Not only can you use yoga for increasing lean muscle mass, balance, and flexibility but you can also use yoga to manage stress and for relaxation. It may seem odd that an activity that provides such a great work out can also provide almost immediate and long-term stress relief but it’s true. In recent years yoga has been transformed from a meditative relaxation practice rooted in eastern philosophy and medicine to an intense work out fitness buffs rave about. Many have forgotten one of its most profound benefits, relaxation and stress relief.
Yoga for Relaxation
Even the most intense yoga, when done properly, can provide drastic stress reduction. This makes yoga a big bang for your buck when it comes to workouts because you’re getting both the physical benefits and the relaxation all in one session. To ensure you’re getting these amazing results it’s important to be mindful of your breath, stay present in the moment, and listen to your body.
Breathwork is an important part of any yoga practice. There are many types of breath practices you can use, and some might seem confusing or difficult. The best rule of thumb is to inhale when extending your body and exhale when folding it. If you struggle to keep up with the breath work don’t worry, so did I and this is a pretty common challenge when starting a yoga practice. Simply being mindful of the rhythm of your breath provides incredible relaxation benefits. If you can deepen your breath into your belly and extend it to be longer and slower this will also help.
It may take practice and time to learn to fully allow ourselves to breath deeply. Afterall, in our hustle world we rarely have the time to do that (not to mention… you have to stop sucking in your stomach to make it happen as well). Finally breathing fully and deeply will not only provide stress relief but also clarity and focus.
Yoga is a meditative practice which means it’s essential to stay present in the moment. Now, I know some of you might think that you’re terrible at meditation or may be hesitant to try it, so hear me out.
There’s really nothing so fancy about meditation in your yoga practice. Just focusing on your breath will get you more than halfway there. But when practicing yoga, you will also likely find other thoughts popping into your head. Maybe your grocery list, the chores you need to do (and probably should be doing now), the conversation you had last night that you regret, the big work project you’re excited about, etc. These thoughts are all taking you out of the moment regardless of whether they are positive, neutral, or negative. Learning to observe and release your thoughts without judgement so you can stay present in this moment is meditation. Ta-Da… nothing so fancy there! Once you start practicing staying present, you’ll find it much easier to do going forward in your real life. That means when stressful situations arise, you’ll be able to better navigate them and cope.
Listening to Your Body
Practicing yoga requires a deep focus on your body. You will likely find yourself having more respect and love for the skin you’re in. Not because of how it is changing in appearance but because of the increased awareness of what it does for you and of your improving ability. In yoga you learn how to really listen to your body, modify poses to accommodate it, and breath into spaces that feel tight. You learn to physically nurture and care for yourself. This helps improve mind body connection and body love. Since low self-esteem, insecurity, and confidence challenges are such common stressors or underlying factors in stress, you’ll find yoga incredibly beneficial at uprooting some of these challenges.
If you don’t already have a yoga practice started and are looking for the best yoga for relaxation, I recommend starting with Hatha yoga. You can take a class at a local yoga studio, your neighborhood gym, or even check out YouTube. Most beginner classes are Hatha so they’re very easy to find.
The Health Benefits of Yoga
If I’m being honest, my first thought when I heard about yoga was “that isn’t a real workout”. Afterall, I was still in my body loathing phase, working hard to manipulate my appearance and improve my health through intense, often painful workouts. Surely, I thought, that barely moving, twisty exercise class was a waste of time. I couldn’t imagine the possible health benefits of a workout that had 0 impact, didn’t seem to increase your heart rate at all, and didn’t involve lifting heavy weights.
Finding out that yoga has a myriad of well researched health benefits made me rethink my dismissal of it and give it a try. Not only does yoga decrease stress and all the nasty consequences of it but according to the Mayo Clinic It can also help you manage symptoms of depression and anxiety, and reduce risk factors for heart disease and high blood pressure. In addition, yoga has been known to help people manage low back and neck pain and even menopause symptoms. Plus, it might even help relieve symptoms of severe conditions like COPD, asthma, and arthritis.
Yoga Poses to Manage Stress
While stress was a huge problem I was dealing with at the time, it would’ve never occurred to me to include yoga in my fitness routine if not for the health benefits. So, if you’re like me and wondering if you’d be better served by a mani-pedi, margarita, or long nap rather than a yoga class… the answer is no. Yoga stands out as one of the best things you can do for your mental and physical health.
Including yoga in your life shouldn’t add more stress. Finding the time to do it, looking for a gym or studio and scrolling through YouTube can all take up precious time you may not have right now. And let’s face it… if you read this and don’t get started, you’ll likely forget all about it. Why? Well, a stressed out, overwhelmed brain is a very crowded and busy place!
So, try Cat Cow, Child’s Pose, or my personal favorites Savasana and Pigeon right now (or before bed tonight to ensure a good night’s sleep. These stress relieving yoga poses will take less than 10 minutes but will reduce your stress and help you relax right away. If you prefer a guided video to get you started, I’ve got you, check out one of my faves here! To reap the most benefits, incorporate a little yoga into your daily life. You’ll be glad you did!