This simple practice can bring you peace of mind with just a few minutes on the mat
September is a time for transitions, as many of us resume a more routine schedule, send kids back to school—or go back to school ourselves! With this often comes a lot of stress and anxiety, and there’s no better way to make it through than by taking a moment to yourself to breathe deeply. Which is the foundation of all yoga!
Yoga is now big business, but you don’t have to go to a studio to pay for a class to get the benefit. It’s actually quite simple: the breath is the basis of all poses in yoga. Even if all you have time for once a day is a pose called savasana (corpse pose), you can reap the benefits! All you do is lie still, focus on your breathing, and relax. (You can do this lying in bed before falling asleep, if that’s the only way you can squeeze it in.)
Interested in some more gentle stretching? Yoga is great for that. The trick is to let each movement be guided by the breath—either an inhale or an exhale. You can do seated stretches you already know, or learn a few new ones by watching videos online. You’ll get the most out of them if you learn how to relax into the stretch. That is what yoga is all about—finding peace and relaxation even in stressful situations. Want to do even more? You shouldn’t have trouble finding yoga instruction at the gym, at a local yoga studio, or online.
Here are some of the health benefits that people often experience in yoga:
- Deep breathing: You can gain many benefits by simply learning to be more aware of those inhalations and exhalations. You can speed up your breath to create body heat, such as during a more intense vinyasa (or flow) class, or slow it down to trigger the body’s relaxation response (as during savasana). Either way, this increases the flow of oxygen to the body.
- Stress relief: Relaxation is the key, and yoga lowers the stress hormone cortisol. This can also lead to improved digestion and lower blood pressure and heart rate, as well as decrease the chronic symptoms many of us face: insomnia, depression, anxiety, and fatigue. Wouldn’t it be nice to say goodbye to some of those?
- Reduced pain: Practicing yoga postures, and the moving meditations that go along with them, helps many people to ease chronic physical ailments as well as emotional trauma.
- Increased strength: There are many yoga postures that will challenge muscles you might not even know you have. Enjoy some heightened body awareness, and find strength in your upper as well as lower body, using your body weight to do gentle weight-bearing exercise.
- Flexibility: You may have seen people in their 80s doing yoga with incredible range of motion. It’s one form of exercise you don’t need to stop doing as you age. Flexibility is one of the keys to aging gracefully, so why not start now? It’s also great for improving posture.
- Keeping weight down: Many people who thought they hated exercise find they enjoy yoga—it’s like a gentle series of guided movement that makes you feel like you’ve had a massage afterwards! If you find activity you enjoy, you’re likely to do it more often, and keep it up over the long term. You might even find that your yoga-induced bliss will deter you from some of the stress-eating that so many of us are vulnerable to.
In honor of National Yoga month, give some poses a try. Start by standing (or sitting) still and breathing for a few minutes a day, and see if you want to do more. You might find you’re feeling more calm, centered, and flexible within a matter of weeks!
This post is part of the weekly blog of the Salter School of Nursing and Allied Health, located in Manchester, NH. Visit us online to learn more, or reach out to schedule a campus tour!