Yoga. It’s so much more than just colorful leggings and contorting one’s body into a pretzel.
Yoga is a comprehensive system for overall health and well-being. It utilizes many tools to help strengthen the body, increase flexibility, and calm the mind.
The tools of yoga work especially well when it comes to understanding and responding to chronic stress. In a world that often feels chaotic and out of control, yoga can help bring you to a place of balance, awareness, and ease.
Here are 5 ways yoga helps reduce anxiety and manage stress:
- It relaxes & strengthens the nervous system
When we experience chronic stress, our sympathetic nervous system (the “fight or flight” response) is in full force. Over time, this can do a lot of damage to our health. The yoga practice helps shift this dominance by utilizing calming and restorative techniques, which are mediated by the parasympathetic nervous system (the “rest and restore” response) to bring the body back into balance.
- It leads to slower and deeper breathing
How many times have we been told to “take a deep breath” or “breathe and count to 10” when we’re upset? Intentionally slowing and deepening the breath calms the body and the mind. In time, the breath becomes more consistent and efficient.
- It increases blood flow and reduces tension in the body
Yoga postures (asanas) effectively improve circulation and blood flow throughout the entire body, reducing muscle tension and tightness. Major muscles such as the hips, which are often neglected sitting on the couch or at a desk, get relief through the practice of yoga.
- It helps “clear” the mental clutter
Yoga teaches you how slow down the fluctuations of the mind. By focusing on a posture or on your breath, you focus your awareness. Off the yoga mat, this awareness can help you respond less aggressively to situations that would normally trigger you.
- It leads to healthier habits and rituals
Your yoga practice is for you. You are in the driver’s seat and you are responsible for your own healing. As you build a stronger awareness of your body, you tend to make healthier choices in your daily life. You might start to eat better or sleep more regularly. You become less anxious and more at peace.
The best part? All of these benefits (and there are many more) overlap! If you change your breathing, you change your nervous system. If you settle and focus your mind, you are more likely to make more informed, healthy choices. And the benefits only grow with continued practice!
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