Yoga is known by many practitioners as a great way to relax. But just why is it so good at relieving stress?
It’s no secret that stress is a killer. Chronic stress causes physical, emotional, and mental distress that can lead to illness, disease, and a shortened life span. In today’s fast-paced world, stress can be difficult or impossible to avoid. Fortunately, there are many ways to relieve stress and allow your body and mind time to rest and recover.
One of the best ways (and my favorite) is yoga! Much cheaper and faster than planning a relaxing vacation at the beach or a week at the spa, yoga can be done just about anywhere, and it has some amazing benefits when it comes to relieving stress.
In his book, The Relaxation Response, Dr. Herbert Benson describes the requirements for triggering your body’s natural relaxation response for relieving stress and rejuvenating your bodily systems.
According to his book, all you need is:
- A quiet environment
- A focus for your mind, such as a sound, word, phrase, physical sensation (breath or body part), or fixed gaze at an object
- A passive (non-judgmental) attitude
- A comfortable position
- 10 to 20 minutes
However, he later concluded that #1 and #4 weren’t all that necessary, as you can still achieve the same stress-relieving benefits through a “moving meditation,” as long as you have a focus for your mind, and can resist judging yourself.
Obviously, yoga fits the bill!
Here are several ways that you can use yoga to trigger the relaxation response, according to Yoga For Healthy Aging:
- Breath practices (Pranayama).
- Restorative poses with a focus for the mind (such as your breath or the relaxation of your muscles).
- Corpse Pose (Savasana) with a focus for the mind (such as your breath, the relaxation of your muscles, or peaceful imagery).
- Yoga Nidra (yogic sleep), a long, structured form of Savasana.
Other studies have found that inverted and even semi-inverted poses, where your heart is higher than your head, may trigger the relaxation response by controlling your blood pressure. Even supported inversions such as Legs-Up-the-Wall Pose, or Easy Inverted Pose (with your legs resting on a chair) can be very effective.
While there’s nothing wrong with taking a nice vacation from time to time, yoga is an easy and affordable way to fit a “mini vacation” into every day – and reap the mental and physical health benefits of ongoing stress relief!