Whether it’s pain in the jaws, tension headaches, tightness in the shoulders, digestive issues, pain in different parts of the body, sleep disturbances, stress manifests itself in our bodies in many different ways. Stress has become almost like a necessary evil and unwelcome companion in our society today. We see more and more people complaining about stress currently and there is a growing need to find new ways of managing stress. We are in the constant juggle of managing work, family, personal responsibilities, our social media presence that often leave us overwhelmed and completely drained. A study in 2020 suggested that yoga asanas help reduce cortisol levels and have a positive impact on the parasympathetic nervous system that encourages relaxation.
Stress is defined as the inability to cope with a real or imagined threat to one’s mental, physical and emotional well-being which results in a series of physiological responses and adaptations. It can be seen that stress, when experienced in moderate amounts can be beneficial by motivating us and enhancing performance, but it’s important to differentiate between eustress, which is the positive form that boosts productivity and excitement and distress, that leads to distress and harm to our wellbeing. Yoga focuses on incorporating simple postures or asanas, breathing practices or pranayama and meditation or dhyana to find harmony and relaxation in the body, mind and soul. The practice of yoga helps to activate the parasympathetic nervous system that triggers the relaxation response, which lowers the heart rate, blood pressure and the stress hormone, cortisol.
Here are a few ways to start incorporating yoga into your life to reap the full benefits of managing your stress effectively, here are three tips to help you out and stay consistent:
Start slow: if you’re new to yoga, begin with a simple practice with a good, certified teacher and gradually build your practice as you feel more comfortable.
Set aside time: it’s important that you set aside some time for the practice, ensure that the space is quiet and free from aunty distractions. It also helps to change into your yoga clothes immediately as the time approaches so that it keeps you motivated to practice.
Focus on your breath: throughout the practice, more than getting into interesting looking asanas, try to focus on your breath to go deeper into poses and to activate the relaxation response.
Yoga Practice to Ease Stress
Here are specific practices that are beneficial for stress relief, promote relaxation and soothes the nervous system.
Shashankasana: Get ready to stretch your back and calm the mind.
Uttanasana: A great pose to release any tension in the legs and improve blood circulation.
Marjariasana – Bitilasana: Improve spinal flexibility and ensure a healthy flow of energy with this one.
Setu Bandhasana: Strengthen the back muscles and greatly improve the flexibility of the spine when done regularly.
Alternate Nostril Breathing: Time to balance out the energy channels, reduce stress and improve clarity.
In the midst of our busy lives, it’s time to embrace yoga and incorporate yoga as a holistic approach to nourishing our mind and body. So roll out your mat, take a deep breath and enjoy the benefits of this relaxing practice.
- Carolyn Theresa Simon is an internationally certified yoga instructor and a wellness consultant.