Stress is a common experience for most people in today's fast-paced world. Whether it's due to work, relationships, finances or health concerns, stress can take a toll on our mental and physical well-being when not managed properly.
Fortunately, there are various ways to reduce stress and one effective and widely popular method is yoga.
How does yoga help manage stress?
Yoga combines physical postures, breathing techniques and meditation to improve overall health and well-being. The practice has gained immense popularity over the years and for good reason. It has been shown to help reduce stress levels, among many other benefits.
Reduces cortisol levels
Cortisol is a hormone released by the body in response to stress. It's also known as the 'stress hormone'. Elevated levels of cortisol can lead to various health problems, including anxiety, depression and weight gain. Yoga has been proven to reduce cortisol levels in the body, helping to manage stress, encourage relaxation and improve overall health.
One of the primary benefits of yoga is its ability to promote relaxation and help you unwind after a long day. The practice involves deep breathing, which helps calm the nervous system and drastically reduces stress levels. Yoga also encourages the release of endorphins, which are natural chemicals in the body that promote feelings of well-being and happiness.
Improves sleep quality
Stress can disrupt sleep patterns, leading to insomnia and other sleep disorders. Restorative yoga has been shown to improve sleep quality by reducing stress and helping you feel more relaxed through a flow of gentle yoga poses aiming to regulate the body's circadian rhythm, which is essential for healthy and uninterrupted sleep. When practised before bed, these yoga poses can promote better quality sleep on the long run. So take your mat and indulge in a few minutes of restorative yoga before going to bed!
Yoga has been shown to boost mood by increasing levels of GABA, a neurotransmitter that helps regulate mood and anxiety. The practice also encourages the release of dopamine and serotonin, two neurotransmitters that promote feelings of happiness and well-being.
Mindfulness is the practice of being present and aware of the current moment. It's an effective technique for managing stress, as it helps you stay focused on the present and avoid worrying about the future or dwelling on the past. Yoga encourages mindfulness by incorporating meditation and relaxing breathing exercises, which can help improve focus and reduce stress levels - making you feel more present and grounded.
Certain yoga poses are particularly effective for relieving stress and tension in the body and mind. Here's why the following yoga poses work well for stress relief:
Forward bends calm the nervous system and promote relaxation by allowing the body to fold forward and release tension in the muscles. Forward bends also help to calm the mind and reduce feelings of anxiety.
The Cat Cow pose is a gentle movement that helps stretch and release tension in the spine. This pose helps to improve circulation, stimulate the digestive system and calm the mind. Cat Cow is particularly effective for relieving stress in the upper back and shoulders.
Child's Pose is a restorative pose that promotes relaxation and stress relief. This pose helps stretch the hips, thighs and ankles and can also help to release tension in the neck and shoulders.
Puppy Pose is a variation of Downward Dog that helps to stretch the spine, shoulders and arms. This pose can help release tension in the upper back and neck and can also help calm the mind.
Bridge pose is an excellent pose for releasing tension in the lower back and hips. This pose helps stretch the spine, hips and thighs and can also help improve circulation.
Legs up the wall
Legs up the wall is a restorative pose that helps to relieve stress and tension in the legs, hips and lower back. This pose can help to improve circulation and reduce swelling in the legs and feet.
Savasana is a relaxation pose that helps calm the mind and reduce stress. This pose involves lying flat on the back with the arms and legs extended, allowing the body to fully relax.
How do I get started with yoga?
If you're interested in trying yoga to manage stress, there are several ways to get started. You can sign up for a yoga class at your local gym or yoga studio or you can practise at home using online tutorials or yoga apps. It's important to find a style of yoga that works for you, as there are many different types of yoga to choose from, including Hatha, Vinyasa and Ashtanga. Find your perfect yoga match!