Yoga had been something I wanted to try for years, but as someone who deals with anxiety I had always been too nervous and would find it overwhelming walking into a class full of people. I had this fear that everyone else would know what they were doing, and I would have no idea so I would stand out like a sore thumb, for everyone to be secretly laughing at.
One day I saw a post on Facebook from a yoga studio, based near where I live, who were offering an “Absolute Beginners Yoga Course”. It was described as being for people exactly like me; I felt like this woman had read my mind! So, I reluctantly booked on to one of the classes and very sheepishly rocked on that evening. I completely winged it, but I was comfortable in the knowledge that everyone else was doing the same.
It was one of the best things I’ve done for ages!
I continued on to start the normal beginners yoga classes, and for the first couple of classes I still felt quite anxious turning up and walking into that studio, but after a few I started to feel a lot more relaxed. I quickly realised that most of the people in there were also learning – that’s why it’s called beginners.
Not only does it help to improve your confidence – just turning up to a class is a big step for some – but there are also so many health benefits to doing yoga, so the added confidence is just a bonus!
Here are just some of the benefits of yoga:
Improves your flexibility
Helps to improve posture
Improves bone health
Builds muscle strength
Helps to boost metabolism and vitality
Increases blood flow
Helps you to sleep better
So, how can yoga help to relieve stress?
It calms the mind
This might not happen as soon as you start practicing yoga. I know for myself, I struggled at the beginning to relax my mind during the sessions. Each session starts with a meditation, where everyone will lay on their mats, doing some deep breathing, and clearing the mind. I struggled to do this because I didn’t really know how to relax and clear my mind. However, after a few classes, this started to get easier and it’s a really nice way to start the session and to allow yourself to be fully immersed in the session.
Meditation is also amazing for stress-relief. It teaches you to slow down, focus your mind, and become more mindful. It’s not something that just happens, though, you have to keep at it and you will get better at this with practice.
It relaxes the body
When we feel stressed, our body’s natural reaction is to tighten which causes muscle tension. Yoga is a great way of releasing this muscle tension and relaxing the body.
Although some yoga poses probably don’t make you feel very relaxed, at least not at first, once you learn how to practice yoga properly it can be extremely relaxing on the body. This is also why it’s important to calm and relax your mind before you start the practice – you can’t relax the body if the mind isn’t relaxed.
It helps to lower blood pressure
When we are stressed, we might react in negative ways as a way of dealing with the stress such as, drinking alcohol, eating junk food, etc. All of which can cause high blood pressure. High blood pressure can cause many serious conditions such as heart failure, strokes, heart attack, and more.
Practicing yoga induces relaxation throughout your body, which helps to naturally lower your blood pressure.
It helps you to control your breathing
Breath control is a big part of a yoga practice. It helps you to be more aware of your breathing, which you can use as a way of relaxing your body in stressful situations.
This can be very helpful if you suffer with panic/anxiety attacks, in which you find yourself not feeling in control of your breathing. Yoga can help you to learn how to regulate your breathing, which helps to calm your body.
It improves your fitness
Exercise of any kind can help to alleviate stress by releasing endorphins and, although it may not feel like a tough workout, this also includes yoga.
Yoga is all about practicing different stretches and poses. When we feel feel stress our bodies tend to tense up and we can often feel this tension in our muscles, so these stretches help to release the tension on our bodies.
So, what are you waiting for? Go to Google, Facebook, your friends – whatever – right now and find your nearest yoga instructor. You won’t regret it!