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Know what yoga is and how it relieves tension and stress

Yoga is a series of meditative breathing exercises and postures. Yoga aims, in its common commercial form, to improve a practitioner’s health. It can be practiced alone or in a group. People have employed different forms of it as supplementary therapy for patients with irritable bowel syndrome, cancer, AIDS, diabetes, arthritis and asthma.

One key application is stress relief. This is achieved through an emphasis on breathing and the mental concentration required for holding postures.

Rate and depth of breathing are connected to the way the rest of the body feels because of homeostasis. This is the term for an ideal balance the brain is wired to help achieve by releasing hormones to compensate for any changes in the rest of the system.

Since breathing is controllable, it provides a way for people to introduce a deliberate change in bodily functions to cause a desired reaction. Shallow and rapid breathing can create a panicked reaction from a body; it may feel like it is (or should be) fleeing something.

Slow and deep breathing can allow the lungs more time to extract the maximum amount of oxygen from each breath. It can create the feeling that it is safe to relax.

Stress often begins with thinking. This can create a cycle of bad feelings, where you feel stress due to thinking stressfully, and have physical stress to think about as a result. The physical impact of stressful thinking is the cause or attenuation of the previously described “fight or flight” panic state. The body does not know by itself if a threat is imagined or real, and relies on the mind to make these decisions.

One way to stop stressful thinking is to set your mind on a simple task. This is accomplished in part by the effort to control breathing, but the nature of the postures is doubly helpful. All of them must be done in a precise manner and are challenging for beginners. None of the beginner moves are usually frustrating to comprehend.

Mentally, the stress relief does not end with the sessions. Students can learn to better control their trains of thought and gain the confidence that comes with mastering a skill.

Physically, yoga can cause the following improvements.

  1. Respiratory improvement from breathing exercises, including asthmatic conditions.
  2. Stamina, muscle flexibility and tendon strength from postures.
  3. Improvement in concentration at school, work or other activities due to mental training.
  4. Assistance with dieting and losing weight.
  5. Improvement of blood pressure, hypertension and other circulatory system issues.
  6. Reduction in sleep dysfunctions.

Unfortunately, the most common forms of this training may not be available for people with physical disabilities. There are other options available.

  1. Chair yoga, a gentle evolution of the exercise where students perform every posture while sitting on chairs. None of the postures in this form are considered difficult, and instructors often make themselves aware of each student’s different needs.
  2. Breathing exercises without postures.
  3. Mental focus exercises using visual and auditory aids.
  4. Meditation.

Read our article about Yoga Bolster from Hugger Mugger and buying guide.


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