It’s the end of a long week – the kids have been sick, your boss dumped 60 hours of work on you and then there are your relationship issues, which have been dogging you for longer than you’d care to admit.
So you go home, change into your pajamas, maybe scoop an extra helping of Rocky Road, dive under the duvet and stream Netflix until you fall into a blissful coma, ice cream staining your face. Ahhh. There’s nothing like a little R & R to melt the stress away, but it can be all too tempting to just stay buried under those blankets, binge-watching movies you never knew you didn’t care about.
When you feel most like unplugging and shutting down, the very best choice you can make is to move. While rest is important for a healthy body and mind, it’s often just the opposite of that which will help you to relax from the daily stresses you’ve been under. In fact, many studies show that exercise is a great way to de-stress.
Yoga is the perfect option for relaxing exercise — a path to relaxation and rejuvenation for both your body and your mind.
The stress-relief benefits of yoga
Yoga is a low-impact practice that can work for every fitness level — whether you like to run marathons or reruns. It gives your body a slow, stretching workout, which helps you reap many holistic health benefits surrounding both physical and mental stimulation.
Physical benefits of yoga
Yoga is a whole-body workout, and as such, it employs your body’s large muscle groups in a rhythmic, repetitive fashion, boosting endorphins and increasing blood flow. These movements help to promote:
- Energy, respiration and vitality
- Circulation, muscle strength and muscle tone
- Overall athletic performance
- Protection from future injury
- Weight loss
Mental benefits of yoga
Mental stress can produce physical symptoms such as tense muscles and tension headaches as well as neck and back pain. Yoga can help to alleviate these symptoms, which often induce more stress, compounding the problem. From your face muscles to your toes, a proper yoga practice will help guide you into relaxation through methodical exercise.
The mental benefits of yoga include:
- Reduced stress
- Boosted immune function and overall health
- Boosted mood and mindfulness
- Deeper sleep
- Improved focus and concentration – even 20 minutes of yoga per day can improve the speed and accuracy of your mental functioning
- Increased body awareness
- Calming and centering of the nervous system
- Reduced risk for migraines and heart disease
- Reduced muscle tension, strain and inflammation
These benefits not only help to reduce stress, but they also take aim at some of the different stressors that may be causing you issues. For example, studies have shown that yoga has been linked to positive effects on mental health problems such as anxiety, depression, ADHD and schizophrenia.
Yoga breathing exercises to reduce stress
Okay, so we see you’re still under those covers, no doubt annoyed we’ve suggested you should move instead of rest. If you just don’t have the time or simply can’t pull yourself out of bed, at the very least, try these Pranayamas (deep breathing exercises) to help relieve your stress:
- Anulom Vilom (alternate-nostril breathing) – soothes nervous system and helps open up lungs.
- Ujjayi Breathing Technique (ocean breath) – generates internal body heat as well as helps to reduce headache pain and sinus pressure. Meant to be used throughout an asana (postures) practice, you can still use this breathing technique to help calm and mitigate stress.
- Bhramari Breathing Technique (bee breath) – helps to relieve frustration and agitation. Do this breathing technique about five to seven times in one session.
Choose yoga for stress relief
Life is complicated – sometimes you feel like eating when you shouldn’t, snapping back when it’ll just make things worse or just giving up and going back to bed when what you really need is to get active.
So this Saturday, instead of sleeping in, try some yoga to unwind from kid/work/relationship stress. Bonus: You’ll be on the right path to losing those pounds for your New Year’s resolutions. And that will relieve stress, too.