How to Manage Stress, Anxiety, and Depression

What a day: The kids have been fighting, I'm behind on a work project and anxious about an upcoming social event. I can feel my breath move into my throat and my shoulders moving up toward my ears. Stress, anxiety, and depression (SAD) can really impact our bodies and cause us to become overwhelmed in our lives.

Now, I visualize a woman sitting quietly on a yoga mat with a straight spine and a serene expression on her face. Her breath is deep and relaxed and she seems comfortable sitting still. She has found a sense of peace and tranquility by practicing yoga. How did she do it?

There are several aspects of a yoga class that will assist you in stressful times and help you effectively manage depression and anxiety.

Breathing

In the practice of yoga, you will begin to better understand your breath and how it impacts your body, mind and spirit. We've all heard the phrase "cleansing breath," but what does that mean? A cleansing breath is a deep breath that moves into the belly. Think of an infant lying on her back—her belly rises and falls with each breath.

As we move our breath into the diaphragm and belly, we begin to experience all of the physical benefits of deep breath, as well as the emotional calming that occurs when we breathe deeply. If we are thinking about each inhale and exhale as we move through our practice, our mind quiets and we aren't thinking about the things that are stressful.

Stretching

Stretching is another immense benefit of yoga. As we move through the yoga postures, we stimulate our glands, organs, and brain. This will help bring the body back into balance in a natural way. When we stretch in yoga, we also listen to our bodies. If you feel tight or find yourself uncomfortable in a certain posture, it might be the place where you carry stress.

Some of the stretches that we incorporate in our practice may trigger a "fight or flight" response. Keeping the awareness on our breath allows us to work through those feelings and find the benefits of the stretch.

Balancing

Many yoga poses focus on balance. If we achieve balance in our practice, we might be able to take that balance into other parts of our lives. Balance is something that can't be forced. Patience, breath, and practice are the biggest allies when practicing balancing poses.

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