Yoga for Stress Management
It was a beautiful California day- I woke up a bit early and walked outside to find a huge outdoor yoga class about to start. They were handing out free mats, and a hundred or so people laid out these bursts of color side by side in front of the stage. I decided to take the plunge too.
This was a typical morning at Expo West, the largest gathering of people, companies, and products in the “natural” space, and this was a routine morning activity at this huge expo. Only this morning, it was a bit different. A guitarist (okay, not just any guitarist, but Michael Franti from Spearhead) strummed away while a great yogi guided us through an hour or so of yoga. It was a brilliant way to start the day. And thus began my love affair with yoga.
Yoga has been cited for many benefits including increased strength, flexibility, and endurance. This makes it a fantastic exercise, good for both extreme athletes and those new to regular movement. But another unique benefit of yoga, compared to some other exercise types, is it’s ability to support stress management.
Yoga pairs physical movement with a meditative, restorative practice. While exercise generally provides a state of well-being after workout, yoga adds to this an awareness of and focus on the breath, which is an independent tool for stress management.
Here are a few yoga poses of particular help for stress management!
Child’s Pose (Balasana): In child’s pose, you sit on your heels, knees slightly opened, and stretch forward, resting your forehead on your yoga mat. This provides a stretch for the back and stimulates the nervous and lymphatic systems. This is a very calming, restorative pose.
Corpse Pose (Savasana): This pose, used to end each yoga practice, involves several minutes of simply lying on your back, clearing your mind, and relaxing the muscles of your body. Important for yoga because it gives your muscles a chance to have a deep rest, it can also be calming for the mind.
Eagle Pose (Garudasana): In this challenging pose, the arms and legs are wrapped, forcing focus and balance into this pose while opening the shoulders upper back, and hips. This is an empowering pose, where you literally squeeze the tension out of your body! You’ll appreciate the rest after this pose!
If you’ve never tried yoga, I’d encourage it. Your best results will be seen after a few weeks of regular practice, which is about 3 times per week. In addition to enhanced muscle tone, you may also find enhanced peace of mind!
By Jaclyn Chasse, ND