Have you ever had a stress headache? I have. Do you hold tension in your neck and shoulders? I know I do. We are inundated by marketing “quick fixes” to these common issues at every turn but addressing the root causes of these ailments is often the best remedy.
Maybe your job requires you to sit for long periods of time, or maybe your New Year's resolution of working out daily is but a distant and foggy memory. Either way, when the human body is sedentary it doesn’t have the chance to expend energy in the ways it was designed to.
That being said, adding some basic stretches to our daily routines can improve awareness of what our minds and bodies need; it can increase our mind-body connection thus opening the door to better overall physical and mental health and wellness.
Mental Health Benefits of Yoga
A recent study from Harvard Health shows that yoga offers us the option to tap into the mind-body connection, which, in turn, offers a reprieve from things like stress, tension, inflammation, and symptoms of depression and anxiety. Additionally, practicing even the most basic yoga asanas (poses) daily can relieve tension with long term benefits. If you are tired of popping Advil or paying for massages, why not consider yoga as a daily DIY stress/tension relief method?
As a therapist, I often remind my clients that we all have an “inner physician”; an innate healer, a calm center in the midst of the storms of life - but gosh, it is often hard to find! Read on to get in touch with that calm, centered goodness and learn to let go of the baggage through reconnecting your mind and body through yoga.
How Do You Connect With Your Body?
We often go through our days on autopilot. We are going through the motions - but where is our mind? Somewhere else? I wonder if you have ever considered being fully in the moment with your daily actions… have you ever simply let go of what is expected by others? Can you let go of what you expect of yourself? Can you let go of judgements? Let go of comparisons?
It’s a stretch, (pun intended) but letting go of these sorts of things through a daily practice of yoga has the potential to connect our mind and body and reunite with that inner healer, that calm center.
So, like, how do we do that?
Well, allow me to offer you the science: We often make this connection through setting the goal of being mindful of our breath. Being mindful is being in the present moment without making judgements.
Maintaining a mindful focus on our breath potentiates activation of the parasympathetic nervous system, otherwise known as the rest and digest response; this is like the more laid back rebuttal to the fight or flight response. So, when you were 5 years old and in a tizzy and your mom always said to take some deep breaths and count to 10, she was onto something!
The amazing masterpiece that is our breath is something we often ignore; it can teach us more about ourselves than we can fathom.
Have you ever taken the time to listen to your body in a caring way? Gently nudging our body through small movements and poses and tuning back into the rhythm of our breath is noticing there are healing directions at our disposal.
Yes, I said “gentle nudging”. Rather than forcibly shoving our body into positions and expecting the most - how about we make time to appreciate what our body can do. Right now. In this moment. Not what it could do a decade ago. Not what we want it to do - not what we think it “should” do. Instead, how about we begin offering ourselves moments of gratitude for the wondrous abilities that lie within each and every one of us.
Let’s take it easy on ourselves as we breathe into that amazing connection of our mind and body and reunite with our calm center.
Please talk to your doctor before hopping into a daily yoga practice.
Thanks for reading & take care!
Laura Cooper, CSW, MSSW, TCADC, TIYT
Laura Cooper is an open-minded, hot-tea loving therapist and trauma-informed Yogafit teacher. While actively immersing herself in assisting her clients in reaching their mental health treatment plan goals, she also makes time for her own yoga practice and emerging yoga business daily. Laura loves to help others recognize that small and gentle changes in our daily lives can, in time, have big results.
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