This gentle, 30-minute practice of movement and breathing applies the principles of stress reduction that I teach in my group Yoga-based Stress Reduction program, and in individual sessions.
The talk about yoga is more than just a current trend or a flash in the pan fad. The physical and psychological benefits of yoga for stress management has been taking America by storm no matter if it takes one to stand on his head, or twist her foot behind the neck like a human pretzel.
The regular practice of yoga can help decrease stress and tension, increase strength, balance and flexibility, lower blood pressure and reduced cortisol levels. It also yields strong emotional benefits due to the emphasis on breathing and the interconnection of mind, body and spirit.
Frequent practice of yoga for stress management induces better sleep, helps individuals not to focus on things beyond their control and how to live in the present. It makes a stressful event a lot easier to handle, whether it’s family or work.
Whatever misconceptions you have about yoga and stress management should take a back seat. While most people have the notion that you have to be flexible in order to do yoga, the truth is, anyone will benefit from yoga regardless of age. Even people who aren’t flexible will actually see results faster. It’s perfectly suited to all levels because yoga is a practice geared to helping you become aware of your own highly individual mind/body connection.
There are many different styles of yoga to suit your preference. Hatha yoga is one of the most flowing and gentle options that is a good choice as starting point. Vinyasa is more athletic while Iyengar concentrates on proper alignment. However, Bikram or “hot” yoga, is not recommended for beginners.
It doesn’t matter if you join late in a yoga class. It’s not about doing it better or worse than the others, it’s about how you feel each stretch in your body. What matters most is how relaxed you can allow yourself to feel.
Yoga is considered as a deeply personal practice and no two people can or should hold a pose in exactly the same manner. A person has to work at his or her own level of flexibility, one that is challenging but not overwhelming. If you don’t feel good with what the instructor is telling you to do, don’t do it. Your body will warn you if you are about to get hurt. It is important that you listen to your body, push the limits gently, but don’t let yourself be overcome by ego. Allow your body to guide you and be your friend.
The goal of yoga is to synchronize the breath and movement. It is important when to inhale and exhale as you work through poses. Breathing only through your nose keeps heat in the body and keeps the mind focused. Concentrating on your breath is the key to yoga for stress management, as it helps you let go of external thoughts and anxiety. The easiest way to bring yourself into the present moment is to focus on your breath. Feel how it goes down your nose and into your body. It helps you let go of the worrying thoughts.
As you end each yoga session, simply lie on your back with both arms at your side with eyes closed and breathing deeply. This final “corpse pose” is designed for deep relaxation.
Bear in mind that yoga is a slow process. Forget about expectations. Let go of competition and judgment. As yoga brings you into the present moment, you will experience joy not only in the physical movement and mental benefits but in spending time in the now.
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