How Yoga and Meditation can reduce stress and alleviate anxiety
Yoga teaches us to connect to our breath, body and brain. This powerful alignment can transform our mental, physical and psychological health. It may be the last thing on your list when you get home from a busy day at work, but giving yourself just 5 minutes to unwind and find inner stillness can transform your energy, leaving you feeling refreshed and relaxed for the evening.
The importance of breath
Let’s start with the basics. Many of us, particularly when stressed, use only 30% of our lungs to breathe. Short and shallow breaths are trapped in the upper chest. They transfer enough oxygen around the body to survive, but not enough to feel calm or content. Shallow breathing also leads to tightness in the shoulders and neck, brain fog, anxiety, IBS, fatigue and even depression.
When we deepen our breath, and lengthen our exhales, we regulate our heart rate and tap into the parasympathetic nervous system, which tells the mind and body 'We are ok. We are safe.' It also instantly reduces cortisol, the stress hormone that is created when we fall into fight or flight mode, and the sympathetic nervous system is activated. By tuning inwards, practicing mindfulness and meditation, we reduce stress which can be the root cause of anxiety, and therefore can alleviate feelings of worry, irritability and overwhelm.
Release the body
Humans store stress, tension and emotional memories deep in the soft tissues of the body known as the fascia. This can cause our body to become tight, heavy and exhausted. Synchronising the breath with physical postures, can help to release aches, pains and stagnant energy, thus releasing years of stress, anxieties and fears trapped in our bodies. When we physically release our body, we also release the mind.
Ever wondered what that euphoric feeling of bliss was after savasana?
More oxygen and fresh energy running through your cells, resulting in less stress, anxiety and tension. The more you practice, the more toxins you will release and the more calm, content, and fulfilled you will feel.
Release the mind - Release the stress
Through consistent practice of yoga we can let go of the physical and mental stress from every day life, we do this by cultivating a deeper awareness of ourselves and surroundings.
If we trust and tune into our intuition, we can transfer what we practice on the mat - strength, patience, focus, courage - and apply these skills off the mat too!
Yoga can be practiced whenever and wherever, in times of uncertainty or anxiety. You don’t need to be in a studio or on a mat, you can practice mindfulness and meditation when walking, eating, showering or even on the train home from work. To feel the benefits of yoga, try adding 5 minutes into your daily routine! See this 5 minute breath work video below!