By Bhavan Kumar
How can yoga lift your spirits? Since yoga moved onto the world stage, asana, pranayama, meditation and other Yogic stress-reduction exercises have been studied as possible alternative treatments for mood-related disorders. However, the body of literature on the therapeutic benefits of yoga was rather limited until the Internet propelled it forward.
Yoga is now becoming more and more popular. It is not just a trend, but a lifestyle movement that’s swept the world. It is reported that at least 7.5% of American adults have tried yoga once. Additionally, there are at least 4% that have practiced it within the past year. Those may seem like small percentages, but that’s a lot of people!
The great thing about yoga is that it can be modified for people of all ages and athletic ability. They can be both gentle and challenging. It is largely up to you. There is a style to fit the needs of just about any individual. Hatha yoga is the most common practice style of yoga in the States. Hatha combines physical poses, which are known as asanas, with controlled breathing exercises and periods of meditation.
Yoga is an exercise that combines the body and mind in an integrative approach to health. As we mentioned above, the asanas (poses) can be difficult poses that push your physical limits. There are also ones that have you just lying on the floor in silence.
Breath control is a crucial component of practicing yoga. You’d be surprised by how poor your breath control may be. By controlling your inhalation and exhalation, you can be aware of the present moment and help calm the intrusive thoughts that attack your mental wellbeing. Meditation is another important aspect of yoga. Meditation helps clear your mind of any unwanted thoughts while working on your ability to be mindful.
Yoga as Anxiety Relief
Yoga also works as a natural form of anxiety relief. Certain yoga poses and practices can help reduce stress triggers, which is beneficial for individuals dealing with anxiety or depression. Yoga works through the same neural pathways to balance your mood in the same way that meditation, relaxation, and exercise do. You should think of it as a combination of those three actions to lift your spirits.
Yoga can modulate stress response systems and by doing so can reduce physiological arousal. It decreases your blood pressure, heart rate, and breath rate. There is also a growing body of evidence that suggests that it can help boost your heart rate variability.
Yoga and Stress Response
In an article released by the Harvard Medical School in 2009, it noted that the University of Utah conducted a study reviewing the effects of yoga on an individual’s stress response by looking at their pain threshold. The medical researchers at the university found that the participants that had a poor level of stress response also had increased pain sensitivity. The study included 14 participants with fibromyalgia, 16 healthy people, and 12 experienced yogis. If you weren’t aware, fibromyalgia is an illness that relates to stress and hypersensitivity to pain. These three groups were placed under painful thumbnail pressure and their responses were recorded.
In addition to that, they underwent MRIs to review their brain activity during this pain response period. The participants with fibromyalgia had the highest level of activity in the areas of their brains that relate to pain sensitivity. Whereas, with the yogis, they reportedly had the highest level of pain tolerance and lowest levels of brain activity in the pain response area of the brain. This lends credibility to the concept that yoga can improve a person’s ability to balance their mood and regulate their pain response.
Most forms of yoga are safe for you to practice. There is even chair yoga for people that have limited mobility. Remember, your mental and physical health are closely intertwined. Yoga is a fantastic way to improve your health that comes with essentially no risk at all.
Yoga can also help with your level of fitness. Many professional athletes practice yoga as a supplementary exercise to help with their balance and flexibility. It can even help you become stronger. Some of the poses you’ll find yourself doing will test the limits of your strength and physical ability. Also, it can aid in regulating chronic conditions. As noted above, yoga can reduce your blood pressure. This helps with a variety of heart-related illnesses.
According to the Mayo Clinic, even though yoga is safe for just about everyone, you should consult your doctor beforehand if you have any of the following:
• Varying levels of blood pressure.
• Balance issues.
• A history of blood clots.
• Herniated disks.
• Eye conditions.
You should still be able to practice yoga even if you have one of these conditions. You just need to find the right kind of yoga that works for you. Remember that with yoga, you can always modify the pose or avoid doing it altogether. If you have any concerns beforehand, consult your healthcare provider to ensure you’re maximizing the benefits from yoga practice.
Before Getting Started
Yoga is something that you can practice from watching videos on YouTube, Facebook, Daily Motion, or reading through yoga practice books. However, we suggest attending a class if you’re som