Yoga is a great healthy form of exercise and relaxation for the body and the mind. Its combination of physical and mental focus can help you relieve stress.
The Science Behind Yoga Poses And Stress
Yoga poses can help release muscle knots, emotions, and tension. Mood-boosting endorphins can be released that promote good feelings and help you handle stress. It is also thought that yoga stimulates the vagus nerve and thus the parasympathetic system. Most of us are overloaded by the sympathetic (fight or flight) system; induction of the parasympathetic system is excellent for overall health.
Breath Control Is Key
One of the key factors to yoga is breathwork, Pranayama. A good yoga session will increase your awareness of your breathing. Breathing goes from an involuntary act to a calculated voluntary action with breaths timed to poses and transitions between poses.
Often yoga instructors will call out breaths along with poses during a session. This act focuses and relaxes the body.
Much meditation and focused breathing techniques espoused today by wellness gurus has its basis in yoga breathing.
Meditation works too to reset the brain. Both a focused breath protocol and meditation can place the brain into its default mode. The default mode network is only activated when one is not focused on the outside world or the local environment. When one is focused on the breath or on what is going on in one’s own body and mind, then the default mode network is activated. This activation is essential for healthy cognition and brain function.
Yoga Clears The Mind
Along with breath control, yoga incorporates several other techniques that can clear the mind. During a yoga session, your instructor will most likely instruct you to clear your mind by focusing on the present moment. Both positive and negative thoughts should pass you by as you focus on moving through poses.
There is a lot of science behind mindset and positive thinking with regard to health. Yoga has employed this notion since it began many thousands of years ago.
Breath control can be extremely helpful in achieving this awareness of the present. Your thoughts should solely be focused on maintaining poses and breathing in and out in sync with your instructor and classmates. This total concentration gives the mind a much-needed break. Deeper brain waves, or theta waves, can be stimulated by such breath work.
Inhalation will stimulate slowly adapting stretch receptors (SARs) and thereby sending inhibitory signals that work to modulate the nervous system. Neural elements are synchronized and the parasympathetic state is induced. Basically, the diaphragmatic breathing of pranayama induces the vagus nerve to work for us and cause calm and peace.
Relaxation and Meditation
Each yoga session ends in a 5-10 minute ‘corpse’ pose, savasana. During savasana, full relaxation and meditation are encouraged to help release your mind and body.
This also helps gently transition you back to reality and be prepared for all the stresses of daily life with a clean slate.