Yoga is the oldest known practice of self-development. Originating from the East, the practice has made its way to the West and become another popular way to get in shape. But with the numbers of people suffering from anxiety, depression and high blood pressure continually on the rise, we can’t forget about a huge benefit of a mind-body practices like yoga: stress release.
Yoga instructor and health coach Rosie Acosta, who teaches in Portland, OR, says that stress and anxiety affect a majority of her students, and that yoga often helps them better manage those feelings. “We think that yoga is for tuning things out when you’re stressed. But it’s not,” Acosta explains. “It’s about drawing that attention inward. Tuning in.”
Because our focus is almost always directed outward—to work, home, family—we neglect what happens internally, succumbing to stress. Yoga can reverse this trend.
Whether you take a 90-minute class or simply do a single pose, let yoga help you to slow down, focus on your breath, and learn to be present with yourself exactly as you are right now.
Knowing your body’s tendencies under stress can help you tailor a yoga practice meant just for you. To start, consider the following question: Where do you tend to go when you’re stressed? It’s probably one of two places:
Too high?: Your head is buzzing, your body and mind are constantly on the go. You feel overstimulated and burnt out. You put others before yourself to a fault, and your mental and physical health has been neglected. You’re looking to find rest and quiet.
Try: Forward folds (This one is Paschimottanasana, or a basic seated forward fold). They are cooling, quieting, and help create a calm relationship with your breath.
Sit on the floor with your legs extended in front of you. You may slightly elevate your hips on a folded blanket or block if that is more comfortable. Inhale sit nice and tall, reaching your arms up to the sky. Exhale, slowly fold forward at your hips (not your waist). Rest your hands on your shins, ankles, or hold the soles of your feet. Hold for 1-3 minutes. Inhale and slowly rise back up to seated.
Too Low? When life gets overwhelming you tend to shut down and slow down. You’re not sure how to interact with others or face your emotions, so you just don’t. You’re looking for a way to process and open up.
Lie with your back on the floor and your knees slightly bent. Raise your hips high enough to rest your hands underneath your tailbone. Inhale, press your forearms into the floor firmly as you lift your chest and shoulder blades off the ground. Your head and hips stays on the floor, creating an exaggerated arch in your mid- and upper-back. There should be a minimal amount of weight on your head to avoid injury. Hold for 15-30 seconds, breathing smoothly. Exhale, lower down and hug your knees into your chest.