Emma Ceolin, Founder of Yogaventures, shares her personal journey with yoga and how it was key to self-confidence, relationships and managing anxiety.
When I first started yoga I had no idea just how much the practice would benefit me mentally. I had experienced anxiety from an early age and over the years it chipped away at my self-perceptions, relationships and mental health. Since my very first yoga class 5 years ago, coming to my mat became one of the most effective way to interrupt anxious thought patterns and calm my mind. I found that the more awareness and mindfulness I created on the mat the more it showed up in my life every day and the better I was able to create an awareness and understanding around my ups and downs, and better manage them.
This why why I believe yoga is much, much more than the pretty poses you see on Instagram. Yoga is primarily based on experiential practice and self-enquiry and relates to the nature and workings of the mind. In itself, yoga can be a psychology. It's believed that through this practice yogis can actually manage their heart rate, genome, thoughts and brain. So here are my top 4 reasons why you should do yoga for anxiety.
1. Activates Your Relaxation Response
When your body perceives a threat your stress response (Sympathetic Nervous System also known as flight-or-flight) kicks in releasing hormones like cortisol and adrenaline. This allows you to respond with energy and focus, but also anger, anxiety and aggression. This important survival mechanism is useful when you need to slam on the brakes to prevent a car accident. But in modern society, most of us unnecessarily remain in this state and overtime this wrecks havoc on our health. Kind of makes you stressed about your stress amiright? Well fear not — there's now a myriad of research showing yoga and breathing helps you shift from your stress response to your relaxation response (Parasympathetic Nervous System aka rest-and-digest).
2. It Increases Vagal Tone
Wondering what the heck vagal tone is? Vagal tone relates to our vagal nerve also known as your 'wandering nerve'. The vagus nerve is the primary nerve related to your relaxation response. But not all vagus nerves are the same. In fact, some people have stronger vagus nerves meaning their bodies can relax faster after stress. The strength of your vagus response is known as your vagal tone. Through yoga you place controlled amounts of stress on the body and then ask it to neutralise with breathing techniques, in turn training your nervous system and helping to increase your vagal tone.
3. It Helps Rewire Anxious Thought Patterns
It's not uncommon for regular yoga practitioners to start eating better, to cut back on caffeine or alcohol, to quit jobs with unreasonable demands, or become more resilient to stress and anxiety. Why? Well it's now proven that repeated positive thoughts and actions can actually change thought processes, alter behaviours and change neural networks (what we know as neuroplasticity). Overtime these healthy grooves, thoughts, patterns and actions become stronger than unhealthy ones.
4. It helps release tension and fascia (your body's secondary sensory organ)
Your fascial network is like scaffolding throughout your entire body. It connects to bone, muscles, ligaments, tendons and even cells. Originally thought to be a filler with no purpose in the body, emerging research shows that it does much, much more. It's now believed that fascia has the capacity to influence not just mobility in the body but your nervous system, and thus your relaxation response. Your fascial network is rich in sensory nerve endings, and gentle pressure on your fascia (with a foam roller, therapy ball or even long held yoga poses in yin/restorative yoga) may help communicate to your nervous system that there is no longer any need for increased tension in that area.
So there you have it - 4 reasons why you should do yoga for anxiety. Roll out your mat with our free classes available on our Online Studio or attend a Yoga for Stress and Anxiety Workshop near you today.
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