So. striking a few warriors can chill you out?
Yes, that’s the short answer. Yoga reduces stress.
In fact, it can be so effective at lowering stress, even the Mayo Clinic agrees. But there’s more to it.
By just applying three of the eight limbs of yoga — controlled breathing, meditation, and physical poses or asanas – can be a great way to reduce the physical symptoms of stress, including low energy, headaches, upset stomachs, infections, loss of sexual desire, aches, pains, and tense muscles. Sleep trouble can also be another common side effect of stress and can lead to anxiety, restlessness, anger, a lack of motivation, feelings of sadness and, even worse, depression. Stressful moods can lead to overeating, outbursts of anger, social withdrawal, and at its worse, drug and/or alcohol abuse.
1. It Starts with the Breathing
Breathing is one of the foundational pillars of Yoga, which teaches the importance of controlling your breathing because it helps control the body and quiets the mind. In today’s frenetic world, it is impossible to completely avoid stress, so the next best thing is to control it. Simply manipulating one’s breathing can promote happiness, as well as increase levels of leptin, a hormone that inhibits the production of fat, thereby helping in weight loss. Slow breathing can also help increase stamina by maximizing the intake and uptake of O2 in the lungs.
The long exhale, also known as the 1:2 is a breathing exercise that can reduce insomnia and anxiety. With this technique, practitioners gradually increase their exhalation until it is twice the length of inhalation and it is believed that this relaxes the nervous system.
Meditation within yoga can help the body understand when to produce the relaxation response, a state of deep rest, which is a natural counter to the destructive stress response. Once activated, the relaxation response decreases blood pressure, lowers the heart rate, relaxes the muscles, slows breathing; all-in-all, it gives the body time to ‘breath’ so that it can start healing itself again. In addition to its calming effect, the relaxation response relieves stress, increases focus, reduces physical aches and pains, and increases motivation.
3. Yoga Poses/Asanas
When it comes to yoga poses, strengthening the core can help reduce stress by fortifying the psoas, abdominal organs, and lumbar spine. The core group of muscles – the quads, glutes, abs, lats and traps – can all be strengthened by practicing yoga poses like the Boat Pose, Chair Pose, Downward Facing Dog, Four-Limbed Staff Pose, Handstand, Locust Pose, Noose Pose, Plank Pose, Revolved Side Angle Pose, Revolved Triangle Pose, Upward Plank Pose, and the three different Warrior Poses.
The Boat Pose requires balancing on your tailbone, with your arms and legs extended. It helps tone the belly, massage the internal organs, strengthens the deep hip flexors muscles, while relieving lower back pain.
A foundational yoga pose, Downward Facing Dog strengthens the arms and legs, creates space in the torso for better organ function, and rests the brain. As both a stretching and strengthening asana, Downward Facing Dog provides all of the advantages of the inversion poses, with a nice toning of the upper body and lower extremities thrown into the mix.
The Warrior Pose is named after the ferocious warrior Virabhadra, who purportedly symbolizes one’s inner ability to overcome ego and ignorance, two traits that must constantly be kept in check. The Warrior Pose increases flexibility in the hips, improves balance, tones and strengthens the legs, ankles and feet.
The Child’s Pose is a yoga move that stretches the lower back and arms and relaxes the entire body. It’s also a pose that naturally inhibits the sense of vision and hearing, thereby removing external stimuli that can often increase tension.
Inversion poses — poses where you’re on your head or upside down — are great for more than just seeing the world from a “different perspective.” Raising the heart above the head ensures that the brain gets a nice, fresh supply of oxygenated blood. Physically, inversion yoga develops strength, balance and stability in an unnatural state. Although physically challenging, inversion yoga can positively affect the cardiovascular, lymphatic, nervous, and endocrine systems. When completing a headstand, practitioners often feel clear headed, and who doesn’t love the sudden rush to the head of oxygenated blood that produces a natural high. That rush of blood to the head should probably clear away any lack of focus, as well as help with sinusitis, insomnia, and headaches. Inversion yoga poses also strengthen the abdominal organs, while flushing out toxins due to increased blood flow. Other positive effects of inversion yoga include being a natural anti-depressant, a brain and immune booster, as well as a digestion aid.
During stressful times the sympathetic nervous system secretes the stress hormone, cortisol, while it activates what’s known as the ‘flight or fight’ response. Long-term exposure to cortisol is a known to be a major risk factor for diabetes, cancer and heart disease. Many yoga poses can calm the mind by activating the parasympathetic nervous system, triggering alerts that let the body know it can rest and relax, that danger is not imminent. Basically, the fight of flight trigger is short circuited. Furthermore studies have revealed that cortisol levels are lowered following yoga, while nighttime plasma melatonin is increased, which could improve sleep quality.
A 2012 UCLA yoga study found that, “practicing a certain form of chanting yogic meditation for just 12 minutes daily for eight weeks led to a reduction in the biological mechanisms responsible for an increase in the immune system’s inflammation response. Inflammation, if constantly activated, can contribute to a multitude of chronic health problems.” The study also found that a reduced activity of those proteins linked directly to increased inflammation.
Yoga is a mind-body practice that brings together physical and mental disciplines that can bring increased balance, flexibility, range of motion and strength. A three-times-a-week regimen offers several health benefits. Yoga reduces stress, increases strength, and sharpens the mind. Combining the holy trinity of yoga together can help increase inner peace, raise overall mood, and raise one’s sense of well being and self-worth. After a hard and stressful day in the office, returning to your roots can be just the thing to ward off disease, to keep your healthy energy flowing, and to ward off those nasty free radicals. And once you’re done with a yoga workout, there’s nothing like a warm, relaxing bath to ease those aching muscle, which can be one of the best stress reducers of all.