How Yoga Helps Reduce Stress, Anxiety, and Improve Sleep

what yoga teaches us about reducing stress

Table of Contents

As a natural health company devoted to topics of stress, anxiety, and sleep — in particular — we believe in a holistic approach. Movement, community, rest, joy, breathing… These are all as important as complete nutrition.

Of course, yoga is a wonderful practice for anyone looking to downgrade stress, blood pressure and anxiety, tackle insomnia, and more. Here, we’ve compiled several guest posts from yoga practitioners with specific advice.

How Yoga Can Reduce Stress

Guest post by Manmohan Singh 

“On this path, no effort is wasted, no gain is ever reserved; even a little of this practice will shelter you from great sorrow.”- Bhagavad Gita

In today’s fast-paced world, we face endless tasks, worries, and pressure to accomplish goals. Under pressure to be multi-taskers and achievement-oriented, it can seem as if we’re running a rat race, not living our lives.

No wonder we experience stress, anxiety, insomnia, and many other health issues.

But there are many things we can do to add calm to our lives and yoga is one of the best practices for de-stressing.

Yoga:

  • boosts immunity
  • strengthens the heart
  • reduces stress
  • supports mental health
  • stabilizes emotions
  • strengthens the body
  • enhances spiritual awareness
  • promotes a healthy and positive lifestyle

What We Can Learn From Yoga to Reduce Stress

It is rightly said that yoga is the practice of the self, through the self, and for the self. And since our reaction to stress is highly-personal, it’s no wonder yoga can teach us many lessons on how to thrive in the face of daily stress.

Be centred and live in the present

Hectic personal and professional lives raise stress levels to the point where we can no longer enjoy the present moment. But according to many studies, yoga helps us rediscover our centre and stay present.

Yes, practicing asanas, meditation, and pranayama allow us to reconnect with the inner-self, and form a stronger connection. When you are rooted with a strong base, your attention and focus automatically return to the present moment.

Be disciplined and plan ahead

Yoga is a very disciplined practice and teaches us the same. As we plan the yoga class and move step by step, we learn to apply the same approach in our daily lives to reduce stress.

Being planful helps us focus and saves us from the last-minute chaos.

Express and communicate

Yoga is not only about physical, mental and spiritual well-being. It also touches the fourth aspect of life: our emotions. Our feelings play an important role in keeping us healthy mentally, physically and spiritually.

Yoga supports balanced emotions, clarity of thought, and awareness of feeling so we can overcome day-to-day stress. Emotional wellness through yoga also helps us be more effective professionally and in relationships.

Cultivate loving relationships

As mentioned, balanced emotions benefit relationships. Likewise, practicing this wonderful art of self-healing with family, friends, or partners brings togetherness.

When you practice yoga together, you spend time with each other while doing something healthy and positive. Practicing yoga with your partner also helps boost intimacy levels.

Feel yourself and feel the change

To lead meaningful lives, we need to form a very intimate relationship with our inner-selves. Only then can we live fully-realized lives.

Yoga teaches us how to form this connection. It helps us know our own limitations and strengths, and work on those. Yoga helps us ignite self-awareness, feel the change and transformation, and learn to accept and embrace ourselves.

Yoga is an everyday practice, not only to change our minds and bodies but to transform our lives holistically. A stress-free and healthy life is possible when we practice the lessons learned in yoga.

Author Bio: Manmohan Singh is a passionate Yogi, Yoga Teacher and a Traveller in India. He provides yoga teacher training in Nepal and India. He loves writing and reading books related to yoga, health, nature and the Himalayas. Manmohan has channeled this passion into organizing yoga, meditation and Ayurveda tours, and retreats in the Himalayas.

Reduce Anxiety and Improve Memory with Yoga

Guest post by Meera Watts

Stress can cause a myriad of health problems. Memory loss, premature ageing, heart and blood pressure problems are a few of the risks of stress.

Too much stress in the body sends messages to your brain that trickle down to the rest of your body. Your body braces itself to fight or run. If you were to do either of these things, your body would go back to normal. When you experience stress without doing something, it becomes harmful.

A study connected to the Harvard medical department found that yoga does benefit cognitive behaviour. With yoga, we learn how to manage and prevent anxiety and depression.

The poses of yoga also release tension in areas where we are holding stress. Blood is sent to various areas of the body when you do inversions so you give your heart a break.

Yoga as a Powerful Tool Against Anxiety and Depression

Reduce Anxiety with Yoga

Yoga has many tools to help you cope with mood problems like anxiety or depression. Each pose yoga is designed to help the mind, body, and soul. However you experience anxiety and depression, the symptoms can be relieved through yoga.

If you’re feeling confused or experiencing pain in your heart from anxiety, there is a pose to help you open your heart and get blood flowing to the heart again.

Yoga Helps Memory Loss Caused by Stress and Anxiety

Yoga Stress Anxiety Cortisol and Cognition

Memory loss can be attributed to chronic anxiety and depression. Stress raises levels of cortisol which is what creates anxious feelings in the body. Cortisol has been deemed the #1 health risk in North America. We need it to survive but the problem arises when we create too much. It damages brain cells and can alter your brain chemistry. Memory and concentration are affected.

Neuroscientists have found that through exercise, posture, focused breathing, and mindfulness, you can stimulate brain cells. Yoga encompasses all of these disciplines and can, therefore, counteract the damage done from too much anxiety. Your brain regenerates all the time so it just depends on what you feed it. That’s why there are times you feel clear in the mind and other times you’re forgetful. To maintain mental balance, daily yoga is beneficial.

Yoga For Managing Anxiety and Depression 

Yoga Anxiety and Depression How it Works

Anxiety and depression can occur chronically or be triggered by specific events. When you do yoga every day, you begin to chip away at both mood disorders. Anxiety and depression are somewhat of a co-occurring disorder based on the truism that ‘what goes up, must come down’. Anxiety is a state of arousal, and the depression that often follows is the natural ‘coming down’ consequence.

When you fight off anxiety, you’re much less likely to fall into depression. If it should occur, you can end the cycle through self-care.

Depression is often triggered by the repressed emotions associated with anxiety. We fight all of the negative emotions we have instead of acknowledging and accepting. Yoga asks us to look into ourselves and see the truth.

It’s a slow process which makes it less terrifying. We really can’t expect to dig through all our old emotions that cause anxiety and depression in our first yoga class. That would be too overwhelming.

Nurturing the Physical Part of Yourself Through Yoga

Yoga Releasing Stress Hip Stretch

The poses in yoga will allow you to pay attention to your physical self. This is a good, safe step towards total relaxation.

As you stretch into poses, you release areas of tension. Parts of your body are related to your emotions. For example, your hips communicate with the part of your mind that feels stress. When you stretch deeply into a hip opening pose, it tells your mind that you are releasing that manifested stress.

Breath Work with Yoga

Yoga Breathing Stress and

Breathing is a huge part of yoga. You can breathe through anxiety sitting in the body and you can also breathe to allow deeper stretches. The breathing relaxes your fight/flight response system so you prevent cortisol overproduction.

According to meditation teacher and life coach, Rajshree Patel, “Breathing is the bridge between yoga and meditation—yoga that strengthens our body and meditation, which strengthens our mind.” Breathing is closely linked with our emotional and physical well being, modulating stress hormones, our nervous system, oxygen, CO2, and pH levels in our blood. (Source: Breathing is the New Yoga! 9 Shortcuts to Calming Anxiety, Vogue Magazine)

Yogic Mindfulness and Mental Health

Yoga Meditation for Stress and

Once you’ve done some stretches for the body, your mind is rightfully prepared for meditation. Mindfulness is the act of paying attention to what’s going on in the body. You stop resisting the feelings and let them flow through you. You stop ruminating about the things that are causing you anxiety.

When you do a little yoga every day, you stave off symptoms of anxiety that can cause health problems down the road. You also experience more peace, bliss, and happiness daily.

Yoga instructors that go through teacher training or those who take part in yoga retreats know the power of yoga. The rejuvenation of the practice creates a positive domino effect and each day makes you wiser and more relaxed.

If you suffer from anxiety and stress like most of us, try a 30-day yoga challenge to feel the difference the practice can make in all aspects of your life.

Scientific Proof that Yoga Helps You Have a Restful Sleep

Guest Post by Meera Watts

You are probably aware of yoga’s relaxing benefits, but you may not know just how effective it can be for sleep.

A national survey documented that over 50% of people who practice yoga enjoy better sleep. Furthermore, 85% of yogis said yoga helped reduce their anxiety and daily stress.

Stress and anxiety are an all-too-common cause of insomnia. Yoga is extremely effective in reducing stress. It lowers the stress-induced cortisol levels that trigger our ‘fight or flight’ response; the very response that makes us feel wired when we should be falling asleep.

Yoga Reduces Stress – Which Means Better Sleep

How Yoga Helps You Sleep

Cortisol is a natural part of our body’s makeup, it is essential to our survival. The problem lies when cortisol levels rise too high. This is when cortisol damages the brain and can cause problems with memory.

Yoga reduces all types of stress, whether triggered by a truly stressful event or an over-stimulating situation.

As yoga reduces cortisol levels, it relaxes the body at a cellular level.

When you can reduce cortisol, the body will be able to stop standing on guard against perceived dangers. Yoga before bed helps reduce all that built-up tension.

Yoga Helps Regulate the Nervous System 

Yoga Sleep and Cortisol Fight or Flight

Lack of sleep is often caused by hyperarousal which occurs when your fight or flight response is activated. That activation likely happened during your day when you had a problem or conflict to deal with. Your reaction caused all the chemicals in the body to react and it created hyperarousal.

You feel exhausted but you can’t sleep. Yoga helps the body go back to its normal homeostasis function faster. When you activate the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS), you counteract the stress response system. When you activate the PNS, your body is in rest and digest mode. This is what you want when it’s time for bed.

Yoga uses poses and breathing to activate the PNS. Deep breathing can be really helpful to relax you quickly.

Having a Regular Routine Helps Sleep Patterns

Yoga Before Bed Better Sleep

There are many ways to create a regular routine and yoga can help. Try going to bed and waking up at the same time daily. Before bed, don’t watch TV or handle your phone.

In lieu of overstimulating your mind before bed, do yoga.

Yoga helps create a routine and reminds you to listen to your body. When you can feel the tension, you can breathe into those areas and create more relaxation.

Yoga Helps You Deal with Uncertainty

Yoga Mindfulness Sleep

Uncertainty in life is a guarantee. But it’s extremely challenging to work through uncertain times in your life.

Facing the unknown makes our brains fill in the blanks with stories of what could occur and how you will deal with it. It is natural for the brain to work to protect you from unforeseen circumstances. It’s also a major cause of sleepless, stressful nights.

A systematic review found that a yoga practice will help sleep when you use your practice to hone mindfulness skills. As you learn the deeper aspects of yoga, you will become more aware of your body and how you’re feeling.

When you’re laying in bed, unable to sleep because your mind won’t shut off, mindfulness is key. Noticing that you’re witnessing your thoughts might seem like an intangible and therefore challenging exercise but it’s actually pretty simple. It’s a natural occurrence when you do yoga daily and it’s one of the most powerful means of quieting the mind holistically.

Yoga Teaches You to Breathe Through Stress

Yoga Sleep Ujjayi Breath

Breath is 50% of yoga. It helps you relax and stretch deeper into poses. Calming breath techniques like Ujjayi Breath can soothe every part of your body quickly.

How to do Ujjayi Breath

  • Inhale deeply through the nose
  • Exhale through your nose while you constrict the back of your throat. Imagine you’re saying HA with your mouth closed.
  • It will sound like ocean waves in your ears.
  • Do this a few times to soothe yourself while in poses or just sitting.

Choose These Restorative Poses Before Bedtime

An article in Harvard Health suggests these restorative poses before bed to get a good sleep.

Wide Knee Child’s Pose

Yoga Sleep childs pose

This pose is a very calming, mentally stabilizing pose. The nice thing is you can do it while you’re in bed. You might even find yourself drifting off to sleep. It releases tension in the hips which is where we hold anxiety and stress. Also, we go inward so we naturally feel safe.

Standing Forward Bend

Yoga Sleep standing forward bend

Standing forward bend enables you to relax any tension in the neck. You stretch out the back of your legs and hips also. Again, you’re going inward with this pose so it makes you feel safe.

Reclining Bound Angle

Yoga Sleep reclining bound angle pose

This pose is excellent for releasing tension in the hips and groin. You are lying on the ground and massaging your kidneys which is where anxiety sits.

Legs Up on the Wall Pose

Legs up on the wall is extremely relaxing. In it, you recirculate your blood flow which helps tired and painful feet and ankles.

We don’t have an image, so we’ll describe this move: First, lie on your back with your sit-bones as close to the wall as is comfortable. Then, extend your legs up the wall, so the backs of your legs are resting fully against it.

Try these and other poses to discover yoga for naturally consistent, restful sleep.

Yoga Writer Meera Watts

About the Author: Meera Watts is a yoga teacher, entrepreneur and mom. Her writing on yoga and holistic health has appeared in Elephant Journal, CureJoy, FunTimesGuide, OMtimes and others. She’s also the founder and owner of Siddhi Yoga International, a yoga teacher training school based in Singapore. Siddhi Yoga runs intensive, residential trainings in India (Rishikesh, Goa and Dharamshala), Indonesia (Bali)

4 Best Yoga Poses to Reduce Stress & Tension

Article and photos by Devakar Sandhu

Exercise is one of the top ways to relieve stress, but many forms of exercise increase tension. Running and lifting weights, for example, can lead to tighter muscles and musculoskeletal imbalances – especially if you are exercising while out of alignment.

Yoga, however, helps to relieve tension. Under the guidance of a good yoga instructor, you can learn how to align your posture, move well and breathe properly. These core aspects of yoga relieve tension, physically and emotionally.

Here are four yoga asanas (poses) to reduce tensions and release pent-up stress in the body.

Big Toe Pose (Padangusthasana)

4 Best Yoga Poses to Reduce Stress

This pose stretches the hamstrings and calf muscles while strengthening the thigh muscles. It removes tensions in the core of the body.

Method: Start from standing position with the feet placed six inches apart.

  • Keep your legs straight and flex your thigh muscles, so your knees lift up.
  • Bend your torso forward to your knee. Move your head with your torso.
  • Bring your hands down to the legs and hold the big toe (hence the name) with the index and thumb of your hand.
  • Take a deep breath. Now, raise your torso to the upright standing position.
  • Exhale and bend forward again to grab hold of your big toe.
  • Repeat 5-6 times.
  • Come to a standing position and relax.

Avoid if you have injuries in the back or leg. Also, avoid if you have pain or injuries in the neck.

Boat Pose (ParipurnaNavasana)

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This pose strengthens the deep hip flexor and the abs. It makes your spine supple and strong.

Method: Start from sitting position on the floor.

  • Press on the floor with your hands and strengthen it.
  • Make your legs stiff and point with your toes in front of you. Raise the legs together until they make forty-five degrees with the floor.
  • Raise your hands straight out in front of you to balance your body. Tighten your core muscles and open your shoulder blades. Lengthen your spine.
  • Hold the pose for a count of ten and then come back to sitting position. Repeat the cycle 5-6 times.

Avoid if you have injuries to the back. Also, avoid if you have low blood pressure, diarrhoea, or asthma.

Child’s Pose (Balasana)

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In this yoga asana, your spine becomes curved like that of the fetus. It helps your body release tensions instantly.

Method: Start from a kneeling or sitting position on the floor.

  • Kneel on the floor with the big toes touching each other. Sit on your heels.
  • Bring your hands apart as wide as your hips.
  • Exhale and lay your torso between your hands.
  • Bring your hands down on the floor down beside you. Put them palm upward so that they rest completely on the floor.
  • Bend your torso forward until your forehead rests on the floor. Turn your face sideways so you can rest comfortably.
  • Release the front of your shoulders to the floor completely.
  • Inhale and raise the tailbone up, lift your torso from your thighs. Lengthen the front torso and press the tailbone into the pelvis.
  • Come to kneeling position and relax. Repeat the cycle 5-6 times.

Avoid if you are pregnant or have diarrhoea. Also, avoid if you have any knee injuries.

Dolphin Plank Pose (MakaraAdhoMukhaSvanasana)

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This pose strengthens the muscles of the arms and thighs. It adds strength to the core and tones the abdominal muscles. It calms the brain and relieves the stress. It reduces the incidence of osteoporosis.

Method: Start from the tabletop position on all fours.

  • Raise your buttocks up in the air.
  • Move your legs back by slowly walking them.
  • Drop your torso by bending your hands at the elbows. Rest your body weight on this.
  • Raise your body off the floor and make your legs straight. Rest on your toes.
  • Pull your core muscles inward and press the tailbone toward your pubis. Make the shoulder blades broad.
  • Press the front thighs to the ceiling. Lift the base of your skull away from the back of your neck.
  • Keep your gaze soft. Hold the pose and count ten. Then relax and come to a prone position on the yoga mat.
  • Repeat the exercise from the tabletop position.

Avoid if you have shoulder injuries or neck injuries. Give some forehead support if needed.

Note that it is better to do the asanas when your stomach is empty. Also, stop doing the exercise if you feel any pain and consult your yoga guru before you take any further action.

Author’s Bio: Devakar Sandhu is Founder of Ekam Yogashala,  a Yoga Alliance, USA accredited school of yoga teacher training in India. The school is recognized for achieving the highest standardized yoga teaching methods worldwide. EKam Yogashala offers 200 Hour Yoga Teacher Training in India (Rishikesh, Kerala, Nepal and Dharamsala).

Best Yoga Poses for High Blood Pressure

Guest post by Manmohan Singh

Stress is one of the main causes of high blood pressure, clinically known as hypertension. High blood pressure is associated with cardiovascular disease and often referred to as “the silent killer”. But with yoga practice, it can be reduced and safely managed.

Here are the asanas that can help:

Baddha Konasana (Butterfly Pose)

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Butterfly pose – photo published with permission from rishikulyogshala.org
  • Sit on the floor with erect spine and legs stretched outward. Now exhale and bend the knees, and pull the heels towards your pelvis.
  • Join the soles together and let the knees fall to the sides. Now, with the help of your hands, hold your feet and bring the heels towards the pelvis as close as you can.
  • Now keep holding the feet and press them against the floor. Inhale and start flapping the knees as butterfly flaps its wings.
  • Hold the pose for a minute and flap for another minute while breathing gently.

Virasana (Hero Pose)

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Hero pose – photo courtesy of rishikulyogshala.org
  • Begin with knees on the floor, an erect spine and hands resting on the thighs.
  • Make sure to place hips on the heels and keep the knees close to each other which widens the gap between the feet.
  • Now rest your hips in between the heels, and hold the pose for a minute.
  • For modification, you can take your hands back and place it behind the hips. Then slightly lift the torso and roll your back and form a soft arch. Hold the pose for a minute or two.

Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward-Facing Dog)

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Downward dog – photo courtesy of rishikulyogshala.org
  • Start on all fours. With your body, form a table like shape.
  • Breathe in and lift your hips upward. Now align your elbows with knees, and create an inverted-V through your body.
  • Now press your hands against the floor and gently stretch the neck outward.
  • Keep the hands, shoulder, back, and legs straight, and let your inner arms touch the ears. Hold the pose for a minute.

Janu Sirsasana (Head-to-Knee Forward Bend)

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Forward Bend Pose – photo courtesy of rishikulyogshala.org
  • Sit on the floor with an erect spine and crossed legs.
  • Now stretch your left leg out in front.
  • Then place the sole of the right foot against the left leg inner thigh.
  • Inhale and extend the spine. Sit straight. As you exhale, bend forward from the groin and put your forehead on the knees.
  • At the same time, hold the left foot with the hands and lock the fingers. If you can’t reach, use a towel or any cloth strap around the foot and hold both the ends.
  • You can feel the stretch, but don’t strain your spine. Hold the pose for a minute.
  • Release and repeat the same on the other side.

Supta Padangusthasana (Reclining Hand-to-Big-Toe Pose)

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Reclining Hand to Toe Pose – photo courtesy of rishikulyogshala.org
  • Lie down straight on the floor with the legs together and hands resting beside the body.
  • Exhale and lift the left leg upwards. Let the left hand stretch above and press the shoulders against the floor.
  • Now hold the toes with your hand. If you can’t reach, wrap a cloth strap or towel around the foot and hold the ends with both your hands.
  • Relax and be comfortable. Hold the pose for a minute.
  • Release and repeat the same on the opposite side.

Complete the session in Savasana (Corpse Pose), lying flat on your back to put the mind and body at complete ease.

Join a yoga teacher training in Rishikesh to attain a deeper knowledge of the yoga sequences ideal for managing hypertension and other stress-related health conditions condition.

We always advise that you consult a doctor and a yoga expert before practicing if you have health concerns.

Author Bio: Manmohan Singh is a passionate Yogi, Yoga Teacher and a Traveler in India. He provides Yoga Teacher Training in India. He loves writing and reading books related to yoga, health, nature and the Himalayas.

These are all such excellent reminders to keep up a physical practice that reminds you to breathe and teaches you to relax! Start at home with some of the poses here, or go to your local yoga studio.

To keep your muscles relaxed (so you can sink deeply into those poses), to support sleep, stress, and a healthy heart, don’t forget your Natural Calm magnesium!

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