Manage and reduce stress with yoga
Guest Blog Post by Stress Coach Justine
Stress has the negative effect of disconnecting us from our body. We are so preoccupied in our heads that we forget to listen to our body and take its needs into consideration. We forget to rest and eat-well and have a balanced life. We forget that our body is our support system and that without its help, we are not worth anything.
Most of my stress clients tell me how they’ve experienced not being able to realize whether they were tired, hungry, thirsty or whether their bodies were hurting when they were stressed. They were so busy with their lives, doing “what was needed to be done”, that they lost their ability to feel how they felt. As a result of long years with stress, some even experienced that their bodies were not answering their demands any-longer, and ended-up not being able to get out of their bed one morning.
One way to keep in touch or reconnect with ourselves is to practice physical activity and in particular yoga. I usually recommend my clients on the first stress coaching session to start practicing yoga. When it comes to reducing and preventing stress or recovering from burnout, yoga is always a good solution. While exercising is a very useful way to relieve stress, yoga is different from swimming or running. With regular yoga practice, our stress hormone levels drop and our heart rate variability increases, which is a measure of our ability to tolerate stress. This has been shown to improve even after a few sessions of yoga. Science shows that over 85% of people who did yoga reported that it helped them relieve stress.
Yoga particularly helps in the following areas:
Stretches tension away
Working on a computer 8 to 10 hours a day, creates tension in our body. The stretching induced by yoga poses releases tension from problem areas, such as lower back, neck and shoulders.
Yoga clears the mind
Our minds are constantly active, racing from one thought to another, spinning possible scenarios for the future, dwelling on incidents from the past. All this mind work is tiring and stressful. Yoga poses are very physical and require such concentration, that all other thoughts and worries are put to the side, giving your brain a good rest. The breathing exercises – pranayama – and meditation are also a great help to letting go.
Encourages us to be in the present
Yoga is great for taming our monkey minds and inviting us to be in the present. At the beginning of each yoga class, we are asked to leave behind everything that we need to do after the class and be in the present moment. During the class, we are encouraged to focus on our breathing and on feeling the effects of yoga in our body. Focusing on each inhale and exhale to the exclusion of other thoughts is a good way to bring us in the present.
Calms the nervous-system
Breathing exercises are an important part of yoga practice. Each pose is accompanied with breathing. In Flow Yoga, every movement is combined with an inhalation or an exhalation. Yoga increases our awareness of the breath as a tool for relaxing the body. It teaches us to breathe slowly and deeply through the nose into the tummy. Although breathing is involuntary, breathing is a powerful tool to restore the balance of our nervous system. Learning to take deep breaths through the nose and realizing that this can be a quick way to combat stressful situations is amazingly effective.
Helps you to relax
Each yoga session ends with time spent relaxing in corpse pose – savasana. While this enforced relaxation can be difficult at first, eventually it serves the purpose of a total let go for both body and mind. Savasana transitions you back into the world feeling refreshed and equipped with the tools to combat stress in your daily life.
Connects body and mind
Yoga’s fundamental principle is that our body and mind are one and connected. Therefore, stress in one domain will affect the other and vice versa. For example, people with very analytical careers may spend a lot of time in their mind, and may not realize how much tension is stored in their body. Yoga encourages us to focus on how each movement feels in our body. Yoga is not about doing it right, but feeling the effect of a pose. When doing yoga, you are invited to listen to your body. It moves the focus from our mind to our body.
There are many different types of yoga: some are slow and more focused on stretching, others are fast and more of a workout. No one yoga style is superior, so pick one that meets your needs. If you are recovering from a burnout, you should go for the very slow yoga type so you get the tension release without increasing your level of stress hormones. If you are feeling well, on the other hand, you should go for what you enjoy the most. Any yoga exercises will help relieve stress by keeping the body healthy and releasing endorphins, natural hormones that make you feel better.
My experience as a stress coach has shown that when combining yoga and stress coaching, we have much better chances to recover from and prevent stress. If you are willing to hear more about stress coaching and yoga you are very welcome to attend the workshop we organize together with Julia on Sunday, June 13th. You can secure your spot here.
Who is Justine
Justine is an experienced and certified life and stress coach trusted by many. She founded Grow Life Coaching and is passionate about helping her clients manage and reduce stress.