Long baths, nature walks and listening to calming music are all great ways to relax but are you yet to discover the soothing benefits of yoga? Yoga for relaxation is all about finding inner peace and reducing the stresses of daily life.
Stress is generally defined as ‘physical, mental, or emotional strain or tension,’ [Source: Stress.org] however it’s a term that’s rather ambiguous. What one person may deem stressful could be completely different from the next.
What we do know is that stress can be caused by a range of different factors and falls into one of the following categories:
- Acute Stress – when the body is in fight or flight mode
- Eustress – stress in life with positive connotations e.g. getting married, having a baby, starting a new job
- Distress – stress in life with negative connotations e.g. divorce, illness, losing someone close to you
- Chronic Stress – daily life stresses related to money, work, family
Out of all the types of stress, chronic tends to have the biggest impact on people’s health, as it often goes ignored and uncontrolled. It’s currently a big problem in the US, with statistics showing an increase in chronic stress, particularly in people ages 25-35 (Millennials and Gen Zers.)
According to the ‘United States of Stress’ report by Everyday Health, which surveyed 6,700 Americans aged 18-64, over one third of people have visited the doctor about something stress-related. 57% of respondents admitted to being paralyzed by stress and 44% of respondents said they experienced chronic work-related stress.
Dealing with stress may require a visit to your doctor for expert medical guidance but there are things you can do to help yourself too. Changing your diet to cut out known triggers like alcohol and caffeine could make a difference, as well as exercising and taking more time for yourself.
Do you know that yoga can relieve stress? It’s proven by science.
Here we will discuss how yoga for relaxation and stress can help improve your well-being. We will look at the different types of relaxation yoga for beginners, how bedtime yoga can improve your sleep and provide ideas for creating your own yoga sequence for stress relief.
Yoga for relaxation and stress management
Over the years, a number of studies have shown that yoga helps reduce stress and deal with anxieties relating to everything from work and finances to family and relationships. Although it has great physical benefits, in terms of helping to strengthen the body and increase flexibility, yoga is also designed to enhance your mood and improve your overall sense of well-being.
Yoga Poses – One of the ways yoga helps relieve feelings of stress is through practicing poses and postures. Stretching and twisting can help to relieve tension and encourage the physical body to relax. It’s also great for releasing emotional energy by opening up the body and deep exhalation.
Controlled Breathing – Another way yoga for relaxation works is through controlled breathing. Stress tends to cause quick, shallow breathing. Yoga will teach you how to breathe using your diaphragm and greater lung capacity, giving you more control over your body and mind. Deep breathing will help you find inner peace and calm the thoughts buzzing around your brain.
Meditation – Yoga is also closely associated with meditation, which is all about being more mindful and aware. It aligns our minds and bodies so we can identify when something is off-balance and do something about it. Yoga teaches us to live in a more connected way, which can benefit all aspects of our lives.
Fighting depression and stress with yoga
Numerous studies have suggested that yoga could be an attractive option for the treatment of depression. This may be because yoga is thought to reduce the levels of Cortisol (a stress-causing hormone) in the body.
Yoga has also been linked with reducing the harmful impact of stress at a cellular and DNA level. It’s fairly complicated but basically, regular yoga practice is thought to protect the Telomeres (the caps on the end of our chromosomes) and slow down their deterioration.
Relaxation yoga for beginners
If you like what you’re reading and want to explore the benefits of relaxation yoga for yourself. Here are a couple of suggestions of yoga types (suitable for beginners) to get you started…
Yin yoga – Yin yoga is a type of yoga for relaxation that was developed in America, in the late 1970s. It’s very slow-paced and ideal for beginners, with lots of sitting and stretching poses that are held for longer periods of time. Yin is also regarded as a meditative form of yoga, great for exploring your emotions and finding inner peace.
Restorative yoga – Restorative yoga is another popular type of yoga for stress relief. It’s all about sinking into a deep state of relaxation, with simple floor-based poses, designed to relieve tension in the body. Some Restorative yoga classes make use of props, such as blankets and eye pillows to help people put the mind and body at ease.
Both Yin and Restorative yoga are suitable for beginners and can be practiced in a dedicated class or in the comfort of your own home.
How relaxing bedtime yoga can improve your sleep
We all know that stress can have a negative impact on sleep and in some cases, even cause severe insomnia. The good news is that numerous studies have shown relaxation yoga before bed can reduce the time it takes to fall asleep and improve your quality of sleep overall.
According to the National Sleep Foundation, people who experience insomnia and perform yoga for relaxation on a daily basis, sleep longer, fall asleep faster and return to sleep quicker if they wake up.
Practicing yoga at bedtime is a great way to get your mind and body into a routine. Before long, they will recognize that it’s ‘bedtime.’ It’s basically a way of training yourself to sleep in a more regulated way.
Bedtime yoga sleep tips
Set the scene – Lay your yoga mat beside your bed and create a relaxing environment. This may involve lighting a candle, putting on some calming music or even wearing a particular item of clothing that makes you feel comfortable.
Turn off devices – Your mobile phone, tablet and television are all devices that disrupt sleep. Viewing videos and social media posts can produce the stress hormone Cortisol (not exactly ideal before you try and sleep) and the blue light emitted from these devices is also thought to limit the release of the sleep-inducing hormone Melatonin. Before practicing yoga for relaxation and sleep, switch all devices off.
Choose slow, gentle poses – Power yoga is a no-go at bedtime. Choose poses that are relatively easy and comfortable to perform. Hold them a little longer than you usually would and focus on your breathing. Gentle stretching is fine as it could relieve some of the tension in your body and help you sleep more soundly.
Yoga for relaxation sequence
The following sequence can be practiced at any time of day or night. It’s designed to help the body let go of tension and reduce feelings of stress. Work yoga for relaxation into your day to keep a calm mind or perform it as part of your bedtime routine to increase the chances of a good night’s sleep.
Be sure to hold each pose between one and five minutes. Make sure you feel comfortable at all times and do not feel any strains or pains. If the full sequence is too long, simply pick your favorites and make your own routine.
Virasana (Hero Pose)
- Kneel with your legs folded under you (your feet should be either side of your bottom with the tops flat on the floor)
- Keep your spine straight with your shoulders and head aligned with your hips
- Hold the pose and breathe deeply
Vipareeta Karani (Legs up the wall Pose)
- Lie on your back on the ground with the backs of your legs up the wall
- Keep your legs straight to form an ‘L’ shape with your body
- Relax and hold for at least two minutes, focusing on each breath
Balasana (Child’s Pose)
- Kneel back and rest on your heels
- Reach forward with your hands and let your forehead rest gently on the floor
- Feel each part of your body relax as you breathe in through the nose and out through the mouth
Savasana (Corpse Pose)
- Lie on your back with your arms by your sides
- Face your palms to the ceiling and let your legs fully relax
- Close your eyes and breathe deeply in and out
- Hold for as long as you wish to
Yoga for relaxation is something everyone can try and could be just what you need to reduce your stress. Whether you look for a Yin yoga class in your local area or choose to practice bedtime yoga at home is up to you. Either way, we’re sure you’ll really feel the benefits and enjoy a more peaceful mind.
Do you practice yoga for stress relief?
Share your experience and tips for reducing stress in the comment section below!