Updated: Apr 28
Hands up - who’s been stressed at some point in the last year?
According to the HSE, stress is:
‘the adverse reaction people have to excessive pressure or other types of demand placed upon them’ (www.mind.org.uk)
Given the many challenges we’ve had recently, it’s only natural to feel pressure piling up, whether you’ve been home-schooling, had job uncertainty, or if you’re a key worker that has the weight of society’s expectations on their shoulders. We’ve finally got our road map out of here, but sometimes it feels like we’re travelling up the M1 at rush hour on a Friday.
As part of our series throughout National Stress Awareness Month, it seemed like the right time to dedicate some thought to the benefits of yoga for stress, and its part in helping to manage those anxious feelings.
How can yoga help with stress?
It’s not surprising that yoga has boomed during the pandemic. It’s super easy to do an online yoga class at home, and during this “period of uncertainty” (let’s all agree never to use this phrase again!), it’s only natural that people have started turning to tools like yoga that can help calm the mind.
The way that yoga is portrayed in the Western world, particularly on social media, often concentrates on its physical benefits. But the origins of yoga are firmly rooted in a harmony between the body, mind and spirit. Yoga is also a physical discipline, yes, and we do practice asanas that sometimes make us sweat, but when we bring in the mental discipline we can achieve a peacefulness in both mind and body.
Sometimes it’s that hippy chat of spirituality that can turn off beginner yoga students. It’s a shame because really it’s about cultivating a quiet, happy mind, and finding a sense of purpose. And who doesn’t want that?!
But let’s focus on the practicalities. Here are some of the most effective and simple ways that yoga can help with stress and anxiety:
It’s a tale as old as time. When you’re feeling stressed, angry, anxious, panicky or nervous, anyone in your life will tell you to breathe. Count to ten. Yoga and the art of breathing go hand in hand.
There’s a reason why a sweet Savasana at the end of a class may be everyone’s favourite yoga pose. It encourages conscious relaxation, bringing with it feelings of surrender and release and melts away any tension, stress or anxiety that you maybe have been holding on to.
While the ancient yogis didn’t develop yoga to be viewed as a physical exercise in the way that we may see it today, many of the asanas help us to develop physical strength and stability in the body, This physical aspect of yoga, like any form of exercise, releases feel-good endorphins that boost our mood and energy levels.
Which type of yoga is the best for stress relief?
Different 'types' of yoga and names for styles can mean so many different things to different people. A common name for relaxing, gentle and rejuvenating classes is Hatha Yoga. In fact, Hatha Yoga are postures that come from the classic scripture, The Hatha Yoga Pradikpa. And it’s true that Hatha, which is predominantly the style that we teach in The Frog Project’s online yoga classes, is incredibly restorative and perfect for stress relief. It is wonderfully accessible which makes it perfect for beginners too.
More modern labels have emerged over the last couple of decades and ultimately you'll find a class and a teacher that most suit's your personal preference. All good yoga classes will encourage you to focus on your breath and motivate you to be present and mindful while you’re moving on the mat. And that’s perfect for combatting stress, whether it’s labelled Hatha, Vinyasa, Yin, in a heated room, on a paddle board, or any of the other many styles of yoga out there!
A calming yoga routine for when you’re stressed
Next time you’re feeling stressed – high heart rate, butterflies in your stomach, uneven breathing – take a look at this 10 minute routine. There isn’t a lot of movement in it, so save it into your phone or computer and pull it out anywhere that you can. Take those ten minutes for you. It will help you focus on whatever task is ahead of you.
Ready to create a little bit of space for you? Why not try our Live Online Yoga classes, bringing you accessible yoga for all, from our living room to yours? Sign up now for 15 days of free unlimited classes.
Carmel is a travel professional and lover of literature and Latin America. In her day job at a tour operator she whisks people away to far off destinations, while in her spare time she moonlights as a freelance copywriter. You can find her portfolio here https://carmelhendry.journoportfolio.com. While not writing, or dreaming about travel, she can be found playing the piano, cycling or practising yoga. She’s spent the last year learning how to do a headstand, but mostly can be found relaxing in child’s pose! Join her and the Frog Project Community with 15 days of free unlimited classes. It’s just yoga.