Advertisements for de-stressing are a dime a dozen. This could only mean one thing – there are a lot of stressed out people in the world because life is very stressful. As a result, stress-related diseases are on the rise. With this in the backdrop, and a little effort, some of us at least can seek refuge in our yoga mats. There is enough scientific evidence for those who need it, to prove that there is a definite correlation between working out and de-stressing. Therefore, yoga, if practiced three to four times a week, on a regular basis, can provide significant relief from stress, lower our response to stressful situations and even prevent us from taking on any stress at all.
What can yoga asana do for you?
When you first get on your mat, allow your feet to ground you. Get into your mat or yoga space, so to speak. Take your awareness to your feet and ask that your feet keep you on your mat throughout your intended practice.
Once you start your asana practice, take it from slow to dynamic over a span of twenty minutes. Yoga can be aerobic too, so get your heart pumping as well. Asana does the following things for you (most of these benefits have been compiled from various yoga text books, including BKS Iyengar’s Light on Yoga and Swami Satyananda’s Asana Pranayama Mudra Bandha):
1. Stretches and tones muscles.
2. Massages your internal organs (organs of the digestive system especially).
3. Takes on the endocrine system so that your glands and hormones are working optimally.
4. When done with deep breathing, it improves circulation, sends oxygenated blood through out the body, including brain (in inverted postures).
5. Releases toxins so that they can be flushed out of the body with proper intake of the right fluids thereafter
6. Due to its dual action of oxygenating blood and releasing toxins, it helps in metabolizing fats and so aids in weight loss as well (according to research, any fat reduction program should focus primarily on detox because of the link between a detoxed digestive track and blood, increased metabolism thereof and the consequent weight loss.)
7. In general it increases metabolism, and the improved blood circulation creates a healthy glow on the skin.
8. It doesn’t generate the acidic by products into the blood that most other forms of exercise do – this is a significant plus point with yoga but that doesn’t mean other forms of exercise are lower in stature. (Any form of stress, including heavy exercise, which in technical terms is a kind of physical stress too, is said to release acidic substances into the blood, specifically, lactic acid. However, the flip side of that is worth looking into as well – if one knows how to use it, lactic acid can be your friend too.)
This is just the tip of the iceberg. A regular and dedicated practice will have many personal and inexplicable benefits. Yoga is a spiritual practice in as much as it is a physical one. Even emotional toxins will be released by your practice. This is something we totally forget all about, but the yogis vouch for. Emotional toxins share a major portion of the responsibility for stress and sickness. Asana can and does release emotions that are held in the muscles or other parts of the body such as the abdomen or chest.
The next time that chest tightness returns, remember to breath some lightness into it and drive away the tension in your belly by stretching from the depths of your gut. Really feel the hamstrings stretching to their maximum capacity, feel the space inside your body expanding, inhale, hold your breath and when you are ready to exhale, truly let go.
Now relax and feel the effects of your stretch. What negative emotion did you free yourself from today?