The meditative part of yoga triggers what is referred to as the “relaxation response,” which changes our bodies on a fundamental, very measurable level.
by Elizabeth Seward – Staff Writer
You’ve probably heard by now that yoga can reduce anxiety and help those who practice to reduce stress. I personally learned that a regular yoga practice could help me to manage anxiety and stress years ago. That anecdotal evidence was backed up when I came across other people who also practiced yoga and experienced similar results. If you doubt this assertion or would simply like to learn more about the relationship between yoga and anxiety-management, read on.
Yoga can help you to reduce stress and anxiety
As I discussed in a previous article entitled, 5 Scientific Reasons Yoga Makes You Feel Good, our bodies are hardwired to react positively to yoga. The endorphins released in our bodies from the physical aspect of yoga as well as the relaxation it causes are similar to morphine on a physiological level. They reduce our overall pain and help to make us feel generally better. This response can be considerably addictive, in a way, and yield comments about a “yoga buzz” or “runner’s high.” There’s truth in these catch phrases – our minds and bodies respond incredibly well to physical activity that is also relaxing.
The relaxation response results in an adjusted heart rate and lowered blood pressure, among other things. Elevated heart rates and blood pressure are closely linked with anxiety issues and poor stress management. Yoga helps us to process anxiety and stress by combating the physical manifestations of the two. Yoga has even been proven to improve sleep quality, which in turn improves cognitive function. When our cognitive function is at its highest level, our anxiety levels tank. In short, getting a good night’s sleep, when achieved through natural means, will keep us mentally and emotionally sound and stable.
All of these benefits impact the way in which we process anxiety and stress. Anxiety and stress are closely related. In fact, stress is a byproduct of anxiety. Although both anxiety and stress are natural and are experienced to some degree by almost everyone, some people experience anxiety and stress at a level that affects their ability to function normally in everyday life. Once anxiety and stress begin to negatively impact a person’s quality of life, it is important that these issues are addressed and then managed. Yoga can help to ensure that anxiety and stress levels are mitigated as to reduce the potential impact on a person’s life.
There are specific poses that especially facilitate anxiety and stress management.
1. Cat pose can help to reduce stress through gently massaging the spine and altering the pressure on the abdominal organs.
2. Cobra pose helps to keep you flexible while opening your chest, which helps to relax both your body and mind.
3. Child’s pose is a naturally comfortable pose for the body, one that encourages reflective thought, healthy blood flow, and a strong spine.
4. Bridge pose can help to energize the legs while promoting general calm.
5. Seated forward bend is great for helping you to mentally unwind.
6. Standing forward bend will also help to relax your mind.
If you would like to experience optimal results in managing your anxiety and stress levels through yoga, engage in a practice that incorporates many or all of these postures. You’ll want to be sure to practice regularly – at least a few times a week – and you’ll undergo the most drastic transformation if you adopt a daily practice.
Chronic stress can have a severe negative impact on your health if the condition persists without management. Stress has been linked to the formation of many ailments. Ongoing stress has been correlated with the worsening of many diseases and illnesses or an increased likelihood of having certain conditions. Obesity, Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes, heart disease, asthma, depression, and gastrointestinal disorders are all made worse by stress or are even more likely to occur because of stress. Stress has also been associated with accelerated aging and premature death as well as headaches, in addition to many other things. This is all because stress is more than something you simply feel – it’s physiological response that affects the body on a very real level. That’s why it’s so important that you begin managing your stress as soon as possible and yoga is one of the best ways to do just that.