On today’s’ blog we’ll explore how we can benefit from yoga.
Unfortunately, anxiety and stress are regular occurrences in many people’s daily lives. With today’s busy lifestyle and a finer line between work and home life, it can feel too much at times. Whether you’re anxious about an upcoming work presentation or constantly bombarded with panic attacks, we all feel it at some point.
How you address and cope with it is what helps you get through high levels of anxiety. Finding coping methods, a support system or simply just a person to talk about it with can all be helpful in reducing anxiety symptoms and relieving stress.
In the UK, 16 million people experience a mental illness, with three in four mental illnesses starting in childhood. Stress and anxiety can have such a massive impact on your life. The overwhelming feeling when your heart starts to race and hands begin to tremor is an unwelcome one. However, not all is lost, research suggests that practising yoga can help to relieve anxiety and modulate a stress response.
Yoga, originating from India, is a mind and body practice that draws on so many different elements and helps a person to be present, relaxed and calm. As well as building strength and flexibility, yoga takes you inward and forces you to be in control and focus on your breathing.
Yoga has become increasingly popular and is now used by many people in their day-to-day lives. According to a national survey in the US, around 31 million adults have used it. Classes can vary from gentle to advanced, depending on your capability and personal preference. There are several types of yoga, with popular forms being Hatha, Vinyasa, Iyengar and Bikram yoga.
There are so many ways to find yoga classes from heading to your nearest yoga studio or using YouTube or a subscription-based online yoga class website. Yoga Anytime is a perfect place to start and allows you to practice from your home with a 15-day free trial.
#1 Practice self-acceptance and self-love
Life and work can easily get in the way of taking time for yourself. Busy schedules usually result in sacrificing time that you may have put aside for your self. Taking that time back isn’t selfish, it’s practising self-love and compassion. When you take 30 minutes to practice an exercise such as yoga, you’re treating yourself and showing that you’re worth the acceptance and time. This will hopefully result in more positive behaviour and thinking.
#2 Learn to breathe effectively
Yoga can teach you to focus on yourbreathing, allowing you to slow and deepen your breath. When you feel anxious it’s usually accompanied by rapid breathing, shallow breaths and even tightening of the chest. It can help you to be much more aware of your breath and use it to overcome challenges. In yoga, you use your breath to not only be present but also to make your body as efficient as possible to stay in certain poses and move gently.
#3 Promote relaxation of the body
When your tense and anxious, it can show throughout your entire body. Your shoulders cramp together and tension can run all the way from your lower back up to your head, resulting in a pounding headache. Other common areas where we hold tension are the jaw and neck. By practising yoga, you can experience the benefits of your body relating and releasing tension from muscles. By reducing the physical tension your body is holding this, in turn, can help to release the hold anxiety and stress has on the body.
#4 Reduce stress and anxiety
Stress and anxiety can go hand in hand. When feelings of anxiety start to show, it can be very challenging to reduce them. In a 2009 issue of Perceptual Motor Skills, researchers observed 300 people attending a yoga therapy centre in North India. Those who practised a 2-hour yoga session showed a 14.7% decrease in anxiety levels.
Yoga looks to be a very positive outlook for managing stress and anxiety. Researchers at Boston University School of Medicine found increased GABA levels in the brain and improvement in mood and anxiety with a 12-week yoga intervention.
#5 Relax the mind
It can feel difficult, impossible at times, to relax the mind. Meditation is incred
ibly powerful and is often combined with yoga practices. Learning to calm the mind, breathe deeply and be aware of your breath are all vital tools that are useful for coping with anxiety symptoms. In 2011, Harvard researchers published data that found that 3% (the equivalent of 6.4 million Americans) had been advised by healthcare practitioners to use mind-body therapies such as yoga and meditation. People suffering from anxiety made up a third of those recommendations.
#6 Release emotion
Negative feelings and emotions can build up over time if they are not expressed. This build-up of guilt, anger or sadness can result in increased anxiety and stress. If you’re feeling wound up and struggle to release negative emotion in an effective way, it is a fantastic solution. We commonly store emotional tension in our hips and shoulders so classes or poses that particularly focus on these areas can be effective at releasing emotion.
A small study carried out by Georgia State University looked at the effects of yoga on three people diagnosed with anxiety. Overall, researchers found that it helped to reduce worry, one of the major symptoms of anxiety.
#7 Connect the body and the mind
Yoga offers you a sense of harmony with your body and mind. When the two are connected it helps you to live in the moment and be mindful. By being more sensitive to your body and having the ability to detect and respond when something isn’t quite right is key to balance and wellbeing.
# 8 Release endorphins
Scientific research acknowledges the “yoga high”, with those practising yoga experiencing increased endorphin levels after their practice. One study has found that yoga students not only had reduced levels of the stress hormone cortisol but also showed a big increase in endorphins.
A small study, carried out by the University of Utah, found that experienced yoga practitioners had the highest pain tolerance and lowest pain-related brain activity during the MRI scan in the study. Whether you’re a beginner or advanced, the poses will put your body into a position that you are not used to.
Moving your body into these poses might cause discomfort but it’s normal to feel that way. Getting through these physical challenges and powering through the discomfort will help to increase your tolerance. Knowing that something isn’t comfortable but you can and will get through it is something you can apply to several areas of your life.
There is growing evidence regular yoga is a low-risk way of reaching several benefits of well-being, physically and mentally. As well as overall health benefits that can be reaped from regular practice, it is a great way to join a community and feel more connected. Helping to reduce any feelings of loneliness and isolation.
Although yoga is a safe and natural way to cope with stress and anxiety, it may be strenuous for some people. With so many types of available, always check with your healthcare provider to check which practice is suitable for you and your body before starting.