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Does Yoga Help Reduce Stress?

By Lisa M. Wolfe

Periods of stress can leave you feeling tired, irritable, anxious or overwhelmed. You may even experience physical pains such as headaches or muscle aches. Yoga can help reduce your stress level, restore your energy and alleviate physical symptoms. You may want to participate in an hour-long yoga session or simply practice yoga breathing for five minutes. Regardless of how you choose to practice yoga, you may find your stress fading away.

Relieve Anxiety

One of the ways that stress shows itself is through feelings of anxiety. If you are anxious for unknown reasons, you may be in a state of stress. According to the December 2009 issue of "Perceptual Motor Skills," yoga reduces anxiety. Researchers S. Telles, V. Gaur and A. Balkrishna observed 300 persons who attended Pantanjali Yogpeeth, a yoga therapy center in North India. Those who participated in a two-hour yoga practice session showed a 14.7 percent decrease in anxiety levels.

Yoga Breathing

One way yoga helps to lower your stress level is through the use of deep nasal breathing. When you are stressed, you may find yourself breathing in a shallow manner and only partly filling your lungs. Pranayama, or yoga breathing, uses deep breathing techniques in which you expand your diaphragm and abdomen to breathe very deeply. As you breathe in and out through your nose, slowing your breathing pace, you should feel your stomach expanding and flattening. When you practice yoga breathing, you increase oxygen flow, calm your nervous system, and reduce your level of stress.

Meditation for Monkey-Mind

Meditation quiets your chattering, anxious mind, allowing you to relax and turn inward. "Yoga Journal" recommends spending a few moments lying on your back with your arms and legs outstretched and focusing your mind only on your breathing. Remove all distractions and background noise and use these few moments to pay attention to the quiet, calming sound of your breath. Seated meditation will keep you from inadvertently falling asleep as you relax. Learn simple meditation techniques -- like repeating a mantra or returning your attention to your breath if you are distracted -- in a yoga class or from a meditation tape. A regular meditation practice can help to reduce stress.

Peaceful Poses

If you find that your stress has resulted in an excess amount of energy, a standing yoga pose such as Warrior I may help to reduce your excess energy and stress. You can begin in Warrior I by standing in a lunge position with your right leg in front of your left. Face the toes of your right foot forward and the toes of your left foot to the left. Bend your right knee as you inhale and raise both arms overhead, palms facing each other. Turn your chest out over your right leg and your gaze slightly upward. Hold this pose for five breaths and repeat with your left leg in front.

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