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Yoga for Stress and Anxiety Management

From Sonia, published on 21/11/2017 Blog > Sport > Yoga > Yoga for Stress Relief

Stress has been called the scourge of modern times. So how can you reduce stress and avoid burn-out?

With its breathing exercises and gentle muscle stretches, yoga has proved an excellent method for dealing with stress.

Yoga first appeared in India more than 4000 ago, and is now practised by more than half-a-million in the UK.

The benefits of yoga for mind and body are well-known, and yoga doesn’t require a lot of equipment – a simple yoga mat is all you need to learn the secrets of the anti-stress techniques taught by this ancestral art.

Some Statistics On Stress

Work-related stress is a lot more prevalent than you might think…

Unfortunately, it is rather difficult to find general studies on stress and anxiety.

If you go to the doctor’s, you generally won’t tell him you are suffering from stress. We refuse to admit to ourselves that we are stressed-out and that the real reason we are at the doctor’s is, in fact, stress and not the myriad of symptoms associated with it.

Yet it is with these symptoms that you show up on your doctor’s doorstep: insomnia, back pain, muscular tension, accelerated heart rate or even depression.

The American Institute of Stress estimates that stress is responsible for 75 to 90 % of medical consultations and 60 to 80 % of work-related accidents.

Most surveys concentrate on stress at the workplace. But work-related stress also affects your private life and your general sense of well-being.

Over 488,000 instances of work-related stress were documented in 2016.

The economic cost to Britain is estimated around 6.5 billion pounds each year.

Yoga is relaxing for mind and body Yogy can help you find your centre and face the day stress-free. Photo via Visual Hunt

The cost of stress for society includes loss of productivity through sick days and the cost to the NHS. For the employee, the consequences are real:

  • 37% of employees consulted in the study said that work disturbs their sleep patterns
  • 30% said that work has degraded their health
  • 35% said they are mentally exhausted

According to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, Britain ranks 7th in terms of reported depressions worldwide.

Stress affects about 4 out of 10 employees.

Read our yoga teacher’s top tips on de-stressing your life.

Yoga: a Powerful Weapon Against Stress

Taking yoga lessons is an ideal solution for learning to deal with stress. Its goal is to harmonise mind and body and learn to concentrate on the present moment by combining different poses, called “asanas” in sanskrit.

According to Carine Barco, a hypnotherapist and yoga teacher:

“although yoga is often practiced as a form of physical exercise, it is first of all a science of wellness that strives for physical well-being and the union of mind and body.”

Yoga allows you to let go, to find a moment for yourself in a world that often rushes by too fast, in which it is easy to feel overwhelmed and stressed-out.

As Carin Barco explained, yoga is not merely simply a form of physical exercise, it is a true art of living.

Daily yoga practice allows you to learn to manage your stress by relaxing your muscles and your spine and breathing mindfully.

Yoga can help centre you in any situation. Yoga helps centre mind and body in a world full of expectations.

Regular yoga practice allows you to achieve a level of calmness and serenity that will help you to relax and let go of your anxiety.

Forget your insomnia, your leaden limbs, your tense muscles and back pain. Sounds like magic? Not quite!

Yoga requires diligence and discipline, like any other sport. You have to give something of yourself for it, but get so much back in return.

Learn These Yoga Poses for Stress

Regular yoga practice is beneficial to mind and body, it could even help you get pregnant! But there are also a few asanas you can easily do at home or at the office whenever you feel stressed.

Here is a sequence of four poses, taken from Hatha Yoga (the most common form of yoga in the West) that will let you relax in 5 minutes.

The Chair Pose (Utkatasana) to warm up

Use this yoga pose to warm up gently.

The Chair Pose aids concentration and expels physical tensions.

Basically, you are pretending to sit in a chair:

  • Stand straight with your feet together
  • Bend your knees while pushing your buttocks out
  • Put your hands together and raise your arms over your head as though they are an extension of your spine
  • Hold the pose for three full breaths, keeping your abdominal muscles taut and your heels on the yoga mat.

Hand Under Foot Pose (Padahastasana) to chase away tension

This posture stretches your spine and oxygenates the brain, allowing you to chase away nervous tension.

Remember to tilt your pelvis backward and let gravity do most of the work.

  • Stand with your feet together, your shoulders loose, your arms up over your head
  • Take a deep breath and on the exhale, lower your head and upper torso until your fingers touch the ground (bend your knees if necessary)
  • While inhaling, come back up slowly, vertebrae for vertebrae
  • Repeat 3 to 6 times, keeping your stomach tucked in

Tree Pose (Vrksasana) to improve your balance

Try to be mindful of your breathing during these exercises.

This pose lets you refocus your attention by working on your balance:

  • Stand with your feet together, then place your right foot to the inside of your left thigh (or on the knee or ankle if that is too difficult)
  • Place your hands together and bring them down to your chest on an exhale
  • Look straight in front of you
  • Maintain the pose for 3 full breaths, then change legs

The Cat Stretch (Marjarasana) to relax your back

Let a stretching feline inspire you!

Cat Stretch Pose helps relieve stress The Cat Stretch Pose helps relieve your spine and relieve stress. Photo credit: leshoward via Visual hunt

This pose is perfect for developing your breathing “flexibility”. It stretches your back to help relieve pain:

  • On all fours, place your hands directly under your shoulders and your knees under your hips, let your back hang naturally
  • Your head is in the prolongation of your spine, your abdominal muscles are tensed
  • Slowly inhale as you arch your back, vertebrae for vertebrae, lifting up your chin to look up to the ceiling
  • Slowly exhale as you round your back and lower your chin as you look toward the ground
  • Repeat for 5 to 10 full breaths

Take a 20-Minute Yoga Lesson After a Stressful Day

If you have a little more time and you had a particularly stressful day, or if you have a presentation coming up that you are nervous about or even just feel like relaxing, why not take an online yoga course?

There are several YouTube videos with relaxation routines as well.

Other Tips and Tricks for Using the Philosophy of Yoga for Stress Relief

Here are some tips on how to relax using techniques that come from the philosophy surrounding yoga. You do not always need to do the poses, which is sometimes difficult when you are at work or in the middle of a stressful situation.

Take Deep Breaths

Abdominal breathing is one of the fundamental principles of yoga. All its relaxation exercises are based on proper breathing.

Deep breathing, called “pranayama” in yoga (literally: “life force”), brings extra oxygen into the system, helping the body relax.

Breathing deeply stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system, aiding in calming tension and lowering blood pressure, while a shallow, rapid breathing, associated with stress, stimulates the sympathetic nervous system.

Using Positive Visualisation and Guided Imagery to Reduce Stress

Experts are convinced: visualising a goal or image has a similar effect to actually achieving it. Guided imagery has long been a part of yoga meditation and is a central aspect of Yoga Nidra.

Positive visualisation can help relieve stress. In addition to practising yoga, imagining yourself in a peaceful place can help you relieve stress. Photo via Visualhunt

While sitting in a comfortable position, close your eyes and visualise a peaceful scene (a beach, a forest, your upcoming holidays…) You can also think about a future goal to reaffirm your self-image and bring yourself peace and a feeling of well-being.

A Simple Trick to Relieve Stress from Naam Yoga

A pressure point to limit stress

According to Sharon Melnick, author of the book Success Under Stress, applying pressure to the place between the knuckles of your index and middle fingers activates a nerve that relaxes the area around your heart, helping alleviate the sensation of stress.

Progressively relax your muscles

Contract the muscles of your foot as hard as you can, then relax them. Slowly work your way up your body: calves, thighs, buttocks, stomach, arms, hands and ending with your face.

Though contracting your muscles to relax may seem counter-intuitive, it does work. It’s often recommended to patients having suffered depression or anxiety.

How Often Should You Practice Yoga for Stress?

Just like running or singing lessons, yoga classes are effective starting one hour of practise a week, , but the more often you practice, the greater the benefits of yoga.

To fight stress and truly appreciate the benefits of yoga, daily practice is best. Yoga is first and foremost a philosophy, and 10 minutes of yoga a day is more effective than one hour a week.

You can of course adapt it to your stress levels and daily routine. Learn how yoga can help you lose weight, or how yoga lessons could help you get a better nights sleep!

In short:

  • Stress concerns a large percentage of the population of the UK; it’s a mal du siècle that leads to a great many pathologies often treated with medications.
  • The effectiveness of yoga in combatting anxiety and stress is proven. Yoga helps us manage out emotions and relax quickly.
  • Practising yoga doesn’t require a lot of equipment, nor do you need to be an expert to do daily home yoga sessions. Even simple exercises can help you keep your lifestyle healthy and your stress levels low.
  • Abdominal breathing exercises may even be enough during particularly stressful periods where you can’t actually do the yoga poses.
  • For any further needs, our yoga teachers are there for you.

Want to seek out the benefits of yoga for yourself? Find a coach for yoga near me in the UK or online yoga classes!

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