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Yoga for Stress Management

The benefits of yoga for stress and anxiety management.

Yoga for Stress Management

Yoga is a type of exercise that focuses on mental & physical health. Yoga can be practiced by anyone. With yoga for stress management, you can achieve peace of mind and relaxation. It has been shown to have many benefits such as improved sleep quality, reduced blood pressure and decreased anxiety levels.

What exactly is Stress?

Simply put, stress is the fight or flight response which you experience when your mind or body reacts to a certain situation that could pose physical, mental, or social discomfort. It can affect your mental stability and your physical fitness.

Stress in the modern world:

No one likes being stressed; it’s just the way we humans are designed to be. So, it’s obvious that just like we feel happy, we feel stressed too.

And it’s not only you; almost all of us feel stressed at least once a day. You can be a student who is stressed for his results or a Teacher who is stressed because you have got a lot of copies to check. Stress is a part of our lives, or wait – an ‘unlikely’ part of our lives.

The urban lifestyle and work culture has surely brought about a great impact on the individual economic status, but it has grossly diminished the quality of life. Moreover, people now have to deal with stress in different forms in their everyday lives.

It almost seems like there’s nothing that they can do to combat stress. The bills won’t stop showing up, the day will never have more hours, and your family and work responsibilities will always be demanding.

If you still think it’s okay to be stressed, hear me out: studies find that long term stress could lead to fatal health problems like heart disease, cancer, lung disease, accidents, cirrhosis of the liver and suicides.

So, how do you know you’re stressed to counteract act it quickly? Check out for the following symptoms.

Symptoms of stress:

At the emotional level, the signs of stress may include:
  • Feelings of low self-esteem, loneliness and depression
  • Trouble relaxing your mind
  • Easily frustrated and disturbed with trivial issues
  • Avoiding social situations
Physically, stress may bring about:
  • Upset stomach
  • Aching and tense muscles
  • Headaches
  • Low energy
  • Chest pain and rapid heartbeat
  • Insomnia
  • Frequent colds and infections
  • Nervousness
  • Sweaty hands and feet
At the behavioural level, stress can cause:
  • Appetite changes
  • Avoiding responsibilities
  • Increased consumption of alcohol, drugs or cigarettes
  • Procrastination
  • Other behaviours include nervousness, nail biting, pacing or fidgeting
Cognitive symptoms of stress include:
  • Forgetfulness
  • Inability to focus
  • Lack of judgement
  • Pessimistic thoughts
  • Constant worrying

Stages of stress:

Stage 1: You will experience changes in your mental stability. You'll be more anxious and will experience a lack of sleep.

Stage 2: You will notice changes in your body like a spike in blood pressure, increased heart rate, and similar symptoms.

Stage 3: The frequency of the symptoms that you experienced in step 2 will increase.

Stage 4: You will face serious physical and mental issues that will either require surgery or long-term management.

Getting stressed now and then isn’t a serious issue. But in our day-to-day lives, we often become so used to stress that we do not notice that it is crossing the line. By the time we realise it, unfortunately, it's too late.

When you feel that stress is getting the better off you, it might be the perfect time to hit the Yoga mat and take charge of your life back.

Wait, Yoga to reduce stress? Why not? Psychology Today states that more than 85% of people who incorporated Yoga into their day-to-day lives agreed that it helped them counter stress. They also reported that they were happier, more energetic and focused at work.

Yoga for stress management and health:

In a study conducted by The American Council on Exercise (ACE), it was conclusively proved how yoga helps beginners to counter stress. After eight weeks of observing Yoga practitioners they observed there was a fundamental improvement in their physical and mental health.

Participants self reported:
  • Boosted mood
  • Higher ability to concentrate
  • Less emotional instability
  • Improved flexibility by 13% to 35%
  • Improved muscular strength
  • Improved endurance

And did you notice the fun fact here? The study was done on “beginners”. So, if they can do it, why not you?

Now that we are on the same page as to why Yoga is important, let me take you through how Yoga can be a game-changer in your life. Excited? Let’s get to it!

Yoga to relieve tension:
Yoga is a mind-body exercise that includes physical poses, controlled breathing, and meditation. As I stated above, when you make Yoga as a part of your life, it enhances your physical, mental, intellectual, and spiritual health.

The best part of Yoga is that it has many ways of doing it. From complex moves for experts to basic poses for beginners, it suits everyone. Hatha pose is one of the most common forms of stress-relieving Yoga for beginners because of its slow pace and simple movements.

But Yoga isn’t limited to Hatha, you can start with any pose that suits your preferences.

Having said that, let’s see what the 3 core components of Yoga are:

Asanas (poses):
A pose or posture in Yoga is a combination of movements targeted to enhance your strength and flexibility. They are also called Asanas. These Asanas differ. For beginners, they start from simply lying on the floor, whereas for experts, such Asanas mean stretching their body beyond physical limits.

If you think breathing is just taking in and letting go of air, the yoga gurus would disagree. Controlled breathing is a core element for an effective Yoga session. When you control your breathing, you actually take control of your mind and body.

The core purpose of Yoga is to calm your otherwise anxious body through relaxation. Through meditation, you discover yourself and feel more refreshed and energetic. Not to forget, the process of discovering yourself is magical!

Holistic impact of Yoga:

Stress reduction:
Stress is the primary reason you should start doing Yoga. It takes care of stressors inside your body and calms your body. When your body is in a calm state, you respond better and you’ll be happier.

Enhanced fitness:
With those effective Yoga poses, your body balance will improve and so does your strength and range of motion. This means reduced fumbling at your workplace and containing yourself in a better way.

Disease Management:
You will realize in the long run that investing in yoga is the best thing you have done. Yoga can save you from fatal diseases like cancer and can keep your blood pressure in check. Daily Yoga also ensures you sleep better at night.
Now let’s see six various Asanas (poses) of yoga for stress relief – ones you can easily get started with

Yoga poses for beginners:

Mountain Pose
No, this isn’t just standing. There are a lot of fine nuances and adjustments involved. If you master this pose, you can do all the other standing poses with ease. This pose will teach you how to use your feet to stand better without putting a strain on your legs. You will also experience more control once you become comfortable with this pose.

The technique: Align your feet together and stand in an upward position (refer to the above image). Use all your ten toes to spread them & exert pressure on the ground. Use your quadriceps to lift your kneecaps and engage your inner thighs to lift up. Press your shoulder tops downwards as you lift your chest.
Your chest should be open and high as you do this move. But make sure your palms are facing inwards towards your body. In the entire process, do not forget to breathe fully – in and out.

Downward Facing Dog
If you ever, in any way, tried Yoga, you’d have come across this pose. The reason this pose is widely used is that it stretches the entire body via simple movements.

The technique: Get down on all your fours. Your wrists should be below your shoulders and your knees, below your hips. Grip your toes and pull your hips upwards with your torso with your back facing towards your heels.
If you feel that your hamstrings are tight, you can keep your knees slightly bent. If this isn’t the case, make efforts to keep your legs straight as you pull your back up. You can use your hands to give yourself more distance if you feel the need.
Take 5-7 deep breaths and hold the position before coming to rest.

Plank is a commonly used pose that enables you to balance your body with the help of your hands. The pose strengthens your abs and helps you to breathe better.

The technique: Get on all your fours, tuck under your toes and pull your legs up from the Yoga mat. Adjust your heels towards your back until you feel your body is aligned in a straight line from your head to feet. Once you’re in the right position, you’ll have to use the energy from your abdominal area to keep yourself upright. Try to pull your shoulders away from your ears, be open chested and breathe 7-10 times before coming back to rest.

The tree pose is possibly one of the best yoga poses for beginners. It helps you to achieve a sense of focus and clarity and enables you to breathe while standing. It also enhances your balance, which is an additional benefit.

The technique: Stand upright with both your feet “at ease” position. Then place your left foot on your inner right upper thigh. Join your hands together in prayer and get into a shape where you can hold this position for some time. After 8-10 breaths, switch the leg positions. Your abs should be involved in this position, but your shoulders have to be relaxed.

Bridge Pose
This is yet another simple pose that is best suited for beginners. With the Bridge pose, you can stretch your front body and strengthen your back.

The technique: Simply lie down on a yoga mat on your back and maintain a hip-width distance between your feet. With your feet pressed firmly on the ground, use them as an anchor to lift your glutes upwards. Use palms of your hands to press the ground for a better grip, while opening your chest at the same time. You have to make sure that your hamstrings are involved in this pose via your feet. Remain in this pose till 8-10 breaths before coming back to your initial position.

Child’s Pose
If you ever had problems in resting, this pose will ease things out for you. When you’ve done the Down Dog pose and may feel a bit “tightened up”, Child’s pose will counter it. And remember the stretching you do before bed? You can replace that with Child’s Pose to feel a sense of relaxation.

The technique: Get on all fours then bring your feet and knees close to each other. Your glutes will be towards your heels and your arms should be stretched forward. Put your head towards the floor and relax your entire body. Continue this position for as long as you wish! If you think these poses are easy enough to get started with them right away.

Although you can do these exercises on your own, joining a nearby yoga class will definitely help. Here are two big reasons why:

  • You’ll be properly instructed by your trainer
  • You’ll make some friends which is good for your mental health

And yes, yoga for tension management is a good idea to keep the stress at bay, but it alone can’t make things happen. Allow me to explain. If you want to feel fit and be happy, only yoga won’t suffice. You will have to make overall changes in your lifestyle to get the ball rolling. Here is a 5-point plan to reduce stress from your lifestyle.

Lifestyle changes to help manage stress:

Healthy Eating
Your body can cope with stress in a better way if it is well-nourished. So, take care to eat a healthy, balanced and nutritious meal throughout the day.

Try to exclude caffeine and sugar from your diet. They offer temporary highs, but often result in a mood and energy crash. Cutting out on coffee, soft drinks and sugary snacks helps you to relax and sleep better. In addition, it is important to avoid alcohol and smoking as well. Although they seem to offer you an easy escape from stress, the relief is momentary.

Making time for regular exercise
Regular exercise improves your overall health and makes you stronger. Any form of exercise, whether it’s aerobics or yoga, can directly bust the stress levels and increase the sense of well-being. Exercising bumps up the production of feel-good neurotransmitters called endorphins that regulate your mood. Participating in a fast-paced game can help people let go of their tensions and frustrations.

Shedding those tensions with regular exercise or a sport builds an optimistic energy in you that can help you stay calm and clear in difficult situations.

Get enough sleep
Getting adequate rest helps you prepare for the day ahead. A tired mind and body can make you less patient and agitated leading to stress. Therefore, you need to practice good sleep hygiene and stress reduction techniques to improve your quality of sleep. Try to avoid computer and mobile screens before going to bed and aim for at least seven to eight hours of sleep per night.

Connect to others
Spending time with a friend or family member who makes you feel safe and understood can calm you down and relieve your stress. Also, don’t let your worries about looking weak or bothering others keep you from opening up. It will only strengthen the trust and bond between you and your loved ones.

Have fun
You might get caught up in hectic work schedules, but taking time out to do things that you love is important. Caring for your own needs is a necessity, not a luxury. So, if you make time for fun and relaxation activities regularly, you will be in a better place to handle the stress that life brings your way.

Try setting up a leisure time in your daily schedule and don’t allow other obligations to take that time. This must be your time to take a break from responsibilities and recharge your batteries.

Getting started:

Even if you think there’s no way you can do it.

Even if you think you are going to screw up.

You can incorporate yoga into your everyday life and experience the difference. You will be more centred and mindful. You will stop worrying about things that can be worked out. Your relations with your close ones will improve. The Happiness quotient in your life will increase.

We all get only one life, and it is precious. Why waste it stressing about things that aren’t even going to matter in the long run?

There will be moments when you may think of quitting. But remember why you started, and consistency brings success.

So, which pose from the above list do you find the easiest? Do you think I missed mentioning something? Do let me us know in the comments.

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