If you’re among one of the 67 per cent of Canadians experiencing high levels of stress, you’ll be relieved to know that there are simple and effective stress management techniques available.
We have looked at the amazing mental health benefits of exercise on this blog before. So today, we’re going to take a closer look at yoga, and how it fits into your stress-relief toolkit.
Yoga has steadily increased in popularity in the past decade. Likely you’ve seen people toting yoga mats to and from gyms, and noticed products like magazines, clothing and props being sold everywhere from airports to specialty shops. It could be tempting to dismiss yoga as a fad; however, research shows yoga to be an effective complementary treatment for depression and anxiety, overall mood, and especially stress.
What is yoga?
When we talk about yoga today, we usually are referring to a physical practice that includes the following:
Asana – physical postures
Yoga poses simultaneously stretch and strengthen the body. There are many of these postures, each targeting a different muscle or muscle group. They range from the extremely simple, to the pretzel-like shapes often associated with yoga. After a yoga practice, people often report discovering muscles they never knew they had!
Pranayama – breathing exercises
Breathing is an important aspect of a yoga practice and part of what makes it uniquely helpful for stress management. While students are practicing yoga postures, they are often asked to breathe evenly through their nose. A yoga teacher may also incorporate simple breathing exercises into the beginning or end of a class.
One of the reasons yoga is sometimes referred to as “moving meditation” is because the yoga practitioner is asked to focus on the present moment during practice – much like in mindfulness meditation. So it could be said that if you’re sweating buckets in downward dog but thinking about where you’ll park when you pick up the dry cleaning, you’re not fully doing yoga!
The best way to get started in yoga is to find a Yoga Alliance registered instructor. You can go about this a number of ways:
As with any form of exercise, if you have any chronic health conditions or injuries, talk to your doctor to make sure yoga is right for you.
If stress is affecting your daily life, yoga may be worth a try. If you’re someone who likes recording and noticing changes, keep a stress log and rate your stress level each day on a scale of 1-10. Take a look after a month of yoga practice, and see if anything has changed.
For more stress-relief techniques and coping strategies, visit workhealthlife.com or call 1 866 833-7690. You can also download our My EAP app and take the stress test.