We are all too familiar with stress in our lives. Especially over the past year, many have dealt with health care, finances, job security, limitations in socializing, and more. All of these things can contribute to the common feeling of stress.
As we emerge from a treacherous year, it is time to get a handle on this built-up stress and relieve our minds and bodies. Let's take a look at how life events trigger stress and how we can learn to relieve and even eliminate stress from our lives.
1. What is Stress?
Stress is a physiological response when the mind and body perceive potential danger. This is a very natural experience, however, an overload of stressors in your life can keep you in a constant state of stress. This is not good for your mental and physical health. When you feel the pressure of taking care of your family, home schooling, and making ends meet, you may feel your mind racing, worrisome thoughts increase, your blood pressure goes up, and the muscles in your body always feel tense.
This can lead to more devastating problems like heart disease and stroke. It is imperative, therefore, to find ways to manage stress and the bodily response that it triggers. Yoga can be a resourceful tool to take care of your mind and body.
2. Yoga As a Physical Practice
We tend to hold a lot of tension in our bodies. Moving can be a good remedy for releasing some of that tension. Yoga as a physical practice is a very good resource for moving your entire body. In a yoga class, for example, you will be guided through various poses and yoga sequences to re-introduce movement to parts of your body that feel limited and stuck. With a regular moving practice, your muscles will feel less tense, you will gain flexibility, and improve your strength. Yoga also can help with balance and stability in your body.
During a physical yoga practice, your attention is drawn directly to what is happening inside of you in the present moment. This is key when dealing with worry and stress. These emotions often encourage our minds to stray from the present and ruminate on the past or fear the future, thus creating stress. In yoga, you are more aware of your present state of mind and body.
3. Yoga As a Meditative Practice
Other forms of yoga may not include a lot of physical movement. Mindfulness Meditation is one such yoga practice. Instead the focus is on your breath which also draws your attention to the present moment. By practicing particular breathing exercises, your mind shifts from stressful thoughts to more calming thoughts.
Because of the deep breathing in meditation, you are also stimulating healthy oxygen and blood flow throughout the brain and body. This contributes to less tension in your muscles, a more regulated heart rate, and reduced triggering of the stress response.
Research shows that the practice of meditation enhances the growth of brain cells in your cerebral cortex that pertain to higher functioning like memory, decision making, and concentration. These attributes will help you face your stressors and begin to positively problem solve to take care of those life events. This will result in feeling more confident and certainly less stressed.
Taking the time to practice yoga or meditate regularly will help you to manage the physiological response related to stress. Over time, you will notice an overall sense of calm, ease in your breath, less muscle tension, and clear thinking.
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