Feeling Stressed and Overwhelmed? Calm Your Mind with Yoga
Is your stress level on the rise? When work challenges, concerns about rising costs, family issues or health worries cause stress and anxiety, yoga offers a natural antidote.
How Stress Affects Your Physical and Mental Health
Stress can cause a variety of uncomfortable symptoms, including:
- Tension Headaches
- Neck, Shoulder and Upper Back Pain Due to Tight Muscles
Stress triggers your body's fight-or-flight response. The response is activated during any type of stressful situation, whether it's speaking in public, fighting off an attacker, or braking suddenly to avoid an accident.
Thanks to the fight-or-flight response, you're prepared to handle challenges (fight) or run from danger (flight). Three hormones released during the response help you face challenging or stressful situations. Cortisol raises your heart rate, blood pressure, and blood sugar. Adrenaline tenses your muscles, provides an energy boost, and increases heart rate and breathing. Norepinephrine increases blood flow to your muscles, while also raising your heart rate and energy level.
Although the fight-or-flight response can be helpful in the short term, your health may be harmed if stress hormones constantly remain high.
Chronic stress can be a factor in:
- High Blood Sugar and Diabetes
- Heart Disease
- Heart Attack
- High Blood Pressure
- Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD)
- Worsening of Asthma or Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)
- Trouble Focusing
- Alzheimer's Disease
The Stress Relief Benefits of Yoga
Fortunately, yoga can help you reduce your stress level and avoid uncomfortable symptoms and serious health conditions. Cat-cow, corpse pose, child's pose, bridge pose, standing forward bend and other yoga poses can help:
- Relieve Muscle Pain. Poses are designed to stretch and strengthen your muscles and improve your flexibility. When your neck and shoulders feel tight at the end of a stressful day, practicing yoga offers a simple way to relax your muscles.
- Reduce Worrying. Do you find it difficult to turn your mind off and stop thinking about "what if" scenarios? Meditation, an essential part of every yoga session, helps you clear your mind, stop obsessing and focus solely on the present. The deep breaths you take while you perform poses encourage relaxation and are essential for reversing the fight-or-flight response.
- Boost Your Mood. As you move from pose to pose, your body increases its production of serotonin and endorphins. Serotonin helps you feel calm and stabilizes your moods. Endorphins are natural pain relievers that also have a positive effect on your moods. These hormones help you feel calm, relaxed and in control.
- Change Your Reaction to Stressful Situations. When you practice yoga often, you may find that you feel much less stressed when facing a challenge. If you do feel your tension level rising, a few minutes of meditation or deep breathing will lower your stress level.
- Combat Insomnia. Stress may make it difficult to fall asleep or go back to sleep if you happen to wake up during the night. A yoga session at bedtime may be just what you need to let go of intrusive thoughts and reduce tension.
Multiple research studies have shown that yoga has a beneficial effect on stress. After participating in yoga classes for 12 weeks, a group of mental health workers noticed a significant decrease in work-related stress, according to a study published in World view of Evidence-Based Nursing. Yoga also has a positive effect on the stress hormone cortisol. Dental researchers investigating gum disease discovered that yoga lowered cortisol levels in patients with the disease, in addition to decreasing plaque on the teeth.
Is stress an unwelcome part of your life? Yoga can help you relax and reduce your risk of developing serious health issues. If you're ready to give yoga a try, give us a call and we'll help you find the ideal yoga class.
Journal of the International Society of Preventive and Community Dentistry: Association of Yoga Practice and Serum Cortisol Levels in Chronic Periodontitis Patients with Stress-Related Anxiety and Depression, Jan-Feb 2016