It can be the path to newfound strength and flexibility—or just some peace of mind
September is almost upon us—a time that usually includes a lot of transitions. Some of them can be stressful. There’s no better time to counteract the stress and anxiety that tends to accompany changes and new schedules. And we’ve got a suggestion for you that won’t cost a thing, which you can do anywhere for just a few minutes a day. And it all starts with some deep breathing!
It sounds simple, but the breath is the basis of all poses in yoga. There’s even a pose called savasana (corpse pose) where all you do is lie still, focus on your breathing, and relax. If you’d like to do some more gentle stretching, all the better. The important thing is that each movement is guided by the breath—either on an inhale or an exhale. You’d be surprised how much it can help to focus on a few simple movements with this attention.
If you want to do more, there is yoga instruction available everywhere to try: at the gym, at a local yoga studio, or from videos online.
What’s the big deal? Well, read about some of the specific benefits that people often experience in yoga:
- STRESS RELIEF: Yoga focuses on relaxation, which can lower the stress hormone cortisol. When you’re relaxed, you might also experience lower blood pressure and heart rate, improved digestion, and fewer symptoms of anxiety, depression, fatigue, and insomnia.
- DEEP BREATHING: When you become more aware of your breathing, you can take more control over those inhalations and exhalations. Whether you speed up your breath to create body heat, such as during a more intense vinyasa (or flow) class, or slow it down to trigger the body’s relaxation response (as during savasana), you’ll be increasing the flow of oxygen to the body.
- PAIN RELIEF: People who do yoga have reported that practicing these postures and/or meditations have eased their chronic physical ailments as well as emotional trauma.
- FLEXIBILITY: With regular, patient practice, you might find that your flexibility improves over time. This range of motion is one of the keys to aging gracefully! Students who couldn’t touch their toes during their initial yoga class are often surprised to find they are more limber in a short period of time. Yoga can help to improve your posture, which in turn can relieve pain and stiffness.
- INCREASED STRENGTH: Some yoga postures will challenge you to use muscles that have been taking it easy for too long. This includes both the large muscles groups, and the muscles you might not even know you had! You might enjoy feeling some heightened body awareness, and will also find that you’re teaching different parts of your body contribute to your overall strength.
- WEIGHT MANAGEMENT: Studies show that yoga can contribute to weight control by decreasing the body’s production of the hormone cortisol, which can aid in metabolizing fat, proteins, and carbohydrates. In addition, you might even find that your yoga-induced bliss will deter you from stress-eating, or at least support you in making healthier food choices.
Most of us could benefit from some improvement in at least one of these areas. So, in honor of National Yoga month, why not give some poses a try! You have nothing to lose, except stress. A month from now, you could be feeling more calm, centered, and even more flexible!
This post is part of the weekly blog of the Harris School of Business. We’re dedicated to supporting all our students in pursuing their career goals. Reach out to us for more information about our number of different career training programs.