Updated: Feb 18, 2022
Yoga for stress relief?
Didn’t you know that you can use yoga for stress relief? Where have you been?
Yoga has been shown to be a highly effective method of managing stress. Stretching and slow body control movements, coupled with deep ‘diaphragmic’ breathing, also release ‘feel good’ chemicals.
In addition, yoga has been shown to enhance proprioception – body awareness.
By enhancing body awareness, you will sharpen your sensitivity to detecting the signs and symptoms of stress. This in turn will enable you to take decisive action before stress becomes chronic.
Essential reading: understand how stress harms health and Why Zebras Don't Get Ulcers
Why use yoga to reduce stress
Yoga’s a great way to reduce stress for many reasons. For example, in addition to being a potent prophylactic against stress, yoga yields a veritable multitude of other health and fitness benefits too.
While also calming the mind, yoga improves flexibility and muscular strength. By following the step-by-step guide below and implementing a regular routine, you will be on your way to having a stronger and more supple body.
Yoga for anxiety
Yoga can help ease anxiety and restore inner calm. Research has shown that when we perform controlled movements, such as slowly sinking into a sun salutation, we unburden our mind from troubling thoughts.
Moreover, slow controlled ‘diaphragmic’ breathing can restore balance to an erratic mind. Focusing on the breath, which is a key technique in mindfulness meditation, calms the nervous system and helps deregulate heightened mental states.
How often do I have to use yoga for stress management?
Firstly, before we look at implementing a routine, let’s start by dispelling a pervasive myth. To enjoy the stressbusting, health-promoting benefits of yoga, you don’t have to practice for hours every day.
The common misconception is that you have to be doing downward dogs for 5-hours a day to enjoy the benefits. This is strictly not true.
Even short yoga sessions lasting between 10- to 20-minutes can deregulate and calm the internal disorder caused by stress.
Essential reading: Anatomy of Hatha Yoga
6 steps to starting a yoga routine
Step 1: Consistency is key
If you maintain consistency in your practice, you’ll be amazed at how quickly your body develops.
Within just a couple of weeks your body will be both stronger and more supple and you’ll feel less stressed.
One of the truly great things about yoga is that you don’t need any formal practice to get going. Even complete beginners can start practicing yoga.
As Herbert D. Coulter says in his brilliant book, Anatomy of Hatha Yoga, the two main ingredients of yoga are patience and perseverance.
Step 2: Getting started on your yogic journey
In the previous step we considered how even complete beginners can experience the joy of yoga. And as long as you’re prepared to practice regularly and remain patient, you will improve.
Well, another great attribute of yoga is that it is comparatively inexpensive to do. Setting up a simple home gym, by contrast, can cost hundreds of pounds. A yearly gym membership is about the same.
The initial investment required to procure the basic equipment to begin practicing yoga will not break the bank. All you need is loose-fitting clothing, a soft mat, and tuition to learn some basic positions.
Related: Check out the best Yoga mat
Step 3: How to learn basic positions
But what about learning the basic positions and stretches? Doesn’t it cost a lot to learn Yoga?
Nope, not at all. You can get start completely for free or the small price of a book.
Throughout this article you will find a multitude of interactive resources that will get you going on your yoga journey.
Essential reading: Yoga Mind and Body
Step 4: Cultivating regularity in your yogic practice
Of course, yoga yields its stressbusting, health-promoting benefits when it is practiced regularly. Ideally, you should aim for a short 10- to 15-minute routine every day.
The easiest way to establish daily practice is by forming a habit. If possible, begin your day with a gentle series of yogic stretches. On waking slip into a pair joggers, roll out your mat, and proceed to greet a new day with slow sun salutations.
Alternatively, if you’re not an early bird, look to implement a routine in the evening; perhaps before you retire for the night. The relaxation positions and deep breathing techniques synonymous with the yogic science are the perfect way to prepare for a good night’s sleep.
Essential reading: Let sleep scientist Matthew Walker sing you a sweet lullaby on the importance of . . . sleep. Shh!
Step 5: Enjoy your yoga practice
The more you enjoy yoga, the more likely you are to practice. And the more you practice the better you will get. This will develop confidence and self-efficacy.
To maximise your practice and make the experience enjoyable, there are a few things you’ll need to start practicing yoga. The list below outlines some essentials that can help you get started.
A quality yoga mat makes practice sessions more comfortable.
Loose-fitting clothing will not restrict your body as you ease into the poses and positions.
A beginner’s guidebook or video series can provide inexpensive tutorials (see suggested resources under Step 4).
Step 6: Establish a yoga for stress relief routine
Once you’re suited and booted, so to speak, it’s now time to get practical. However, before rushing off to do your downward dog, it’s a good idea to decide when your yoga practice will take place.
By establishing a time in the day that you can dedicate to yoga, you will dramatically improve practice consistency.
Preferable practice times include early morning or late evening. Personally, I find morning practice best because it sets you up for the day. However, any time of the day is infinitely better than no time.
Step 7: Practice session durations
As I said above, you don’t have dedicate hours each day practicing yoga to enjoy the stressbusting, health-promoting benefits. There’s plenty of research showing that short sessions can deliver many positive outcomes.
So how long should you practice for?
That answer to that question hinges on a number of factors. For example, your age and current state of physical health may limit your session duration.
If you are elderly, injured, or untrained, it would be wise to start with a gentle yoga routine that lasts for between 5- and 10-minutes.
When you feel your body growing stronger, and it will if you keep up your practice, you can slowly start to increase your session duration.
Step 8: Do yoga for stress relief EVERY DAY!
Irrespective of how long your yoga session are, even if they’re just 5-minutes, it’s important that your practice every day.
Daily practice will deliver the best results. In addition, if you boundary your sessions you will significantly increase consistency. Habit formation here is the key.
Related: Try this 30-Day Yoga Challenge
So, whether you squeeze 10-minutes into the morning, afternoon, or night, make sure you stick with it. And don’t let any of life’s responsibilities infringe on your yoga practice. Make this time about YOU.
Yoga can help ease the severity of the signs and symptoms of stress. But it can also help breakdown and dissolve the tension that stress inflicts on the body.
Using the guide above, begin implementing a yoga routine into your daily habits and treat your mind and body to the care they deserve.