Tuesday, December 23, 2008


Improve your stress
Management and relaxation skills

Chronic stress can lead to a variety of health and emotional problems. Yoga is an effective method to reduce stress and anxiety. See how to get started.

Your kids are demanding the latest video game, your boss wants that report done yesterday, and your partner wants to know what's for dinner. Stress and anxiety are everywhere. If they're getting the best of you, you might want to make like a downward-facing dog or a cobra and try yoga.

Yoga's series of postures
— sometimes named for mammals, fish or reptiles
— and controlled breathing exercises have become a popular means of stress management and relaxation.

Today, yoga classes teaching the art of breathing, meditation and posing are offered nearly everywhere — from trendy health clubs in big cities to community education classes in small towns. If you're looking for more do-it-yourself techniques for a calmer, more peaceful attitude, see how to get started with yoga.

Understanding yoga /
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Yoga Pose
The ultimate goal of yoga is to reach complete peacefulness of body and mind, helping you relax and manage stress and anxiety. Traditional yoga philosophy requires that students adhere to this mission through behavior, diet and meditation. But if you're simply looking for better stress management and not an entire lifestyle change, yoga can still help.

Yoga has many styles, forms and intensities. But hatha yoga, in particular, may be a good choice for stress management. This style of yoga is designed to encourage a calmer mind, along with improved flexibility.

Beginning with hatha yoga
There are several versions of hatha yoga, too. Which version you choose depends on your personal preferences. But all varieties of hatha yoga include two basic components — poses and breathing. Coordination of mind, body and breathing through hatha yoga can improve physical, psychological and spiritual well-being.

Yoga is suitable for people of all abilities. In a typical hatha yoga class, you may learn anywhere from 10 to 30 poses. Poses range from the easier corpse pose, which involves lying on the floor while completely relaxed, to the most difficult poses that take years of practice to master.

Regardless of which type of yoga you practice, you don't have to do every pose your instructor demonstrates. If a pose is uncomfortable or you can't hold it as long as the instructor requests, don't do it. Good instructors will understand and encourage you not to exceed your personal limits. Spend time sitting quietly, breathing deeply until your instructor moves the class on to another pose that's more comfortable for you.

Controlling your breathing is an important part of yoga. In yoga, breath signifies your vital energy. Yoga teaches that controlling your breathing can help you control your body and gain control of your mind — reining in thoughts that may otherwise hamper stress management and relaxation.

Through yoga, you learn to control your breathing by paying attention to it. Your instructor might ask you to take deep, loud breaths as you concentrate on your breathing. Other breathing techniques involve paying attention to your breath as it moves into your body and fills your lungs, or alternately breathing through one nostril.

Gaining stress relief and other health benefits from yoga
Yoga offers a good tool for stress management and relaxation.
Left unchecked, stress can lead to a variety of health problems, including headache, insomnia, back pain, burnout, weight gain, anger and substance abuse. Yoga, with its quiet, precise movements can draw your focus away from your busy, chaotic day and more on the calming moment as you move your body through poses that require balance and concentration.
But the benefits of yoga surpass stress relief.

Other health benefits of yoga may include:
Increased flexibility.
As you learn and refine new poses
— such as touching your toes
— you'll find that each time you practice, you can reach a little farther.
Increased range of motion means you're less likely to injure yourself in other physical endeavors or in your daily activities.

Management of chronic health conditions.
The breathing and relaxation methods used in yoga might help you if you have asthma, carpal tunnel syndrome, depression, low back pain, multiple sclerosis, osteoarthritis of the knees or memory problems.

Yoga can also be helpful when combined with other treatments for heart disease and high blood pressure. Yoga, when combined with a vegetarian diet, aerobic exercise and medication, has reduced cardiovascular disease rates and blood pressure levels. However, yoga is not a substitute for traditional medical care and treatment.

Weight loss.
If you're overweight, yoga may help you make the healthy lifestyle changes necessary to drop those extra pounds.

Yoga classes tailored for older adults can help them stay steady on their feet and avoid falls and hip fractures.

Coping with cancer.
People with cancer and their caregivers who practice yoga may improve their quality of life and sleep better at night.
Alzheimer's caregiver stress and fatigue.
Yoga practice may help family caregivers by boosting their mood and improving their ability to cope and manage stress.
While you shouldn't expect yoga to cure you, it can help some health conditions when combined with treatment recommended by your doctor. And if you already enjoy good health, yoga can be an enjoyable supplement to your regular exercise routine.