7 Breathing Exercises and Yoga Poses to Help You Reduce StressBy Dana Santas
Anxiety is one of the biggest mental stressors. When we feel anxious, our heart rate and blood pressure increase and we start taking rapid, shallow breaths. In response to the stress on our body and mind, our sympathetic “fight-or-flight” nervous system kicks in to boost cortisol (the primary stress hormone) production and adrenaline as physiological support—perpetuating the racing heart, high blood pressure, and rapid breathing—to feed feelings of anxiety in an unabating cycle of stress. And, when you live in a constant state of stress, it’s been shown to manifest physically as inflammation.
Yoga is widely recognized as a stress-relieving practice. Various studies have shown that practicing yoga reduces feelings of anxiety as well as stifles the body’s physiological responses to stress—including, reducing inflammation. Although there are no current studies on the effects of specific yoga poses (only general yoga practices) on stress, there is research to support the positive impact of specific ways of holding our body posture. For example, Amy Cuddy at Harvard has described "power poses" that have been shown to decrease cortisol and increase testosterone to reduce anxiety and boost confidence. Breathing deeply with your diaphragm also initiates the parasympathetic “rest and digest” nervous system, decreasing the stress response and lowering your blood pressure and heart rate.
Use the quick and simple chart of yoga-based breathing exercises and research-backed poses, above, to help you de-stress whenever you're feeling tense!
Dana Santas is the CNN Health yoga expert and the creator of Radius Yoga, a science-based yoga style designed to help people move, breathe and feel better in the context of their daily lives. Specializing in work with professional athletes, she’s the yoga trainer for the Atlanta Braves, Philadelphia Phillies, Tampa Bay Rays, Tampa Bay Lightning, Orlando Magic and dozens of pros in the NFL, NBA, NHL, MLB, PGA and WTA. You can find her on Facebook, Twitter (@MobilityMaker), Instagram, and YouTube.
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