Though success can sometimes be spurred by a little stress—like working hard before a deadline to get everything the way you want—typically stress makes your day and life more difficult.
Learning how to manage your stress will help you be more calm and will help you better manage hardships in life.
Yoga is very effective in managing stress. So why not get started?
How Anxiety Affects the Body
When your body interprets you are in a stressful situation, your sympathetic nervous system (SNS) is activated, which floods your body with hormones like cortisol to heighten your senses, increase your heart rate and focus the brain.
The parasympathetic nervous system (PNS), which is responsible for relaxation and calmness, takes a back seat.
This response is meant to be triggered in fight-or-flight situations and isn’t necessary in many day-to-day situations. Though a botched coffee order sometimes makes me feel this way, it isn’t necessary.
Anxiety can usually be recognized by multiple symptoms:
- Feeling overwhelmed or panicky;
- Quickened breath or heart rates;
- Tension in the neck, shoulders or hips.
One way to deal with anxiety naturally is through the gifts of nature, such as therapeutic plants and herbs.
Another great method for returning balance to the nervous system (and therefore reduce the anxiety that builds up) is through yoga.
How Yoga Helps
Yoga helps to relieve stress by activating the PNS (or the part of the nervous system that manages relaxation). Poses help you do this, and working through them can help you practice how to work through difficult situations in life.
Breath is an integral part of yoga. Through breath control exercises (Pranayama), you can learn to control your body and calm your mind.
Meditation helps you create awareness. Understanding your internal environment helps you work in your external environment. Through meditation you can cultivate internal awareness and be present in your life, which will not only help reduce stress but will help you grow.
What Poses to Do
Any yoga practice should help with reducing stress because it incorporates meditation and breath and pose practice.
However, here are a few of my favorite poses to get you started:
Child’s Pose (Balasana)
This pose is very calming. It stretches the back, increasing circulation to your spine, and therefore nervous system. It feels like being in fetal position, which is comforting.
Bridge Pose (Setu Bandha Sarvangasana)
In this pose your hips are above your heart and head, allowing increased circulation to your brain and your chest. This flow of blood helps calm the brain and nervous system.
Standing Forward Fold (Uttanasana)
This pose stretches the hamstrings and the hips, which are said to store anxiety. Blood flows to the brain and you can release all tension in your upper body as you fold over. Your perspective of life can change when you feel upside down.
Cat Pose (Marjaryasana)
Cat Pose gently stretches the back and increases circulation to the spine. It also allows you to connect with the flow of your breath. The connection to your nervous system and inner awareness relieves stress and tension.
Corpse Pose (Savasana)
Corpse Pose generally ends every yoga practice. In this pose relax your body into the mat, allowing tension to fall away.
Here your breathing will slow as you find stillness. This can be uncomfortable at first, because if you are anxious, this does not come easily.
How to Not Be Anxious about Starting Yoga
Sometimes it is scary to try something new and though yoga is meant to reduce stress and anxiety, you may find trying it out stressful.
In order to limit your first-time jitters remember these things:
- This is about your journey and personal wellness, so focus on what you want to get out of it.
- There are many beginner classes and online videos that can guide you through.
- Everyone starts somewhere. Where you are at this moment is exactly where you are supposed to be.
- Yoga is a practice and it takes time. Allow yourself to be present in the journey, both with yoga and your life.
Have you tried yoga so far? If not, how can you make it a daily habit and start reducing stress today?
About The Author
This is a guest post by Meera, who runs Siddhi Yoga International, a yoga teacher training school based in Singapore.