Most of us who practice yoga regularly knows that yoga helps to reduce or manage our stress. But how does yoga really help?
When we are stressed, tension is stored in the body, making us feel tight and sometimes even causing pain. Most of the stress that we feel would show itself as tension in our shoulders or tightness in our hips. Yoga helps manage stress using 3 methods: 1) Breath control 2) Clearing the mind 3) Relaxation
We also know this as pranayama – breathing is an involuntary act but yoga increases the awareness we have of our breath. When we are stressed, our breath becomes short and we tend to breathe through the chest and throat. By actively breathing using our belly, we slow down the breathing, which in turns, relaxes the body.
Clearing the mind
Our minds are constant racing from one thought to another, often juggling multiple thoughts within a single minute, dwelling on the past and wondering about the future. Yoga helps to clear the mind, or bring it to focus on a single thought through 2 well known techniques. The first has been outlined above – breath control. By focusing on your breathing, you focus on the here and now, as each breathe is intricately tied to the present moment. Focusing on the breath is also a meditation technique as it excludes other thoughts that may otherwise come into your mind. Another way to clear the mind is to do the asanas, or yoga poses. The poses are physical and requires mental concentration, so much as so that other thoughts would have to be cast aside to focus on the pose itself.
After every yoga session, we lie in savasana, which is most of our favourite pose. But do you know that it is also the hardest pose to achieve? In this pose, we are supposed to be completely relaxed and free from thoughts. The other form of relaxation in yoga is known as yoga nidra, or yoga sleep. It is meant for a longer and deeper form of relaxation where the participant would experience alpha brain waves. It is the state where the body sleeps but the mind remains lucid. Some school of thoughts also believe that yoga nidra helps one get better quality sleep.
So, the next time you are feeling stressed, or have trouble sleeping, why not come for a yoga class?