Gallup’s annual Global Emotions report for 2019 revealed that Americans were some of the most stressed-out people in the world. Those results were determined prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, which has completely changed life as we know it in the United States. Eighty-three percent of Americans today say that the United States’ future is a significant source of stress, and 72 percent say that this year is the lowest point in history that they can remember, according to the American Psychological Association. While there’s not a whole lot to get excited about in the news, there is a proven way for you to calm your mind and strengthen your body. It’s through practicing yoga, which has the ability to reduce symptoms of stress, depression and anxiety if incorporated into your routine.
As a mind-body practice, yoga brings together physical and mental disciplines that may help you achieve peacefulness of body and mind. While there are many different styles, forms and intensities, the Mayo Clinic highlights the core components of most general yoga classes, which are poses, breathing and meditation or relaxation.
Poses, also known as postures, are a series of movements designed to increase strength and flexibility. They can range from lying on the floor relaxed to more difficult postures, which will have you stretching your physical limits (pun very much intended). Once you learn to control your breathing, you’ll be able to control your body and quiet your mind, which is a very important and valuable skill – possibly more than ever. Meditation will allow you to stay in the present moment, so that you won’t replay past events or worry about everything that you still need to do in the future – be it for yourself and your to-do list, work, or your loved ones.
Implementing yoga practices into your life can lead to an enhanced mood and an overall sense of well-being; improved fitness, balance, flexibility, range of motion and strength, which can lead to better athletic performance and reduce your risk for injury; and management of chronic conditions such as heart disease and high blood pressure. A review in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology concluded that there’s promising evidence of yoga improving cardio-metabolic health.
Yoga might also alleviate other chronic conditions, such as depression, pain, anxiety and insomnia, according to the Mayo Clinic. SleepFoundation.org has found that people who have insomnia and perform yoga on a daily basis sleep for longer, fall asleep faster and go back to bed more quickly if they wake up in the middle of the night.
Other benefits of yoga are that it promotes healthy eating habits and quells food cravings. It has also been shown to improve sexual desire and arousal in both men and women, according to a study in The Journal of Sexual Medicine.
One of the best parts about yoga is that it’s for everyone – it doesn’t matter whether you’re young or old, in shape or out of shape, or a man or woman. In fact, 28% of all yoga practitioners in the United States are men, according to a Yoga in America study, which debunks one of the common myths surrounding yoga – that it’s only for women. Ten million guys say otherwise.
While it’s generally safe for most healthy people to practice yoga with a trained instructor, if you have any questions or concerns, it’s a good idea to reach out to your doctor before you start doing yoga. Then, once you get the A-OK, you’ll be able to enjoy the many benefits that yoga has to offer.