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Yoga for Stress Relief
by Charlotte Bradley

Life is a juggling act. It’s not easy trying to balance work, soccer practice, and homework, all the while trying to get dinner on the table, and maybe fitting in a bit of exercise where you can. Throw in a missed deadline or extra appointment and watch as your whole world seems to collapse around you, like balls slipping through your fingers. Though a little stress can actually be a good thing, todayapostrophes fast pace is nothing but a steady stream of mind-spinningly busy calendars. We all know that too much stress can make you sick, but equally as important to know is the more you find yourself in stressful situations, the harder it becomes for your body to turn off its reaction to stress (such as releasing stress hormones and raising heart rate and blood pressure). Without some kind of reprieve from stressful feelings, youapostrophell find yourself in a constant state of anxiety about the world around you. Thankfully, you can train your body to relax, give yourself a break from the stresses of life, and enjoy a more alert, calmer self through the regular practice of yoga. So why not grab a cup of tea and take a few minutes to learn how yoga can relieve your stress and help you get ready for the 5 oapostropheclock mad house rush?

Stress is the emotional and physical reaction of your body and mind to upsetting events. Your reactions are the same regardless of whether youapostrophere feeling stressed about an upcoming deadline, an audit, or are running from a hungry mountain lion. When you begin to feel uncomfortable or sense imminent danger your bodyapostrophes defenses kick into high gear (this is why a bit of stress is good - like a test run!). Unfortunately our bodies sometimes donapostrophet know when to quit, even after the stressful event has passed. When weapostrophere inundated with pressure and donapostrophet relax between stressful moments it actually becomes more difficult to turn off your bodyapostrophes responses, leaving you feel uptight and anxious much of the time. Stress is known to increase the risk or likelihood of all the following:

Heart disease.


Illness and infection.

Back pain, stomach aches, and muscle tension.

Digestive problems, constipation and diarrhea.

Anxiety and depression.

Yoga works in many ways to help reduce your feelings of stress. First and foremost stretching, extending, and exercising your muscles, tendons, ligaments and joints helps your body relax and relieves much of the tension you carry in your shoulders, back, or jaw. For example, yoga poses for your back specifically target this area, gentley massageing the spine. By relaxing this tension, yoga can help reduce the toll that stress will exact and ensure your body is functioning normally.

Yogic stretching is an excellent way to calm yourself and ensure your body is functioning the way itapostrophes supposed to. By relaxing the muscular tension on your internal organs, yoga can help regulate your vascular system, your digestive system, as well as your endocrine system to ensure your body is working in harmony. Your endocrine system is a highly sensitive system of glands and organs that essentially regulate everything in your body - from reproduction, to your ability to fend of illness, and even the ability to lose weight. This system is extremely sensitive to stress and if the stress hormone cortisol is acting in your body, it’s likely the endocrine system is influenced. By physically stimulating your endocrine glands, yoga can combat some of the effects of cortisol, returning your body to a sense of balance, improving your immune system, your digestive system, and even how much energy you have.

One key aspect of yoga is the controlled, deep breathing. As you learn to breathe more deeply though practicing yoga you are essentially calming your body and easing the stress you feel. Yoga forces your body, mind and spirit to unwind and slow down enough that you better cope with the world around you. There is scientific evidence that yoga lowers your blood pressure and with it, your feelings of stress. These positive effects are not only felt during the times you practice, but also when youapostropheve returned to your everyday, hectic life.

Finally, and possibly most significantly, yoga gives you time to unplug from your hectic world and focus on yourself. Being constantly inundated with external pressure can leave you feeling harried, as though there are not enough hours in a day in which to accomplish your goals. While your mind and body are in a relaxed state, it’s much easier to complete your thoughts. Instead of needless worrying, yoga will teach you to prioritize, minimize and offer you a new view of your world.

Yoga is truly a total mind and body workout that helps reduce the burden of stress many of us feel in our day to day lives. Taking the time to practice yoga will give you the strength to carry on even through the most challenging and hectic of days, as well as combating the effects stress has on your body. Fitting a yoga session into your busy schedule, leaves you ready to face the remainder of the day with a renewed sense of energy and spirit.

About the author:

Charlotte Bradley is the publisher of and an avid yoga practitioner. She was a student of karate for many years and took up yoga only tentatively after the birth of her sons and a knee injury left her looking for a less high-impact form of exercise. It was love at first pose as Charlotte saw how quickly yoga workouts sped her rehabilitation along. She also found that yogic relaxation techniques lent her proper focus, bringing balance into her life as well as a greater appreciation for how blessed she truly is. She lives in Ottawa, Ontario with her husband and twin boys, Charlie and Patty, who keep her on her feet and on the go. Her golden retriever supervises Charlotte’s yoga workouts from a spare mat, with his eyes closed.