Stress and anxiety are everywhere, especially during the holiday season! It’s easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of things and forget to take care of ourselves. One of my favorite sayings is “you can’t pour out of an empty cup”, which simply means if you are not taking care of yourself, you won’t be able to give to or take care of others. I have talked about self care on this blog before and today I am getting a little more specific about one way I love to ease stress and anxiety, while taking care of my body too.
I am sure at one time or another, you heard someone talk about the benefits of yoga. Yoga increases flexibility, increases muscle strength and tone, and improves cardiovascular and circulatory health, but it does so much more than help your physical health. Yoga is a mind-body practice, which means that it brings together your physical and mental disciplines. It does this by incorporating stretching poses with breathing, meditation, and relaxation. By forcing you to multitask in this way, yoga teaches you how to control your body while quieting your mind and thoughts.
Yoga poses are a series of movements and stretches aimed at increasing your strength and flexibility. Poses range in difficulty and intensity; they can be anything from simply laying on the floor and relaxing, to twisting your arms and legs like a pretzel while standing on one leg! The fact that poses can be very easy, or made more difficult, means that anyone can start practicing yoga no matter what their experience or physical ability is. Yoga teaches you to do all of this while still focusing on controlling your mind. By adding in controlled breathing techniques, yoga teaches you to control your mind and body together. Yoga also focuses on relaxation and meditation, which allows you to learn to be more mindful and aware in a situation that can be uncomfortable for you, which is a skill you can take into every aspect of your daily life.
Studies have shown that yoga has positive effects for individuals with chronic illnesses ranging from heart disease to cancer to eating disorders to chronic pain, but research has also shown that healthy individuals can benefit from the effects of yoga. Many people are now using yoga as a way to maintain health and prevent illnesses. When we are feeling stressed, anxious, or depressed out body is pushed into its “flight or fight” response. If we are in this stressed state constantly, our body is less able to protect itself. Our immune system is inhibited, which puts us at increased risk for getting sick and decreases our body’s ability to heal itself. By taking steps to decrease our stress, we can help our bodies to be able to fight off sickness easier.
While the studies that have been done have their limitations, as all studies do, the general consensus from research is that yoga is a promising modality for stress relief. One study examined individuals who did not practice yoga, individuals who attended 12 yoga sessions in 3 months, and individuals who attended 24 yoga sessions in 3 months. The groups who attended yoga classes reported significant decreases in overall perceived stress, anxiety, and improvement in depression symptoms. Other studies have shown improvement in mindfulness, cardiorespiratory endurance, flexibility, and balance along with reduced stress and anxiety.
With all the benefits that yoga can bring, it’s a great addition to your fitness routine! By focusing on both your mind AND body going into the New Year, you can set yourself up for a peaceful and successful 2018. I hope you all have a great New Year… I can’t wait to see where the coming year takes you and your goals!
What topics would you like to see covered in the blog for next year?! Comment below to let me know what you are interested in learning more about!
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