Ways of yoga reduce stress and anxiety
I experienced first-hand the benefits of prenatal yoga while our second child was born. My wife taught prenatal yoga; I was engaged in yoga, which just was when we expected.
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In order to be such a short trip from inside the uterus to the street, the child’s journey is complex. Even in the most favorable circumstances, the delivery room is a tense place.
As in most hospitals, our baby’s heartbeat was controlled, so nurses could detect any “fetal disorders”. Our first child had an extended labor, and I started a series of terrifying (for me) slowing of his heart rate with each contraction. A healthy “sound signal” will be slowed down by “an audible signal … an audible signal” Although this seems to be not uncommon, it led to significant parental frustration.
The second time I found that I was completely busy monitoring the monitor, which made me irritable and distracted. And then at some point I remembered the words of my fantastic yoga instructor at that time Paula Rukenshtein: “You always have a breath, and I can return to him at any time.”
When I focused on my breathing, I was able to disconnect from the monitor and release my efforts to somehow control what was going on. I realized and accepted that I do not need everything to be all right. I was able to focus my attention on the person in the room, who obviously had the most difficult job to give birth.
Numerous studies now confirm that countless yoga practitioners have found: whether we are dealing with acute stress , like childbirth or are struggling with long-term stress and anxiety, yoga can become a powerful tool for calming our nervous system. For example, in one study, ten sessions of hatha yoga were found to reduce stress and anxiety and improve quality of life; in another study, the benefits of anxiety and mood from the twelve Iyengar yoga classes were found. Most likely, the benefits become even more pronounced with constant practice.
Yoga is also part of a highly effective stress-relieving program (MBSR) based on awareness, as described in The Complete Catastrophe of John Kabat-Zinn’s Life. In my own work as a therapist, I often recommend yoga as part of a treatment program for anxiety, whether in a studio that a person likes, or with online video at home. When a person prefers home practice, I usually recommend “Yoga with Adrien”, which offers countless free video yogas with low stress levels and a very encouraging approach. (I provide links to some specific yoga videos below.)
Many factors seem to contribute to the usefulness of yoga with stress and anxiety. In my own experience and with the people I treated, the following seven factors are important:
- Yoga reduces stress and promotes relaxation. In times of high stress and anxiety, our bodies tend to narrow. We begin to strain our shoulders, neck, jaw, or anywhere else. Excessive muscle tension can then return to our mind and perpetuate a sense of anxiety. When we experience the relaxation benefits of yoga, we can reduce our physical stress, which helps to release the grip that anxiety can have in us. Click here for a video of yoga specifically designed for relaxation.
- Yoga helps us regulate breathing. Our breathing is closely related to our nervous system. When we are worried, we are prone to quick, shallow breathing, or we can even unconsciously hold our breath, and then take large pharyngeal breaths. When we slow down and deepen our breathing, we calm the nervous system. Yoga can teach us to breathe awareness and use breathing to move through complex poses. As I found in the delivery room, we can focus on this with you anywhere. Most yoga instructors will direct your attention to breathing during the lesson; Click here for videos that demonstrate specific breathing techniques in yoga.
- Yoga increases the body’s consciousness. In addition to the relaxing effect that comes directly from the yoga session, we can also learn more about our bodies, which can further reduce our physical stress and stress from the mat. We often carry unnecessary tension in our bodies, and thanks to the practice of yoga we can better understand the tension and let it go.
- Yoga interrupts the cycle of anxiety. We all had the experience of being stuck in our heads, and chronic worries can be debilitating. When we step on the rug for yoga, we have the opportunity to exit the mode of thinking. Our worries, of course, can come with us, and yoga gives us the opportunity to practice, getting rid of anxiety and returning to our bodies and breathing again and again. Thanks to this practice, we can learn to continue to let go of our worries.
- Doing yoga shows compassion itself. When we are tense and busy, it’s easy to stop doing what’s good for us, for example, doing physical exercises, getting enough sleep and eating well. When we take 20 or 30 minutes to do something like yoga, we treat ourselves as someone who should be taken care of. And as good as thinking about yourself, at least it’s so important to show that we care about ourselves. I often found that behavior occurs before the feeling among those of us who are struggling to love themselves.
- Yoga promotes self-acceptance. As hard as yoga can be, practice is based on accepting where we are. This is what is very clearly seen in the video “Yoga with Adrien” – to accept our bodies, abilities and limitations in the same way as they are. It is important to note that adoption should not mean resignation to stagnation. As I already wrote, we can have the intention of growth, even if we consider ourselves as whole whole, just as the acorn is completed and yet it does not grow.
- Yoga teaches us to take discomfort. We often move reflexively from discomfort, and from time to time this retreat can lead us to what we value. For example, avoiding the actions that cause us anxiety will bleed life from our experience. I remember one day I feel very uncomfortable in a pose and feel that I could not hold it, and the yoga instructor told the class: “You should be uncomfortable now.” Just knowing that this discomfort was expected, he became more tolerant: It was just discomfort, no better, no worse. I did not need to escape from him.