Any regular student of yoga will surely tell you that engaging in this spiritual practice often is an amazing way to enhance happiness and to balance the mind. This is certainly something that I have enjoyed since deciding to make yoga a key feature in my life.
Feel Good With Yoga
When it comes to understanding why yoga makes us feel so good, and why it has the potential to release stress, anxiety, and feelings of depression, then there is not one simple answer – rather a combination of wonderful benefits that come together to balance the mind.
When we talk about protecting our health, this is often something that is generally connected to our bodies, our movement, our actual physical health, but there is also so much to be gained emotionally and spiritually from giving more time and prominence to our mental health. This is something that I have touched upon previously, and would like to talk more about today.
Regular Yoga Practice
Yoga can encourage us to love ourselves, to be kinder to ourselves, to be more relaxed and open with others, to get to the root of our problems, and to be in the right mindset for resolving future issues before they have the chance to turn into bigger problems.
Committing to a regular yoga practice is committing to giving yourself a set period of time where you focus on yourself and your own needs. During the time spent on the mat you will be actively strengthening your body and your mind. You will be pushing yourself to new limits and understanding more about what you, your body, and your mind, are really capable of.
Anxiety is a very real and often debilitating issue that a large number of people struggle with, some in an ongoing and persistent way.
When anxious thoughts are experienced, the sympathetic nervous system (the one responsible for the ‘fight of flight' reaction) is activated and stress hormones are released. This can exacerbate the anxious thoughts, and cause this cycle of negative feelings to keep going around. Combatting this with the activation of the parasympathetic nervous system, the one that serves to promote feelings of calm and balance, is a useful way to put a stop to anxiety in the present moment.
Yoga and the Parasympathetic Nervous System
When you are practicing yoga then your parasympathetic nervous system will generally be activated. You will be breathing slowly and calmly and you will be enjoying a pleasant experience, and therefore the associated sensations.
When the parasympathetic nervous system is activated, then the sympathetic nervous system will be soothed. Feelings of stress, panic, anxiety, distress etc will have to take a back seat to feelings of peace, calm, and balance, as the parasympathetic nervous system will be calling the shots.
Engaging in relaxing breathing techniques is a simple but effective way to activate the parasympathetic nervous system. The breath is something that is given a great deal of attention during a yoga session, and will naturally encourage this process.
The breathing techniques that you learn within your yoga practice can also be utilised outside of these sessions, and can be of great use during your everyday life. When you find stress and anxiety beginning to seep in, you can call upon the breath to ground you and bring you back down to a peaceful place.
Practicing yoga is a great way to learn more about yourself and the limits that you set for yourself – both physically on the mat and within your mind. As you progress with your practice you demonstrate to yourself just how capable you are, and this can encourage you to take similar steps in other parts of your life.
As you begin to see these changes and to really witness your own progression, you will learn to let go of judgements about yourself and your abilities. This release of negative thoughts can be extremely liberating and help to encourage you not to place unrealistic expectations on yourself in the future.
Yoga for Better Sleep
The quality and quantity of sleep that you enjoy will have a huge influence on your mood and your energy levels. If you aren't generally getting between seven and eight hours of uninterrupted sleep every night, then you may notice that you feel tired and irritable during the day, and that your thoughts aren't as positive as they are when you have had an adequate amount of rest.
If you aren't sleeping well then yoga can be an incredible tool for tackling this problem!
An evening yoga session is a peaceful way to wind down at the end of the day and to create a positive mindset for a good night's sleep.
Restorative yoga poses are arguably the best for promoting sleep if you are practicing yoga late in the evening. Poses of this nature can help to quiet the mind, bring the energy levels down to a peaceful place, and prepare the body for a long night of uninterrupted rest.
Some of my favourite restorative yoga poses to practice in the evening are:
- Downward Facing Dog
- Legs Up The Wall
- Corpse Pose
- Cross-Legged Forward Bend
- Bridge Pose
- Supported Child's Pose
Although I would suggest mainly sticking to restorative poses when practicing yoga in the evening, that's not to say that other types of yoga aren't of benefit to your sleeping pattern also.
If yoga is a regular part of your routine in the mornings or day times, then this is also going to help set you up for a good night's sleep.
Defeat Stress and Anxiety
Taking positive steps to defeat your stress and anxiety is a great way to protect your mental health, which in turn can help to protect against stress-related ill health conditions. In order to help you build upon this concept I would like to share with you my top ten tried and tested tips for keeping stress and anxiety away!
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