Science has given us solid proof of what we might have all believed since we first started practicing – that yoga helps relieve stress! Yoga is not just a woo-woo technique to stretch your body and do weird breathing exercises, but it’s now an evidence-based practice that has many proven benefits and can lead to an improvement of the overall quality of your life. Some of these benefits include improved mind-body health and stress resilience, reduced depression and anxiety, as well as the ability to decrease inflammation. It also helps to increase mindfulness and feelings of well-being.
Harvard Health explains how yoga helps relieve stress saying, “[yoga] can reduce the impact of exaggerated stress responses and may be helpful for both anxiety and depression. In this respect, yoga functions like other self-soothing techniques, such as meditation, relaxation, exercise, or even socializing with friends. By reducing perceived stress and anxiety, yoga appears to modulate stress response systems. This, in turn, decreases physiological arousal — for example, reducing the heart rate, lowering blood pressure, and easing respiration. There is also evidence that yoga practices help increase heart rate variability, an indicator of the body’s ability to respond to stress more flexibly.” (Harvard Health Publishing)
Another explanation about how yoga helps relieve stress is given by Sat Bir Khalsa, PhD, a neuroscientist and professor at Harvard Medical School at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston published several studies in the “Journal of Physiology and Pharmacology (Vol. 48, No. 3), [that] show that yoga targets unmanaged stress, a main component of chronic disorders such as anxiety, depression, obesity, diabetes and insomnia. It does this, he says, by reducing the stress response, which includes the activity of the sympathetic nervous system and the levels of the stress hormone cortisol. The practice enhances resilience and improves mind-body awareness, which can help people adjust their behaviors based on the feelings they’re experiencing in their bodies, according to Khalsa.” (American Psychological Association)
I’ve noticed in my own personal life and practice, that when I include yoga as a daily activity – even for just 5-10 minutes – that I feel more calm, centered and peaceful. It helps to create a balanced relationship between my mind and body, allowing me to feel more at ease with anything that comes my way, expected or not. I’ve felt the decrease in anxiety as well as in feelings of depression. As a yoga teacher, I’ve seen how yoga can change lives. I see it in the eyes of my students, and the way that they are able to walk away from class feeling empowered and comfortable in their own skin. I’ve seen (and experienced) that no matter what you’re going through, the “self-soothing” ability of yoga is real and that it works. When we’re able to turn to these mindful practices that are rooted in ahimsa, or non-harming, we are not only healing ourselves but we are doing our part to help heal the world as well.
Taylor Lawrence, ERYT200