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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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)