Many people know these days that Yoga is a great tool for managing and reducing stress. Doctors are increasingly recommending that people try practices such as Yoga to manage stress-related conditions. They are absolutely right to. I know from my own personal experience, and from what I see in class, that Yoga is a powerful way to reduce and relieve stress. This is backed up by an increasing body of scientific research as well, and there are increasing calls for Yoga to be available on the NHS.
What is stress?
Stress is a holistic problem that affects an increasing number of the population. 15.4 million working days were lost across the UK due to work-related stress or depression. A survey carried out by the Mental Health Foundation found that a whopping 74% of people had at some point felt overwhelmed and unable to cope in the previous year. The problem is not unique to adults either, sadly. 10% of children in the UK have a diagnosable mental health condition, and children are reporting increasing levels of stress connected to exams and much more.
Yoga can help reduce the symptoms of stress and promote resilience to stress. Resilience means that when life gets challenging, you are able to better deal with what life throws at you, and can ’bounce back’ easier.
Here are 5 powerful ways that Yoga can help you take control over stress and live a more peaceful life.
Space to think
Stress often gets in the way of clear, logical thinking. We will often bemoan that we ‘can’t think straight’ when stressed out. Yoga practices such as the deep breaths of Pranayama and the relaxing stretches of Asana give you time and space to clear the anxious thoughts and think clearly and rationally about your situation.
Ease tense muscles
Stress has a way of making itself known in the body if we don’t resolve it in the mind. One of the ways it manifests is through the muscles. Tense muscles can cause pain and discomfort and can make stress and anxiety worse. It can interfere with sleep, productivity and severely affect your ability to relax. Yoga can ease all this away with just one class in the short term, and in the long term, your Yoga practice can significantly reduce physical and mental tension.
Sleep is the greatest weapon against stress we have, and yet it can be one of the first things to suffer when you feel overwhelmed. Lack of sleep exacerbates stress, as it reduces your ability to cope with life’s challenges, it’s a vicious circle indeed. Yoga is a wonderful way to relax your body and ease yourself into bedtime, especially when you attend an evening class. When you can get a good night’s sleep, you are much better able to handle what life sends your way. Many of my students report that their best night’s sleep is the night of their Yoga class!
Improved coping strategies
The lessons you learn on the yoga mat don’t just end there. You will find that there are practices that you begin to incorporate into your day when you need them. You can create your own stressbusting Yoga toolbox that you can use whenever you need help to relax and manage your emotions. Regular yoga practice promotes resilience to stress so you have healthy coping strategies to turn.
Endurance and acceptance
B.K.S.Iyengar famously said, “Yoga teaches us to cure what need not be endured and endure what cannot be cured”. Yoga allows you to develop acceptance of the things that cannot be changed in life, so you are not constantly trying to fight the inevitable. It gives you the resilience and strength to change the things that you can and must change. This is the heart of stress management really. Choose your battles and fight wisely. A lot of the stress we feel in life is frustration at the way things are. We want to change things that are beyond our control. Yoga gives you the wisdom to know what you can and can’t change, and when to act and when to accept.
There are other ways that Yoga can help you to manage stress. You can read a bit more in this post about Yoga and anxiety, but why not come along to a class and find out for yourself? Yoga is meant to be experienced. Take a look here at the class timetable. Make a commitment to honour yourself with some ‘me time’ on the mat.