10 Ways that Yoga helps you stay stress free
You’re having a tough day. You didn’t get enough sleep, you got caught in traffic on your way to work, you had a million things to deal with and couldn’t get anything done, everybody is driving you crazy, and to cap it all, you had to queue at the store for 10 minutes just to buy a loaf of bread! You feel really bad for snapping at the old lady in front of you, but did she have to take so long putting her groceries in her bag?
You yearn to just kick back and relax, but when you get home, you have a list of chore to keep you busy till bedtime! And the kids won’t stop arguing!
Gaah, you could just scream!
You go to bed, tense and irritated, and toss and turn for what feels like 3 weeks before falling into a fitful sleep, to repeat the whole cycle again.
This can’t right. There must better way!
There is a powerful solution that has kept people calm and at peace for thousands of years…..Yoga!
You may know that Yoga helps to reduce stress, but you may be surprised to learn just how powerful it is!
Relax the body
This is probably the most well known benefit of Yoga. Through the Asanas (postures) you create then release tension in the muscles. The mind/body connection is very powerful, a tense mind leads to a tense body, and vice versa. If you release tension in the body, it helps to release tension in the mind.
Relaxation is a vital aspect of a yoga practice. Through relaxation after postures and at the end of the class, you release tension created in the postures and feel a great sense of wellbeing. This is not about falling asleep, or thinking about what you have to do once the class is over, but a deep relaxing of body and mind
As well as relaxing you, Yoga also prompts your body to create GABA. This is a neurotransmitter that calms the mind and reduces anxiety and depression. This neurotransmitter is mimicked by alcohol, which makes you think it is relaxing you, but yoga is the real deal, gifting you plentiful supplies of this wonderful chemical with every yoga session.
Pranayama, the practice of breath control, is a powerful way to calm the nervous system. Although there are a range of pranayama practices that you can learn, the simplest one, known as Sukkha Pranayama, in which you breathe in and out in a slow, deep, rhythmic pattern (eg, in for 6 seconds, out for 6 seconds) is a beautifully grounding, calming and relaxing practice. If you practice this breathing regularly, you will find you stress levels reduce and your resilience starts to increase.
Often, the reason we become stressed is because there is simply too much going on, and we are spreading our attention and time too thin. We are over stimulated, over worked and overwhelmed. Yoga teaches us to focus, training the brain to stay on one thought or one action at a time. This can be hard at first for busy 21st century minds, but with time and practice, the mind can be calmed and stilled.
Mindfulness is about being fully present in the moment. Every aspect of Yoga teaches this. When in a balance posture, for example, it is hard to remain balanced if your mind is wandering. Focusing on the breath keeps your attention in the present moment, you need only focus on this breath, this moment. The philosophy of yoga, which I will discuss in the next paragraph, teaches mindful living in general.
A Way of Life
Yoga is more than just an exercise class or a meditation practice, it is a way of life. The Yoga Sutras, the philosophy on which Hatha Yoga is based, guide us to moderate how we live in the world, encouraging us to step lightly into the world. The moral and ethical dimension to Yoga, known as the Yamas and Niyamas, reduce stress in life by clearing the conscience and encouraging us to be the very best that we can be.
The practice of Gratitude, living life with an appreciation of all the good things that are in your life, comes from the Niyama of Santosha, or contentment. By recognising what you are blessed with in your life instead of focusing on what you don’t have, you develop a more positive outlook on life. Research has shown that living with gratitude is a powerful way to reduce stress and depression, improve sleep, and much more.
Yoga teaches the importance of letting go of thoughts, resentments, ideas, tension and everything that doesn’t serve you. It teaches the power of fully living in the present, of appreciating that everything that has gone before has shaped the life that you have lived, that all you can do with the past is learn from it and forgive. We learn that the future exists only in our imagination, that we can take action in the now to work towards the future we want, but ultimately we cannot control the outcome, we need to let things unfold as they will. You can only ever control what you do and how you respond to the world. Releasing this need for total control might feel uncomfortable, but is actually liberating. In the words of Swami Gitananda, do your best, and leave the rest.
How much of the stress we experience is create by ourselves? Yoga teaches us the importance of self compassion. Three powerful rules taught by Swami Gitanada were Don’t judge, don’t compare, don’t beat yourself up. Try living according to these rules and see how much your perspective on life changes!
As you can see, Yoga is a powerful tool to help beat the stress of everyday life. How much could you benefit from less stress?
I can help you learn how to incorporate practices and concepts of Yoga into your daily life, to help you live a more relaxed and peaceful life. Learn more on my website.