The practice of yoga as means of self-development, and attainment of enlightenment, goes back thousands of years. While hippies were practicing yoga as early as the 50’s and 60’s, it’s only now in the early 2000’s that mass population is starting to awaken their awareness to this unique practice of mindful movements that help to cultivate happiness and joy.
The National Institutes of Health concluded a survey in 2015 that portrayed yoga as the most popular choice of natural therapy, surpassing massage therapy and progressive relaxation. This is only the beginning of integrating yoga in the traditional health system, the human body is adapting fast to artificial drugs, and countless yoga practitioners have reported life altering changes in their lifestyle and health, all because of their yoga practice.
America is not the only country struggling with mental health issues, or general happiness levels in society. It’s happening everywhere in the world today, and people are naturally drawn to alternative ways of dealing with stress and life pressure because alcohol, sex and drugs are no longer getting the job done.
Chronic stress can result in anxiety, insomnia, high blood pressure, and a weakened immune system. It can also contribute to health conditions such as depression, obesity, and heart disease. Compounding the problem, people who experience excessive stress often deal with it in unhealthy ways such as overeating, choosing unhealthy foods, smoking cigarettes, or abusing drugs and alcohol. — Surbhi Kanur
Yoga has become the go-to solution to deal with stress and life problems effectively, oftentimes allowing the practitioner to find a mindful solution for something that has been bothering him for a long time, often years at a time. In the light of yoga crawling into mainstream, we put together an informative infographic that depicts main causes of stress, explains how yoga helps to balance your mind and body, and includes a healthy dose of tips to help you start your own yoga practice, in a studio or at home.
Let’s just overview some of these points, and hopefully you will end up with enough information to start your practice in the near future, even just a few minutes a day will gradually lead to significant health improvements.
What are the main causes of stress?
- Sudden changes in life.
- Issues related to other people.
- Health concerns.
- Finding balance between work and life.
- Relationship problems.
- Difficult events, such as a divorce.
- Childhood trauma.
- Lack of job security.
- Fears and phobias.
- Self-image in society.
While these causes touch only the surface of what can happen to us in any given moment, they are the most prominent causes of stress in society today. Some will experience a number of causes from this list at the same time, which can easily lead to depression and self-sabotaging behavior.
The goal is not to dwell on what’s not working, and instead shift the focus on finding a solution for anything that’s bringing you down in life. Yoga, if practiced regularly, can become that solution.
How does yoga work?
The underlying principle of yoga is the mindful movement through a set of postures, which require attentive concentration on the breath as you move in and out of poses.
Through the process of coming in and out of poses, the body has a chance to stretch itself, while your breath fills your body with vital life energy. Different yoga styles provide different benefits, but the most traditional styles are Vinyasa Flow and Hatha Yoga, both of which involve rigorous practice of moving through postures.
As you practice holding yoga poses, it helps you to increase your core strength and encourages for you to hold the correct alignment for each pose. Depending on the class, you might be required to hold a particular pose for 3-5 breaths which can challenge your sense of comfort in the body. As you concentrate on your breathing during each posture, you naturally release any tension in your body which helps to tackle stress and anxiety.
Benefits of Yoga for Stress Relief
A daily yoga practice will gradually start to improve your breathing patterns that will relax your body through releasing any tension that has stored itself into the muscles of your body, whilst providing your body and brain with a fresh dose of oxygen and blood that promote the feelings of wellbeing.
Tens of thousands of people have experienced instantaneous feelings of joy and peace after just one yoga session, some call it magic, while others embrace its roots that go back thousands of years.
What are the benefits of yoga for stress relief?
- Focused breathing — The core part of yoga is the attentiveness to your breath. Yoga helps you cultivate the habit of mindful breathing, which becomes part of your daily life. Breathing is a scientifically proven technique for reducing anxiety and stress.
- Bodily awareness — Yoga encourages you to quieten your mind and listen to your body as you move through yoga postures using mindful breathing. Intense postures teach you how breath can be used to withstand uncomfortable feelings in your body and mind.
- Initiation in meditation — The physical movements (asanas) involved in yoga help to prepare you for a mindful meditation practice. As your body relaxes and blood circulation increases, it becomes easier to sit still for extended periods of time.
- Exercise — Nearly all types of yoga will help you to strengthen your muscles, while more vigorous types (power yoga and vinyasa flow) provide cardio workout benefits. Exercise has been studied extensively and provides immense benefits for stress relief.
Yoga is a science, it’s the science of your mind and body, and how both are inevitably connected to each other. The benefits you see outlined above are only the beginning of what yoga has to offer, and each and every one of us are going to experience yoga in a unique way, which admittedly is the beauty of practicing yoga in the first place.
It’s a gateway towards your own happiness and fulfillment in life, and what could possible be better than that?
How to start practicing yoga?
Those who are just starting to learn more about yoga have several options of trying yoga for themselves, most prominently they are; attend a class in a yoga studio nearby, or utilize the internet to find yoga classes online, on YouTube.
In a studio
Typically, and depending on the area in which you live, you will have access to a yoga studio nearby. A simple Google search for “yoga studios near me” should return ample amounts of results for you to find a studio that works for you. Always try different studios to compare styles and your levels of comfort.
The other option is to practice at home. Anyone who has access to the internet can begin their practice of yoga at home — free yoga videos are available on YouTube. Use the search function to find yoga tips, yoga routines, and general yoga postures so you can master them individually. The benefit of doing yoga at home is that you can practice for as long as you like, without a strict session (usually 90min) length.
Tips for Yoga Beginners
Lastly, here is a rundown of the best tips for yoga beginners. This practical advice will help you make the most of each yoga session that you participate in, gradually building your confidence and strength in the body. Have more to add? Leave a comment!
- Start with beginner’s classes — Don’t jump into the far end with your first yoga class, check if the class is for “beginners” or says “open” which means it will be comfortable for all-levels. Hatha yoga is one of the most flowing and gentle options, making it a good starting point; Vinyasa is more athletic; and Iyengar concentrates on proper alignment.
- Relax into the experience — Yoga postures might have difficult-to-remember names, and some classes might do chanting of “om”, but don’t let that distract you from what yoga is all about: the process of bringing together your mind and body using breath, and carefully developed postures that challenge your levels of comfort.
- Listen to your body — Yoga is a deeply personal practice and no two people can, or should, hold a pose in exactly the same way. It’s important to work at your own level of flexibility, one that makes you feel challenged but not overwhelmed. The key is to listen to your body, push the limits gently, but don’t let yourself be overcome by ego.
- Follow your breath — The goal of yoga is to unite movement with breath, and in most classes you will have the teacher guide you with the appropriate breathing patterns for each posture. As you become fully focused on your breath, your thoughts dissipate and the body can begin to relax, which acts as a natural stress relief response.
- Yoga is not competitive — You may notice that in some classes, some of the class attendees have developed phenomenal levels of flexibility, and you may feel like you need to follow their lead, but this can only harm you as you try to navigate a posture that your body is simply not capable of doing, not physically. Work your way up gradually.
- Enjoy the process — Many yoga practitioners have shared life-changing experiences because of their dedication to the practice. Amongst the many benefits, increased happiness and wellbeing are amongst the most talked about changes that people experience. Make yoga a fun activity, learn to enjoy your own body and things will improve.
What’s great about attending a yoga class in a studio, is that you get to meet people who are also beginners and are trying to find a way to balance their lives better, and you can always engage the yoga teacher after a class to discuss specific philosophy or tips, I’ve yet to see a yoga teacher turn someone away because they came off the wrong way.
We are all in this together, we are all learning how to master ourselves and how to live a life that we can truly be proud of, and yoga in this regard can be an incredible tool for balancing and organizing in your life so that you feel content, and naturally happy, despite the difficulties and challenges that come your way.