Stress Reduction techniques often include some sort of meditation, or breathing exercises; maybe even some physical exercise. Yoga is perfect for stress reduction because you are doing both: movement of the body and deep breathing. With yoga, the practitioner is mindful of the moment, their breath, and their bodies as they move from one pose to another, breathing deeply and coordinating the breath with the movement. Yoga has been practiced for thousands of years, originating in India and moving to the West relatively recently. Simply, and most commonly translated, yoga means “union” in Sanskrit, as in the union of body, mind and spirit. Yoga works your body’s muscles in three ways: strengthening, flexibility or lengthening, and balancing. Yoga is a moving meditation- you focus on your breathing and move into the poses.
The focus on breathing and flowing movement of yoga poses makes it ideal for stress reduction. Breathing deeply and evenly lowers your heart rate, blood pressure and cortisol (stress hormone) levels. As you are focused on moving into the poses and breathing, your stress begins to melt away. The worries of the day are pushed out of your mind because you are completely focused on coordinating your breathing with the poses. Some of the poses which require a high degree of concentration in order to stay balanced, like tree pose are wonderful for stress relief because you are taking a mindful approach and focused on each second. You are forming a balance between your inner self and outer self as you practice yoga, which helps with reducing and dealing with stress in your day-to-day life.
What yoga practitioners have known for thousands of years is now finally being backed up by science and western medicine. Many studies are being done on the benefits of yoga for stress relief, as well as general and specific health problems. Yoga is ideally performed before chronic pain or health problems develop, but as western medicine has been slow to catch on to the benefits of yoga, they have found that yoga is very healing and beneficial for people with many health problems, including stress and anxiety.
Yoga practice can be used as a means to build a strong body and mind, healing oneself on the inside, and thus allowing them to become a better person and have a more satisfying life. When a person is satisfied with themselves, they are better equipped to deal with the stress and frustration that life brings. Start with a basic ashtanga or vinyasa yoga class, or check out a DVD from the library to learn the basic movements. You can also find lots of free instructions online. If you do just 20-30 minutes a day of Sun Salutations, you will feel a difference in your mind and body that will make you want to keep it up and explore yoga even more. The toned body you get will be you outer reward, but you will feel your inner calm grow and maybe learn to stress-out less!