lives. Whether from work, looking after children or just keeping on top of things in general, stress is common in today’s modern world.
Did you know that yoga can be a great stress buster and help you to relax and feel calmer? It can also enhance your mood and help you fight feelings of depression and anxiety.
This article will show you how you can use yoga for stress relief and take control of your life so you feel happy and fulfilled every day.
What is yoga?
Yoga is an Indian exercise that combines meditation, breathing and stretching different parts of the body.
It is considered to be a spiritual practice due to its roots in Indian philosophy. In the past yoga was thought of as a ‘far out’ exercise, but today people all over the world do yoga to promote their physical and mental state.
The word yoga comes from Sanskrit and means to merge or join. This refers to connecting the breathing, mind and body to function as one.
Why yoga can help you relax?
We’re constantly worrying about things, planning, organising and multi-tasking. This constant need to ‘get things done’ can lead to an inability to relax.
We’re surrounded by screens and mobile devices and never seem to know how to switch off. Have you ever tried to relax but still find yourself checking your phone?
Yoga works on the mind by helping you to empty it of all stressful thoughts and focus on the moment.
Whether you’re worrying about silly little things or major life events, stress can play a big part in affecting your health. Yoga can help you disconnect and focus on the ‘bigger picture’.
Yoga techniques for stress relief
When you do yoga you allow your body and mind to relax and let the stress and worries flow away. The different postures, stretching techniques and breathing exercises work together to calm you.
Yoga is about appreciating your body and having the right mindset. Looking after yourself and taking the time to slow down and reduce stress will benefit you more than you might realise.
You don´t have to be ultra-flexible to do yoga – your body will gradually get used to the exercises and you will be able to perform different postures.
Yoga postures and stretches for stress
Some of the best yoga poses to relieve stress and achieve inner peace are easy to practise and can help calm you in moments. Why not try these poses recommended by the Yoga Journal* when you feel like your fuse is short and you can´t take much more stress?
- The sitting forward bend – sit with your legs crossed and lean forward resting your head on your arms. Breathe slowly and relax.
- The standing forward bend – put your arms behind your back and entwine your fingers whilst breathing in. Bend your knees and slowly fold your torso forward so you are bent in half. Hold the position with your hands flat on the floor or behind your knees. As you do this movement gently exhale and feel the benefits from your shoulders, down your back and through to your hamstring muscles.
- The side stretch – sit on your knees and slowly lean towards one side, taking the weight with your hand and sliding it across the floor. Tilt your head towards your shoulder and lift your other arm straight into the air. Repeat on both sides.
- The corpse pose – to calm your mind lie flat on the floor with your arms by your sides and your hands facing upwards. Your legs should be straight and your heels slightly apart. Place a fitness block behind the head and support another on your forehead. You’ll be amazed at how the gentle weight of the block makes you feel calm. Stay like this for 5-10 minutes with your eyes closed and try and think about nothing.
These are only a few poses you can use with yoga for stress and anxiety and once you become familiar with them you can try more advanced exercises.
You can do these yoga for stress poses at specific times of the day (first thing in the morning to get ready for the day or before going to bed to help you sleep).
However, if you’re in a stressful situation and need to calm down you can try any of these poses on your own. Of course, if you’re in the office and you suddenly start lying on the floor in strange positions your colleagues may think you have ‘lost the plot’ completely. But some offices have spaces where you can go to chill out and you could do your stress-relieving exercises here. You might find your colleagues want to learn how can yoga help with stress and join in. You could end up being the office yoga guru!
Yoga breathing techniques
Breathing deeply can help calm your mind and is a quick way to reduce your anxiety levels. Try these yoga breathing techniques for stress when you can´t do full exercises:
- Tune into your breathing – sit in a quiet place and breathe in and out slowly. Focus on inhaling and exhaling and feel the air entering and leaving your body.
- Breathe from your diaphragm – lie on your back and place one hand on your upper chest and the other on your diaphragm. Feel the movement and focus on keeping your hands still and experiencing the inhalation and exhalation of air.
- Deep breathing – to relieve shortness of breath. Sit or stand with your elbows pushed back so your chest pushes out and expands. Breathe in slowly through your nose, hold for a count of 5 and exhale through your nose.
- Alternate nostril breathing – to balance both sides of your body and mind. In this technique, you close one nostril with a finger and breathe in one nostril and exhale through the other. You can gradually build up the number of inhalations and exhalations and eventually make the exhalations longer.
Being able to breathe well is a skill you may need to learn. Once you know how to breathe correctly you should start to feel the benefits as you will feel calmer and more tranquil, especially when faced with difficult situations.
What is heart coherence in yoga?
Think about how you can feel your heart beat fast when you are anxious or panicking.
Heart coherence meditation is a breathing exercise used to combat stress. You can do this anywhere to reduce stress immediately**. This is how to increase heart coherence:
- Get comfortable and close your eyes. You may wish to either sit on a chair or lie down.
- Breathe in and out and hold your hand on your chest to feel your heart.
- Focus on your chest and breathe deeply in and out. Think about how your heart is working and feel it beating.
- Think about a happy moment in your life or someone that makes you happy. This could be a holiday, a walk in the countryside, watching a sunset with your partner, the birth of a child, a wedding… the important thing is not to think about things that make you feel stressed.
- Try and imagine you are going through the experience again and conjure up the feeling of happiness and contentment you felt.
- Keep breathing gently until you feel relaxed then open your eyes.
Heart coherence is a simple and effective way to calm your feelings. You control the beating of your heart by slowing it down and reducing your stress. This is a good exercise to do during the day but also at bedtime to help you sleep better.
What is restorative yoga?
There are times in our lives when we just don´t know where to turn to relax. The slightest little thing may turn you into an emotional heap, such as missing the bus ordropping your favourite mug and it breaking. Before you know it you’re in floods of tears or shouting at someone who doesn´t deserve it.
Restorative yoga for stress is a gentle form of yoga used to relax the body and still the mind. It can take you into a deep mode of relaxation and to a place where you feel safe and confident and able to cope with whatever life throws at you.
Stress inflammation and yoga
Your body is a complex organ and can show signs of stress in many different ways. From headaches to feeling tired or getting eczema, these are only a few ways the body reacts to stress.
A lot of research has been performed on stress inflammation and yoga practice and it has been found that regularly doing yoga can minimise inflammation. Yoga can help your body fight inflammation and stressful conditions by limiting the situations that cause the stress and therefore the condition.
If you have a stress-induced illness why not try yoga to see if your condition improves?
You should combine this form of exercise with a healthy diet. An effective way to find stress relief through your diet is to include products containing Lactium® which has been proven to soothe and calm babies and adults.
When you go shopping check the labels for Lactium-based products (such as milky drinks) and boost your fight against stress.
You may find taking up yoga is one of the best decisions you’ve ever made for your well-being. Why not try it and change your life for the better?
For more information on the benefits of Lactium® the natural ingredient for a stress-free life, contact us!