Yoga and Stress relief
As most of the country enters its 3rd week of shelter-in-place mandates, anxiety and stress may be starting to take its toll. For this reason, it’s even more important to focus on our mental health to help us get through this extremely difficult time. Yoga can help relax and relieve muscle tension that builds up as our stress increases.
I can go on and on about the many benefits yoga can have for our minds and body, but today I will highlight 6 of the most important ones.
Yoga teaches you to breathe properly. This type of breathing known as abdominal or diaphragmatic, starts in the nose and then moves to the stomach as your diaphragm contracts, the belly expands, and your lungs fill with air. It is the most efficient way to breathe, as it will improve blood circulation, positively affecting the brain, vital organs and limbs. Breathing deeply and at a slow pace balances, the nervous system slows down the heart rate and relaxes muscles.
Strengthens the Immune System
Yoga helps reduce the level of cortisol (the stress-related hormone); elevated cortisol levels have been shown to cause mood swings, weight gain, high blood pressure, and sleep and digestive problems, among other problems. High levels of cortisol can cause changes in the immune system. By directly influencing this hormone, yoga practice increases our resistance to diseases and infections.
One of the first positive changes you’ll notice when starting yoga is greater flexibility. Not only is it good for impressing friends at parties, but it will also help avoid injuries. At first, you may feel rigid or tight, but over time with practice, all those bow, and bridge poses will pay off with better flexibility and fewer injuries. Your eating habits are important too, make sure you have enough sulfur, magnesium and Omega 3 fats in your diet.
More flexibility also means fewer muscle aches (caused by tension) and poor posture.
Improving your balance can prevent injuries and it may also increase life span (allowing you to practice more yoga). Improving your balance also has benefits that go beyond your legs. When you work on your balance, you’re challenging your muscle groups from your head to your toes to work together which can lead to improved control of muscle groups that may have gone unused due too much sitting and leaning. Using your muscles synergistically can improve your posture and strength, which can have health benefits that include a reduced chance of getting arthritis, back pain, or other health issues.
Strengthen muscles and bones
Not only does improved posture and strength improve physical appearance (as if that wasn’t enough), it also prevents lactic acid from accumulating in the body causing less fatigue and pain. As for our bones, yoga helps reinforce them and slow bone loss. Your spine will also enjoy the benefits of yoga which also leads to improved posture.
Balances the Nervous System
Finally, yoga activates the Parasympathetic nervous system, which promotes relaxation, reduces heart rate and blood pressure, and facilitates recovery in stressful situations. One of the secrets of yoga is the combination of dynamic postures with relaxation which can effectively combat stress better than other relaxation exercises that do not include dynamic movement. All these benefits also help keep our nervous system in balance.
Dedicating just a few minutes a day can still make a big difference so don’t feel you have to change your whole life or become a yogi to enjoy all the benefits of yoga.
To help you get started, I’ve attached a couple of yoga links you can find for free on YouTube. One is a simple 10-minute yoga on flexibility and the other has a little more movement and is 30 minutes long.
Enjoy and bring on the relaxation…. Namaste.