By Christine Saari, MA, E-RYT, C-BDYT
Pause for a second. Think about the last time you truly felt relaxed. No, I'm not talking about the half-hearted sense of calm you experience while binge-watching your favorite series on Netflix. I mean a deep, soul-level type of calmness. Do you remember?
If you're like most of us, you might be scratching your head. "Deep, soul-level calmness?" you ask. "Who has time for that in this fast-paced world?"
Trust me, I get it. We are all running around trying to meet deadlines, trying to be there for our loved ones, trying to be all things to all people. It's exhausting, isn't it?
I've had my fair share of stressful days, and trust me, I'm not proud of it. Here's a little secret: I've been known to snap at my barista because my coffee wasn't made just right. Yes, even your friendly neighborhood yogi can get a little bit grumpy.
But here's where the good news comes in: stress is not a life sentence.
Take it from yoga and neuroscience, they're good buddies when it comes to managing stress.
The Yoga-Brain Stress Busting Connection
Have you ever noticed how your body feels after you stretch in the morning? Your muscles relaxing, your mind clearing, that delicious, satisfying yawn...there's a reason we naturally do this. It's our body's way of relieving tension, and yoga works in much the same way, providing you with the stress relief your body craves.
When we engage in yoga, we're actively asking our muscles to relax. This act of conscious relaxation sends a signal to our brains. A pretty powerful signal.
Recent research has shown that yoga can stimulate the production of Gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) in the brain. Now, that might sound like a mouthful, but think of GABA as your brain's natural chill pill. It helps to lower anxiety and promote feelings of calm.
Dr. Chris Streeter, a professor of psychiatry at Boston University School of Medicine, conducted a study showing that people who practiced yoga for 12 weeks had higher GABA levels than those who engaged in other forms of exercise. Yes, you read that right, more GABA means less stress and more calm.
Harnessing The Power of Yoga for Stress Relief
So, how can we use yoga to combat stress in our everyday lives?
Well, the beauty of yoga is that you don't need a studio, a fancy mat, or the perfect pair of yoga pants (though I do love a good pair of yoga pants). You just need yourself and a few moments of your day.
Start small, maybe with a five-minute gentle stretch when you wake up, or a few deep-breathing exercises when you're feeling overwhelmed. Over time, these small acts can accumulate and create big shifts in your stress levels.
The point here isn't to become a super flexible yoga master. It's about creating a space for yourself, a moment of peace in the chaos of your day. It's about signaling to your brain that it's okay to relax, to let go of the tension, and embrace calmness.
So, remember: you have the power to create calm in your life. And with a little help from yoga, you might just find that deep, soul-level calmness you've been missing.
And wouldn't that be a beautiful thing?