By Hinda Lahmar

Stress can impact our mind but also our body and be debilitating. Chronic stress can create health issues such as reduced immunity, heart disease, anxiety, or depression. To help reduce stress, Yoga can be an effective tool. Yoga is nowadays a very popular practice and people experience its physical and mental benefits. Developing a personal yoga practice can help prevent and reduce stress, and focus on self-improvement.

Yoga is very easy to start as you don’t need any equipment. All you need is to focus on your body and breath.

How yoga relieves stress:

Yoga promotes both physical and mental relaxation, which lowers tension and anxiety. The physical positions encourage flexibility, ease stress, and lessen discomfort.

Yoga poses may help you release physical blockages like muscle knots, helping release emotions and tension. Yoga also promotes the release of endorphins, the natural pain reliever and mood-booster hormone that can positively affect how you handle stress. Yoga can also help you release emotions but also physical tensions like muscle knots.

Yoga practice will enhance your awareness, center your mind, and boost your concentration as you will learn how to fully focus on the present moment for a certain period of time.

As you keep practicing, you will feel more at ease with your body, feelings, and thoughts. This practice will help you let go of attachments and focus on the positive aspects of life. You will also learn how to cultivate joy, serenity, and love.

Start with yoga breathing practice:

Pranayama, or breathing exercises, are used to regulate your breath, focus your mind and relax. This breathing practice helps reduce stress and calm your mind and body.

Pranayama techniques include a few different techniques. A few of them are:

- Nadi shodhana (or alternate nostril breathing) which consists in breathing with one nostril while holding the other closed. This technique, incorporated into a routine, relaxes the body and mind.

- Breath of fire (Kapalabhati) is a technique in which you inhale passively and exhale forcefully while contracting your abdominal muscles. This technique is known to enhance concentration and supports respiratory functions as well as relieve stress.

- Sitali breath (or cooling breath) is practiced by inhaling and exhaling with your tongue rolled or, If impossible, your mouth pursed in an “o” shape. This technique cools down and relaxes the body. 

Breathing exercices will help you go through uncomfortable or difficult situations by allowing you to better manage your stress.

Continue with yoga poses:

You can now get started with the yoga poses to reduce stress.

Cat-Cow Pose

This pose warms up your body, improves flexibility, balances and helps regulate breathing. Doing so, will calm your mind and release stress.

Start in a tabletop position. Your knees under your hips and wrists under the shoulders with a neutral spine position.

Inhale into cow pose, move your face up toward the ceiling, and arch your back, with your belly moving towards the floor.

As you exhale in a cat pose, curve your back, bend your spine towards the ceiling, and draw your chin towards your chest.

Keep doing these two positions 5 to 7 times.

Child’s Pose

The child’s pose is a restorative and resting pose. This posture calms the body and mind while relieving neck and back pain. helps create an inward focus and restore energy. It also supports mental and physical relaxation.

Start with your knees down on the floor, placing them together.

Sit back on your heels and keep your knees hip-width apart.

Exhale while you fold forward, resting your chest on your thighs and your forehead on the mat. Stretch your arms out in front of you.

Relax and breathe deeply. Focus on your breath and on relaxing your body.

Hold this pose for 1 to 5 minutes.

Corpse Pose

During this pose, it is important to focus on breathing deeply as this pose is meant to calm your mind and let go of any tension.

Lie down on your mat, facing up Place your feet a bit wider than your hips.

Position your hands apart, at some distance from your body.

Your head, neck, and spine should be aligned once laid down.

Close your eyes and breathe deeply, allowing your full body to relax.

Focus on your breath and stay in this pose for 10–20 minutes.

Final word

Yoga and breathing practices are great techniques to use to reduce stress, enhance focus and improve overall health and well-being. Try out these techniques and practices and see which one brings suits you best.