Stress can take its toll on your mental and physical health. Worries resulting in stress, anxiety and depression can result from the loss of a job, loss of a loved one, parenting, or a combination of all. Chronic worrying can harm your sleep, self-esteem, energy and nutrition. It can also cause feelings of anger, shame, guilt and isolation. You might even participate in unhealthy coping mechanisms such as drinking or using drugs. Coupled with the uncertainty that comes from the pandemic, it might feel like you may never attain the momentum needed to bring balance back to your life.
Living under the conditions of the “new normal” with the COVID-19 pandemic is not unique to you; the pandemic has impacted millions of people worldwide. Using unhealthy coping mechanisms to escape your worries is not only counterproductive, but you are overlooking the resources you have to help you out of your stressful quagmire. It all starts with bringing balance into your mind and your day. Starting from balance breeds more rational and logical thinking; it also helps you gain perspective on yourself and your place in the world. Among the many beneficial therapies is yoga, and this practice might be the best way to alleviate stress and even motivate you to tackle your problems head-on.
#1: Yoga Lowers Tension
When you experience moments of high stress and anxiety, your body tends to constrict and hold tension in areas throughout your body, including the jaw, neck, lower back and joints. Such strain takes a toll on your physical and mental well-being because it affects your nervous system’s different divisions. These divisions include the autonomic nervous system, sympathetic nervous system and peripheral nervous system, which elicit different fight or flight and hormonal pattern changes that create muscular tension and disrupt other processes such as digestive and cognitive abilities. These triggered reactions wear on the body over time.
Yoga, as a practice, utilizes both physical and mental techniques. While it is a form of exercise, it is meditative. Yoga helps lower physical tension, which helps release the hold that anxiety has on the body. It is so versatile that there are different practices geared toward lowering tension. Lowering tension also lowers your blood pressure and can even help correct mild cases of hypertension. Perhaps the best part is that you do not need to be at an advanced level to reap the benefits of tension-reducing yoga. Most positions that help lower stress are very basic to perform, such as the easy pose of Sukhasana, wide-legged standing forward bend or thunderbolt pose. Starting with easier poses will have you well on your way to enjoying the benefits of yoga.
#2: Regulates Breathing
When you have been in recovery, you likely know by now that being able to regulate your breathing patterns can work wonders in calming you down after experiencing a triggering or anxious moment. Like your muscle tension, your breathing pattern influences your nervous system. Elevated stress causes shorter breaths, which in turn elevate your heart beats and leads to tension and other negative nervous system responses. Yoga helps you focus on your breathing, slowing your air intake, creating healthy inhalation and strong exhalation.
Breathing is also a through-line in all yoga practices as a technique to help re-center and focus your thoughts. Regulated breathing is healthier for your heart and supplies the brain with an adequate amount of oxygen needed, promoting more clarity and rational thinking. The best part is once you develop a good breathing technique, you can utilize it anywhere for any amount of time. For example, if a situation has you feeling stressed, you can take a few minutes to step away, focus on your breathing, and sync your mind and body to begin handling the stress.
#3: Interrupts Worry Cycles
Whenever you focus on what has been causing you stress, it is easy to become stuck in these thoughts. Such negative thought patterns and perceived outcomes that have not yet happened can make for a lousy and frustrating existence. Ultimately, chronic worry is exhausting and a primary cause of feeling tempted to use unhealthy coping mechanisms. Creating a space to practice yoga, even if it only requires placing a yoga mat on your bedroom or living room floor, helps you step outside of your current mindset.
Much like mindfulness meditation, yoga as a practice helps you focus on your thoughts and their underlying causes to understand why your thought patterns react and move in specific ways. It enables you to challenge these thoughts and work through them more healthily. Likewise, yoga can help transition you away from pesky thoughts that feed your worry. Such a healthy distraction works wonders for your self-confidence and awareness. Practicing yoga and gaining control over your thoughts helps you let go of the worries you have over the things you cannot control and focus on what you can do to motivate and treat your situation.
#4: Yoga Creates Bodily Awareness
The more you take time to explore your thoughts and capabilities, the more in tune you become with your sense of self and being present. Yoga is not just a practice that happens on the mat for a certain period; this practice helps you become aware of how you think, feel and react to your everyday life stressors. Developing the good habits that come from doing yoga will help you recognize the moment when your body or thoughts are beginning to experience stress and anxiety. Identifying stress at the onset will help you act to alleviate it. Understanding how and why your body carries stress and tension will also help you realize your place in the present.
When times become difficult, yoga teaches you that everything in life is impermanent. The mind has a unique way of extrapolating minor disturbances into tomorrow’s threatening endeavors, but yoga helps you recognize and control these thoughts. Remember, you are never alone in your journey of self-growth and recovery. At New Hope Ranch, a residential rehab treatment near Austin, Texas, we continue to work with each individual to find the practices and treatments that best suit the individual’s needs. Our approach includes both conventional and holistic methods because recovery is not a one-size-fits-all ideology. Seek help at New Hope Ranch today and call us at (737) 600-8565.