Stress…. It’s a fact of life; there’s really no getting around it. How you manage the stress though can mean the difference.
The body’s natural relaxation response is a powerful antidote to stress. Relaxation techniques such as deep breathing, meditation, and yoga can help you activate this relaxation response. When practiced regularly, these activities lead to a reduction in your everyday stress level and boost your feelings of peace and calm. They also help by teaching you how to stay calm and collected when life throws you a curveball.
The stress response floods your body with chemicals that prepare you for “fight or flight.” But, while this response is helpful in emergencies when you must be alert, chronic stress wears you down. Under sustained or severe stress, even the most well-adjusted person loses the ability to adapt. When stress overwhelms our coping resources, our bodies and minds suffer. Science is constantly learning about the impact that stress has on your overall health. Recent research suggests that anywhere from 60 to 90 percent of illness is stress-related. The physical wear and tear of stress includes damage to the cardiovascular system and immune system suppression. Stress can cause a miriad of health problems, compromising your ability to fight off disease and infection, throws your digestive system off balance, makes it difficult to conceive a baby, and can even stunt growth in children.
To counter-balance the stress response, we need to learn to activate our bodies relaxation response brings your system back into balance, deepening your breathing, reducing stress hormones, slowing down your heart rate, lowering your blood pressure, and relaxing your muscles.
Yoga is an excellent stress relief technique. It involves a series of both moving and stationary poses, combined with deep breathing. The physical and mental benefits of yoga provide a natural counter-balance to stress, and strengthens the relaxation response in your daily life.
Since injuries can happen when yoga is practiced incorrectly, it’s best to learn by attending group classes or hiring a private teacher. Once you learn the basics, you can practice alone or with others, tailoring your practice as you see fit.
Tips for starting a yoga practice:
* Consider your fitness level and any medical issues before joining a yoga class. There are many yoga classes for different needs, Hatha Yoga, Vinyasa or “Power” Yoga, Kundalini Yoga, “Hot” or Bikram Yoga, (practiced in a heated environment, might be too much if you are just starting out.) Research the different styles and find one that feels like a good fit. *For stress relief, I’d recommend Hatha Yoga; especially if you’re just starting out.
* Look for a low-pressure environment where you can learn at your own pace. Don’t extend yourself beyond what feels comfortable, and always back off of a pose at the first sign of pain. Listen to your body. A good teacher can show you alternate poses for ones that are too challenging for your fitness level.
* Remember, Yoga is not about turning yourself into a pretzel…it’s about finding your own edge and honoring where you are in this moment. Also, try a few different classes, every teacher has their own style; if you get turned off by one, try another.
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