Stress Management: Practicing Yoga to Relax
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People have practiced yoga for thousands of years in India. Yoga is based on the idea that the mind and body are "one." The word yoga comes from the Sanskrit language and means "union." The goals of yoga include improved physical and mental health, as well as “oneness" with a higher being, the self, or some form of higher awareness.
Yoga includes breathing, meditation, and exercises, called postures or poses. This topic focuses on yoga postures and breathing to help you relax.
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A yoga practice can include breathing, meditation, and poses.
Doing yoga may reduce stress and anxiety. It can also help your body to be more flexible. Several studies have shown that yoga has health benefits such as improving a person's sense of well-being, helping to lower blood pressure, and helping people who have asthma learn to breathe more easily.
If you have a health condition, talk to your doctor or certified yoga instructor before you start a yoga program. Doing yoga should not cause pain. If you feel any pain when you do these poses, stop. Talk to a yoga instructor about how to modify the pose. Or ask him or her to teach you a different pose that doesn't cause pain.
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Doing yoga to relax can also have other health benefits.
There are lots of yoga poses you can do to help you relax. Here are a few to try. The first two yoga poses below—the extended puppy pose and the cat cow pose—are simple to learn and easy to do. It's best to start there if you have never done yoga before. The other pose—the reclining bound angle pose—is a little more advanced. All of these yoga poses can help you relax and relieve stress.
Extended puppy pose
The extended puppy pose is easy to do and is very relaxing. Try this yoga pose for a good spine stretch and relaxation.
Caution: If you have knee problems, don't do this pose. Or you can talk to a certified yoga instructor about how to modify this pose.
Cat cow pose
With the cat cow pose, you move from one position to another using your breath to tell you when to switch positions. This pose combines breathing and movement to help relieve stress and make the spine more flexible. Repeat the sequence 10 to 20 times. Make sure to do the movements as you breathe in and out.
Caution: If you have neck problems or an injury, keep your neck in the original position in line with your torso instead of moving it with your spine.
Reclining bound angle pose
For this pose, you may need to use props to get the full benefits. A prop is something you use to support different parts of your body in a yoga pose. You can buy yoga props, such as blocks or bolsters (large hard pillows). Or you can use items that you have at home, such as pillows or blankets.
When you do this pose for the first time, take the time to adjust your props so that you can completely relax when you are in the pose. If the pose makes you tense or uncomfortable, use props. You may want to use one or more of the following props:
Caution: Do not do this exercise after giving birth until your doctor says it is okay. If you have knee, hip, or shoulder problems, don't do this pose. Or you can talk to a certified yoga instructor to find out how to modify this pose.
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The cat cow pose combines breathing and movement to help relieve stress and make the spine more flexible.
Are you ready to give yoga a try? If your answer is "yes," start with the easier poses, and work your way up to the more advanced pose. Or see what poses work best for you. To learn more, you may also want to take a yoga class.
If you would like more information on yoga, the following resource is available:
eMedicineHealth Medical Reference from Healthwise
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