Stressed Out? Yoga May Be the Answer

Attempting boat pose on my paddle board in the North Cascades. It's a lot easier on solid ground!

Attempting boat pose on my paddle board in the North Cascades. It's a lot easier on solid ground!

If daily hassles, constantly chiming cell phones, and past-due deadlines have you at the boiling point, simmer down to the yoga mat and find a little peace of mind.

I have to admit - I never used to find yoga appealing. As someone who grew up dancing and doing extreme sports I prefer higher intensity fitness like weight training or HIIT workouts, basically anything I can do to loud, fun, dancey music. But lately I find myself in a different state of mind and suddenly yoga sounds pretty darn good.

As an entrepreneur I tend to think about work all day, every day. I have to make a concerted effort each day to unplug, shift gears and actually stop working at a certain point because no joke, I could work 24 hours a day and still have more to do. Sound familiar?

As my practice has grown and I have a fuller and fuller plate I find myself longing for ways to check-out and enjoy some "me-time". Don't get me wrong, I'm thrilled that I'm helping more people get healthy and that my business is growing; but as a Wellness Coach I also need to be an example of good self-care while maintaining the emotional energy to guide and support my clients through their health challenges. Lately yoga has become a way for me to chill out, get in touch with my body and refocus on what's important. It doesn't feel as daunting as an intense weight workout does on days when I'm already feeling depleted, so I'm also more likely to do it. As I always tell my clients - the best workout is the one that you'll actually do.

The beauty of yoga is that it helps reduce stress hormones, of which most of us are producing far too much and too often. For those of us with stressful jobs and/or lives, yoga can provide a peaceful respite from daily life and help us handle stress in a more healthy way while increasing our strength and flexibility. Sounds like a win win to me!

Yoga is considered a "mind-body practice", combining physical poses (postures) called asanas, simple breathing exercises and guided meditation. And you don't have to be super flexible or athletic - anyone can reap the amazing benefits of practicing yoga, regardless of age or fitness level.

Benefits of Yoga:

  • Reduce blood pressure
  • Lower resting heart rate (so the heart works more efficiently)
  • Promote mental alertness
  • Better manage symptoms of anxiety and depression
  • Reduce muscle tension, pain and stiffness associated with stress and chronic health conditions
  • Improve recovery after workouts

There are many 'styles' of Yoga for you to try. Styles vary in the number or poses and the intensity of how the poses are performed. Some styles are more intense like Bikram, Power, and Iyengar, while others such as Kundalini and Ashtanga are more restorative. All yoga styles originate from Hatha Yoga, which originated in India about 5,000 years ago. Hatha Yoga is a good choice for managing stress and chronic health concerns and is also ideal for beginners.

A typical yoga class begins with breathing exercises and gentle movements to clear the mind and limber up the body to prepare for the "active postures." Next, you'll move through a series of poses or asanas (standing, seated, and lying down). During class an instructor may use the ancient Sanskrit (Hindu) names and the American names for poses, e.g., Mountain Pose (Tadasana) or Triangle Pose (Trikanasana). A certified instructor will also help participants modify poses to suit their unique needs, ensure proper form and prevent injury.

The focus of practicing yoga is not on how long or how perfectly you perform the pose. Nor is it competitive - so no making comparisons or judgments of yourself and others! Yoga is all about letting go of your mental chatter by focusing on the breath and allowing it to guide your body into a calm, centered state.

Yoga class concludes with a guided meditation or relaxation exercise. This may help you learn to be more mindful and aware of yourself throughout your day, not just during your time on the yoga mat.