Home > Stress Management: Practicing Yoga to Relax
Yoga means different things to
different people. This topic focuses on a kind of yoga called Hatha yoga.
One of the benefits of Hatha yoga is that it can relieve stress and help you
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 and also
"oneness" with a higher being, the self, or some form of higher
Yoga includes breathing, meditation, and exercises,
called postures or poses. This topic focuses on yoga postures and breathing
to help you relax.
A yoga practice can include breathing, meditation, and
A yoga practice can include any combination of
breathing exercises, meditation, and yoga postures or poses. You can do yoga to
help you relax.
Continue to Why?
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.
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
Doing yoga to relax can also have other health
In addition to helping you relax, yoga may help
lower blood pressure and improve your sense of well-being. If you have a health
condition, talk to your doctor or certified yoga instructor before you start a
Continue to How?
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.
The extended puppy pose is
easy to do and is very relaxing. Try this yoga pose for a good spine stretch
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.
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
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.
For the reclining bound angle 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.
The cat cow pose combines breathing and movement to
help relieve stress and make the spine more flexible.
The cat cow pose combines breathing and
movement to help relieve stress and make the spine more flexible. You move from
one position to another using your breath to tell you when to switch positions.
Continue to Where?
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:
The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine
(NCCAM) at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) explores complementary and
alternative healing practices in the context of rigorous science, trains
complementary and alternative medicine researchers, and gives out authoritative
If you want to try another relaxation technique,
Return to topic:
Other Works Consulted
Miryala R, et al. (2011). Yoga. In M Micozzi, ed., Fundamentals of Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 4th ed., pp. 482–494. St. Louis: Elsevier Saunders.
May 15, 2012
Patrice Burgess, MD - Family Medicine & Steven Locke, MD - Psychiatry
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