After close to a month of confinement in our homes many of us are trying to learn to let go, relax and stay positive despite all of the unease. For some isolation might even feel like a much-needed breath of fresh air! However, even the most calm and resilient of us can have feelings of stress, anxiety and tension creep up on us unannounced, especially with so much free time on our hands for our thoughts to spiral.
We all know how important movement and exercise is for mental and physical health, but sadly hitting the pavement, park or gym is not currently an option, and we’re limited to our own four walls (and perhaps a bit of a balcony or terrace if we’re lucky!). Yoga is the perfect practice to incorporate at this time. As long as you have enough space to roll out a yoga mat, you have enough space to practice, and yoga not only allows you to get your physical exercise in, it can decrease stress, ease tension, and improve immunity.
Boost Your Immune System
New research published in the Journal of Behavioral Medicine suggests that yoga can be a helpful way to boost your immune system and decrease inflammation in the body. Psychological stress can impact many systems in the body, including weakening the immune system and increasing chronic inflammation. Researchers found an overall pattern that yoga reduces pro-inflammatory markers. But how often should you hop on the mat to make a difference? A consistent practice as regularly as just once per week from 30-90 minutes was shown to have a positive effect, although more frequently than this yields greater results.
The Benefits of Breathing
Stress utilises a lot of our energy. When we feel depleted, coping with even small upsets can prove very difficult. Similar to being stuck in a mild state of panic, our breathing becomes shallow with very little exhale, and the neck, head, and shoulders tense up. Yoga is unique to most other exercise because it focuses on the breath while stretching and lengthening the body. The movements combined with deep breathing techniques helps to take us out of the sympathetic nervous system, and move into our parasympathetic nervous system, also known as ‘rest and digest’.
Yoga Allows Self-Compassion
Any physical fitness at all can be great for stress relief, but yoga has the added bonus of focusing on self-compassion and awareness. One of the main concepts in yoga is being non-judgmental toward both yourself and others, which is something many of us are struggling with in lockdown, feeling pressure to be productive and have everything in order because we have so much extra time. Yoga can be a powerful tool to help take a step back and stop being so hard on our self or frustrated with others.
CNN has reported that yoga, like most forms of exercise, can boost your body’s production of the hormones essential to cultivating happiness, health, and feelings of calmness. The hormone oxytocin is produced which can make you feel closer to your loved ones, decrease stress, and improve mood. Yoga also gets the endorphins pumping, another type of hormone that plays a vital role in managing physical pain and negative emotions. Additionally, studies have even found yoga can increase your body’s production of melatonin- a hormone that helps regulate your sleep cycle. Combine the increase in these three hormones and it’s no surprise that yoga contributes to feelings of happiness, tranquility and inner peace.
Online Yoga Classes During Lockdown
If you’re looking for a live or recorded yoga class you can stream from your home during lockdown, make sure to head over to the Nourish the Community Facebook group page. We’ve created a dedicated yoga post so that teachers can share information and links to their wonderful online classes within the post thread.