We all experience a certain level of stress. In fact it is a necessary part of life but there will be times for all of us when it becomes overwhelming. One of the oldest and most natural ways of relieving stress is through Yoga which combines discipline of the mind, body and spirit through the control of movement and breathing. It’s this combination of physical and psychological equilibrium that can deliver the magic pill.
When we become stressed or anxious, our breathing becomes shallow and rapid. It comes from the chest rather than the diaphragm which kick-starts the physical stress response. This results in the rest of the body tensing and, in turn, a complicated series of very real physical symptoms.
We may not even be aware that we’re suffering from stress as it shows itself in a variety of ailments such as headaches, fatigue and insomnia. We all react to it differently too. Some people become angry and irritable whilst others are withdrawn.
If our ability to cope with stress is inadequate, our immunity to illness is reduced. Our emotional and physical health is connected so that when we are struggling emotionally, our muscles tense, drawing energy to particular parts of the body and making us sluggish and less dynamic.
During Yoga we focus on taking, deep, lung-filling breaths, leading to deep relaxation. Once this technique is mastered, we can draw on it outside of the Yoga session which results in growing confidence in our ability to control our emotions at times when it feels they amy take over.
We do however need a certain level of stress to motivate us. Through Yoga we can also harness this positive stress and transform the negative. A vital element of Yoga practice is concentration on breathing and visualisation, which distracts the mind from our daily worries and allows us to focus on relaxing, positive thoughts. This temporary respite for the mind, is carried through after the Yoga session has ended, leaving us feeling energised and with a sense of wellbeing.
The controlled movements of Yoga increase flexibility and muscle strength, reducing the physical effects of tension and allowing our bodies to function to their full potential. When stress is under control, we are able to think more clearly, feel in control and are more likely to remain physically healthy.
The discipline of mind and body achieved during Yoga, leads to an increased ability to cope in everyday life and stops us from resorting unhealthy ways of dealing with stress, such as over or under-eating, alcohol or drug abuse and even prescription drugs which can lead to side effects and dependancy.
Yoga is a time-honoured and natural way of developing a coping strategy for stress, so it’s well worth giving it a try if you haven’t already.