When it comes to the workplace, stress is often inevitable. Did you know that more heart attacks and other cardiovascular events occur on Mondays, rather than any other day of the week? This “Monday cardiac-phenomenon” is believed to be related to work stress(1). But, what about at home and in the classroom? According to a recent survey conducted by the American Psychological Association(2), the average American’s reported stress level, regardless of age, occupation and income, is 4.9 on a 10-point scale. Though the numbers have fallen from years past, Americans are still living with stress levels higher than what we believe to be healthy, and over 20 percent say they are not doing enough to manage their stress.
Maintaining a yoga practice can be a great way to reduce stress, calm the mind, and stay in shape. In a 2005 study in Germany(3), 24 women who described themselves as “emotionally distressed” took two 90minute yoga classes a week for three months. Women in a control group maintained their normal activities and were asked not to begin an exercise or stress-reduction program during the study period. At the end of the three months, women in the yoga group reported improvements in perceived stress, depression, anxiety, energy, fatigue and well-being.
Whether you have a strenuous office job, a hectic school schedule or a nonstop family agenda, here’s a few ways you can use yoga to reduce your stress:
1. Meditation or relaxation.
Through yoga, you may incorporate meditation or relaxation. Meditation may help you learn to be more mindful and aware of the present moment. You may find that just being still will have an incredible impact on both your physical and emotional state.
Meditation can help your physical being in the following ways:
- Lowers high blood pressure
- Lowers the levels of blood lactate (often referred to as lactic acid), reducing anxiety attacks
- Decreases tension related pain, such as, tension headaches, ulcers, insomnia, muscle and joint problems
- Increases serotonin production that improves mood and behavior
- Improves the immune system
- Increases your energy level, as you gain an inner source of energy
Meditation can help your emotional being in the following ways:
- Decreases anxiety Improves emotional stability
- Enhances creativity and overall happiness
- Develops a stronger Intuition
- Gains clarity and peace of mind
- Minimizes feelings of the magnitude of problems
In yoga, not all poses are created equal. Certain poses are designed to increase strength and flexibility, tailored to your level of fitness, while others are designed to target and reduce your stress. These poses are designed to help you relax, by offering gentle movements, slowing stretching your body, restoring and calming your mind.
Adho Mukha Svanasana, or Downward Dog Pose: Begin on hands and knees. Point your fingers to the top of the mat, spread fingers and distribute weight evenly. Tuck your toes as you exhale and lift knees off the floor. Reach your pelvis up toward the ceiling, straighten legs and then draw your sit bones toward the back of your mat, bringing your body into an “A.”
Balasana, or Child’s Pose: While sitting on the knees, bend forward with arms above the head. Rest your forehead on the ground and breathe.
Viparita Karani, or Legs Up The Wall Pose: Using a cushion or folded blanket for support about 5 to 6 inches away from the wall, sit sideways on right side of the support with your side against the wall. Swing your legs up onto the wall and your shoulders and head lightly down onto the floor, with the lower back placed on the support. Your sitting bones should be dipping down into the space between the support and the wall. Lay hands at side.
Yoga teaches that controlling your breath can help you control your body and quiet your mind. By concentrating on each breath, and each moment, you are in the present. You are able to let go of the past, and the future, and just focus on the right now.
Take a moment to think about everything you’ve done in the last 24 hours. Did you break out a sweat just thinking about your to-do list? How do you manage your stress? If you’re ready to commit to a more balanced lifestyle, more mental clarity and focus, reduced stress, and an improved wellbeing, consider adding yoga in to your routine. Whether you’re a first-time yoga student, or an experienced yogi, the benefits of yoga never end and only grow with you in your practice.
By Matt Sanderson, President and Founder of Yogis On The Go, the first and only mobile yoga service in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex offering private in-home or in-office yoga sessions to individuals, couples, small groups, office teams, corporate buildings, and events. To schedule a class and learn more, please visit www.yogisonthego.com.