stress relief yoga

Guest Post by Dr. Sherry Pietrzykoski, Senior Instructor, Counseling and Human Development

Part 2 of a 6 part series on Coping with Stress

This week is a continuation of last week’s topic, Coping with Stress using Exercise. Last week, we discussed exercise, but it was that really physical, make you sweat, feel the burn exercise! This week, we’re talking about an alternative form of exercise for those of you who are a little less physical but still want to use the body to relax the mind. Yoga.

Yoga has been practiced for centuries and no matter which type you choose according to WebMD, “all yoga styles release tension in your body, quiet your mind, and help you relax.”¹ How? Depending on the type of yoga you chose, you will use different breathing techniques, body poses, chants, and stretching exercises to help your body relax. When your body is relaxed, you increase blood flow which increases endorphins (we talked about those last time around, remember?)

All of these techniques can induce a form of meditation. We can discuss meditation in depth at a later date but for now let’s just mention some of the benefits of meditation:

  • Reduction of blood pressure
  • Reduction of stress, anxiety, depression, pain, control of hot flashes
  • Help with some addictive behaviors

Sounds like it is pretty beneficial and if it’s part of yoga it may be good, right?

You don’t really need any special equipment like you do for the more physical exercise, no expensive bikes, snowboards, skis, canoes, or other paraphernalia. There are no expensive gym fees or costly trainers. All you need is some comfortable clothing, a soft mat, and a quiet place with some room to move. With all of the possible benefits, why wouldn’t you want to try this ancient practice?

There are many different types of yoga: Sirvanda, Hatha, Iyengar, Kripalu, Kundalini, and Viniyoga are the gentlest and easiest types of yoga for beginners. Each offer some type of poses, chants, meditation, and stretching that will introduce you to this relaxing form of exercise.  It is important that you find out which form of yoga is practiced before you join a group or purchase that video for use at home. You do not want to overdo and stretch too much in the beginning. Kripalu yoga is a great starting point for beginners. It begins with slow movements that barely cause a sweat, and progresses through three levels of deeper mind-body awareness. Unlike Ashtanga yoga, which is a nonstop series of yoga poses, normally held in a gym setting where others feed off the energy shared throughout the experience.

What is the point of yoga or any form of exercise? Is it meant to be public or should it remain private? Is there something to be said about feeding off of the energy of others to keep you motivated? Must we constantly rely on others to be fulfilled even when we are relaxing? What is relaxing all about? Do you really need to show your “moves” to other people? Do you have to “bond” to relax? Is there something wrong with being comfortable enough being alone and at peace in your own skin?

¹ Ratini, Melinda. (2013, May 25). Health & Balance: Which Style of Yoga Is Best for You?  From WebMD’s website: http://www.webmd.com/balance/guide/which-style-of-yoga-is-best-for-you