If daily hassles, constantly chiming cell phones, and past-due deadlines have you at the boiling point, simmer down to the yoga mat and find a little peace of mind.
A mind-body practice, Yoga combines physical poses (postures) called asanas, simple breathing exercises and guided meditation. Anyone can practice yoga and experience the health-enhancing benefits:
- Reduce blood pressure
- Lower resting heart rate (so the heart works more efficiently)
- Promote mental alertness
- Better manage symptoms of anxiety and depression
- Improve muscle tension associated with stress and chronic health conditions
In Refuel, I wrote about a Swedish study which found that yoga can reduce feelings of anger and exhaustion and decrease levels of inflammation in the body. Everyone could benefit from these effects, including if not especially men (who are less inclined to give yoga a try, but might be surprised by how challenging and fulfilling it can be).
There are many ‘styles’ of Yoga for you to try. Styles vary in how many and the intensity of how the poses are performed; some styles are more intense (Bikram, Power, Iyengar) and others more restorative (Kundalini, Ashtanga). All yoga styles originate from Hatha Yoga, which was developed in India about 5,000 years ago. Hatha Yoga is a good choice for managing stress and chronic health concerns. It also is ideal for beginners.
A yoga class begins with breathing exercises and gentle movements to clear the mind and limber the body for the “active postures.” Next, you’ll move through a series of poses (standing, seated, and lying down). During class an instructor may use the ancient Sanskrit (Hindu) names and the American names for poses, e.g., Mountain Pose (Tadasana) or Triangle Pose (Trikanasana). A certified instructor helps participants modify poses to suit their unique needs.
The focus of practicing yoga is not on how long or how perfectly you perform the pose. Nor is it competitive-so no making comparisons or judgments of self and others. Yoga is all about letting go of your mental chatter by focusing on the breath and allowing it to guide your body into a calm, centered state.
Yoga class concludes with a guided meditation or relaxation exercise. This may help you learn to be more mindful and aware of yourself in any moment of your day, not just the time you spend on the yoga mat.
Image credit: By lululemon athletica – SSC Yoga with Eoin Finn, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=20386733