How Yoga Can Improve Your Stress Levels
Stress is unavoidable in our daily lives, and many people carry on without doing anything healthy to alleviate it. Increased stress levels can affect your physical health and could lead to chronic depression and anxiety if there is no stress-relieving intervention. As yogi and yoga enthusiasts have known for centuries, regularly practicing yoga can calm the mind and provide stress-busting benefits. It also has abundant benefits for the physical body.
The Mental Health Benefits of Yoga
Yoga impacts mental health in diverse ways. Yoga is a distinctive mind-body practice that puts emphasis on moving through a variety of poses purposefully and mindfully. Yoga practice uses the breath as a focal point to guide and ground you. When recurring thoughts or emotions try to take hold or distract you, mindful breathing practices can provide a welcome focusing tool. Overall, yoga may provide both a stable and adaptive platform for working with stress and emotional issues.
Stress can create a “hypervigilance” or “perpetually turned on” state in your mind and body. This fight or flight response to stress impairs your ability to ground and center and interferes with your ability to come from a less reactive place during times of increased agitation and stress.
Yoga can become a self-soothing technique. It may alter the stress response by quieting the nervous system. As the fight or flight state lessens and ceases to run the show, cortisol (stress hormone) levels can start to decrease in your body.
A yoga practice can be a tremendous and time-tested way to relax and unwind, which can lead to lower stress levels and reduced feelings of worry and anxiety. Some of the mental relaxation and calming from yoga may be felt almost immediately. More and more mental and physical benefits can be gained through regular practice.
Other Benefits of Yoga
- Builds a strong body. Yoga can help to build up muscle definition and strengthen the body. Using low impact techniques, it can also bolster the joints and prevent wear and tear on cartilage and other connective tissues.
- Improves circulation. A regular yoga practice can also lead to improved blood flow and increased circulation. It helps to send more blood flow to your brain and extremities. Since blood carries life-giving oxygen, yoga can help to promote oxygen saturation in the brain and tissues. More oxygen to the brain can boost feelings of well-being and improve cognitive function.
- Promotes lymph drainage and detoxification. Yoga poses and movements can help to stimulate the lymph drainage system and strengthen the immune system. Lymph carries immune cells to fight off disease-causing pathogens and infections. Lymph also drains away waste and debris, providing an essential detoxification pathway for the body.
Yoga practice can elicit a “letting go” of patterns held deep in the body and allow the practitioner to find a state of balance to support healing. Whether you are interested in a vigorous and revitalizing power yoga class or a calming and gentle restorative class, you will likely experience stress relief and physical health benefits. To start or recover your own yoga practice, find a class or community at a wellness center in your local area.