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Stress and the Basics of Yoga—How Yoga Can Help Us Feel Better

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Yoga involves a combination of controlled breathing, postures, stretching, meditation and mental imagery. Yoga has been around for over 5,000 years and was originally an Eastern practice, but is now becoming more and more popular in Western nations as well. According to Harvard Medical School’s website, about seven percent of adults in the United States had tried yoga at least one time, and about four percent did so within the last year.

Yoga, which comes from the word “yoke,” meaning “to bring together” is meant to do exactly that—bring together the body, mind, and spirit. Some people like doing yoga for the spiritual aspect, and there are even now popular “Holy Yoga” classes that really focus on this angle. Still others enjoy the way yoga can help them feel stronger and more relaxed.

Whatever you use yoga for, a typical yoga class will involve stretching the body and making different poses or postures, while controlling your breathing. It’s all very focused and deliberate and if done correctly, yoga should make you feel both more energetic and more relaxed. As we’ll discuss in future articles, there are many different types of yoga, some of which are done more vigorously and some in different temperatures. But from what I’ve researched, the overall theme of yoga seems to be the same, and each type shares many benefits in common.

Some of the ways that yoga may help us include improving quality of sleep, helping with allergies and asthma, lowering the heart rate, increasing our sense of well-being, reducing cortisol levels, and alleviating stress and anxiety. It has been found to help people lose weight, manage chronic health conditions, and improve fitness.

Since so many of us are under stress these days, and anxiety and depression also affects a lot of people, let’s look further into how and why practicing yoga may help improve these health issues. But first, a little history. Meditation and other stress-reducing techniques have been studied as a way to lower stress and subsequently anxiety and depression since the 1970s.

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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.