There are so many reasons why people experience stress and anxiety. It could be due to health problems, work problems, finances, or relationship challenges. It can be from one situation in your life or a mix of many. While the variables are different from one person to the next, the thing that is the same for everyone is that stress and anxiety are not going to just go away. We will all continue to face situations and challenges that cause us to worry. However, yoga can help you learn how to reduce those feelings of stress and find serenity in your life, even in the midst of difficult times.
What is yoga?
If you’ve never tried yoga before you might have a skewed idea of what it is. Most people think of what they see on TV – people sitting on the floor with their legs crossed, hands resting on knees, and saying “om”. But, there is a lot more to yoga than what you see on television. The other thing people usually associate yoga with is exercise. While yoga can be used to improve flexibility and develop strength, that is only a small portion of what it’s able to help you achieve.
If you start researching what yoga is online you can quickly become overwhelmed by the depth of information. So, the simplest definition I could find for you is from Yogapedia. It says, “Yoga is a physical, mental and spiritual practice that originated in ancient India. It became popular in the West in the 20th century. The word, yoga, comes from the Sanskrit yuj, which means ‘to yoke’ and ‘samadhi’ or ‘concentration.’ Thus, yoga is the practice that aims to join the mind, body and spirit. The ultimate goal of yoga is to achieve liberation.”
Ways that yoga reduces stress and anxiety
Helps you physically relax
You may not realize it at the time, but when you are stressed or anxious your body holds onto that tension. This is one reason you experience symptoms such as headaches, sore muscles (shoulders and back), racing heart, and even eye twitching when you are experiencing high levels of stress. You won’t find serenity when your body is holding onto tension.
The practice of yoga uses deep breathing which helps to calm you from inside out. We tend to take shallow quick breathes when we are under stress. When you begin to focus on taking deep breaths it helps to slow your heart and begin to release the tension from your body. And, as you move through the different postures you increase the amount of oxygen and blood that is flowing to the different parts of your body.
Helps you to relax your mind
When we are stressed or anxious about something we tend to focus on it constantly. Even if there is nothing we can do about a situation at the moment we think about it over and over. It seems to consume our thoughts. As you focus on your breathing throughout yoga it takes your mind off the thing that is causing you stress. It removes you from thinking about past failure or future stresses and puts you in the moment. It begins to connect your mind with your body.
Helps you learn to practice mindfulness and meditation
Mindfulness and mediation usually go hand-in-hand with practicing yoga. As you learn to sit in poses you can practice meditating and practicing mindfulness to learn to control your thinking. While it’s easier to learn this skill while you’re sitting on a yoga mat, it’s something that you can practice in everyday life. For example, if you have learned how to practice mindfulness through the use of yoga you can put it into practice next time you are at work and start to experience high levels of stress. Learning how to control and focus your thoughts goes a long way in helping you find serenity in your life.
Helps you to release emotional energy
When we are in stressful situations we can build up a lot of emotional energy. When we don’t have a healthy way to release this energy it often comes out through a short temper with those that we love. Allowing yourself to respond in this way to stress repeatedly can eventually damage relationships deeply. As you move through yoga poses your body releases this energy that you are holding on to. When you are finished your body will feel more relaxed and your head will be more clear. It helps enable you to handle the other small frustrations in life without turning them into a much larger problem.
Finding serenity should be a priority
I understand that your life is full of people and things that are fighting for your attention. There aren’t many people that are sitting around just waiting for something to do. Most of our schedules are overwhelmed with activities to choose from. And, as life goes on, there will be challenging and difficult situations that will arise. Some are consequences of our own decisions and others are things that we have no control over at all. And, that’s why we need to prioritize finding serenity in life.
Tranquility, serenity, and peace are not going to just find you. But, stress, worry, and anxiety will. Do you know someone that always seems to be at peace? They aren’t easily riled up and they seem to have an unshakable calm about them. They are like this because they are choosing to respond this way to what life throws at them and you can too. Yoga can help you learn the deep breathing techniques and mindfulness meditation that helps you reduce stress and anxiety. But, if you are struggling and feel that the weight of your anxiety is crushing you, please seek professional help as well. Yoga is a great tool, but it’s just one tool. Schedule an appointment with a local therapist who can help you discover all the resources and tools that you can use to manage your stress and anxiety in a healthy way.