Yoga for Stress: Breath, Poses, and Meditation to Calm Anxiety – Healthline

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Yoga continues to grow in popularity as people experience its physical and mental benefits. Developing a personal yoga practice can help prevent and reduce stress, which is a common goal among people who want to create positive growth and focus on self-improvement.
In addition to physical postures, your yoga routine can include breathing, meditation, and relaxation techniques like yoga nidra. Continue reading to learn more about the stress-relieving benefits of yoga and how you can use your practice to enhance your well-being.
Yoga encourages mental and physical relaxation, which helps reduce stress and anxiety. The physical postures promote flexibility, relieve tension, and alleviate pain.
Yoga poses may help you release physical blockages like muscle knots, helping release emotions and tension. They also promote the release of mood-boosting endorphins, which are the feel-good hormones that can positively affect how you handle stress.
Focusing on the present moment during your yoga practice enhances your awareness, boosts your concentration, and centers your mind.
As you become aware of the transitory nature of your bodily sensations, thoughts, and feelings, you may find it easier to let go of attachments to positive, negative, and neutral experiences. You may also learn to cultivate feelings such as love, joy, and serenity.
Plenty of scientific evidence supports the stress-relieving benefits of yoga.
According to a 2018 study, yoga had a positive result on women who practiced Hatha yoga 3 times a week for 4 weeks. After 12 sessions, they experienced significant reductions in stress, depression, and anxiety (1).
These results suggest that yoga can be a complementary medicine and may decrease the need for prescription drugs. More in-depth studies are required to investigate the long-term role of yoga in treating stress, depression, and anxiety.
A small 2020 study in adult men suggested that yoga stretches reduce cortisol levels and have a positive effect on parasympathetic nerve activity, which encourages relaxation (2).
Researchers in another 2020 study found that people who did an 11-minute yoga nidra meditation for 30 days reduced their stress levels, enhanced their overall well-being, and improved their sleep quality (3).
Practicing yoga nidra also boosted mindfulness and reduced negative emotions. These benefits stayed the same at a follow-up 6 weeks later.
Breathing exercises, known as pranayama in Sanskrit, teach you to relax, regulate your breath, and breathe deeply. This helps reduce stress and calm your body and mind. Breathing techniques can also enhance your sleep quality and encourage mindfulness.
You can do breathing exercises during your yoga practice or when you want to focus on relaxation throughout the day. These techniques are also useful when you experience uncomfortable emotions or difficult situations.
A few popular types of pranayama include:
You can get started with the following yoga poses to relieve stress.
This pose allows you to connect your breath to your movements as you calm your mind and release stress. Allow your breath to guide each movement.
Child’s pose helps create an inward focus and restore energy. It also supports mental and physical relaxation.
For more support, place a cushion under your forehead, torso, or thighs.
Legs-Up-the-Wall Pose provides deep relaxation while boosting lymph flow and circulation.
During this pose, focus on breathing deeply as you calm your mind and let go of tension.
You can practice meditation on its own or include it as part of your asana routine. Meditation positions include sitting on a chair or on the floor. You can also do standing, walking, and lying-down meditation.
Experiment with a few types of meditation on your own or seek the guidance of a teacher who can help you create a structured, consistent routine. Once you’ve established a meditation practice, stick to this routine for some time instead of changing regularly.
Yoga nidra, known as yogic sleep, is a guided meditation that you do in-person with a teacher or via a recording. It promotes deep relaxation, alleviates stress, and helps you sleep better.
Yoga nidra is a fantastic option when you’re too tired for an asana (moving through poses) or seated meditation practice but still want to dedicate time to your yoga routine.
Yoga can be very effective when trying to calm your body and mind. To get the most out of your stress relief, remember these tips.
Negative thoughts are bound to arise when you do yoga. You can practice awareness, acceptance, and detachment to create positive mental patterns. This may help you have fewer negative thoughts and be less affected by them.
Learn to focus on the present moment and bring your attention to your thoughts as they arise and pass, which helps you recognize their fleeting nature.
Each time you find yourself getting lost in your thoughts — whether they’re positive or negative — bring your awareness back to your breath and body. Over time, you can make it a habit to detach from both positive and negative states of mind.
To manage stress off the mat, take a look at your schedule and lifestyle to see where you can make changes. This may include allowing yourself more free time, developing a healthy eating plan, or spending more time in nature.
While yoga can provide tremendous benefits, it’s important to remember that you will still experience the ups and downs of life. It’s natural to experience a wide range of feelings and emotions.
If you find your yoga practice creates more stress in your life, talk to an instructor who can help you develop a routine tailored to your needs. And, as always, talk to your doctor before starting any yoga routine, especially if you have any health conditions or take medications.
Yoga, meditation, and breathing exercises are wonderful ways to reduce stress, replenish your energy, and enhance your overall well-being. Enjoy the process of discovering which techniques and practices bring you the greatest benefit.
Last medically reviewed on May 4, 2021









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