Practicing Yoga to Relieve the Stress of the Holidays

Woman doing cobra pose

Yoga Can Help You Manage Holiday Stress

Many of us become overextended this time of year as we struggle to balance work and family responsibilities with a seemingly never-ending list of holiday activities. Shopping, sending cards, baking cookies and treats, and planning holiday parties become much less enjoyable when you're feeling stressed or overwhelmed. If you add yoga classes to your holiday schedule, you'll learn techniques that will help you control and reduce your stress level naturally.

Stress Affects Your Mental and Physical Health

When you don't know how you're going to find the time to bake nine dozen cookies for the holiday cookie exchange or you're dreading Christmas or Hannukah dinner with your pesky brother-in-law, stress makes everything worse.

Stress may make you feel irritable, emotional, or depressed. You might also discover that your problem-solving and judgment skills begin to decline. As your stress level rises, so does your blood pressure. In fact, frequent stress may increase your risk of high blood pressure or make the condition difficult to control if you've already been diagnosed with it.

Have you noticed that you tend to experience more colds and illnesses during the winter? Stress may also make your immune system work less effectively and could be partly to blame for your symptoms.

The American Heart Association reports that prolonged exposure to stress hormones increases your risk of heart disease, stroke, anxiety, concentration issues, insomnia, headaches, digestive problems, and weight gain. Getting your stress under control is essential for your physical and mental well-being.

How Yoga Can Help You Remain Calm

Yoga offers a three-pronged approach to stress relief, as it involves exercise, deep breathing, and meditation. It's an excellent form of exercise that not only increases your flexibility and strength but also triggers the production of endorphins. These natural hormones reduce stress levels and improve your mood. Practicing yoga regularly also keeps your muscles loose and limber and reduces tight muscles, a common consequence of holiday stress.

Deep breathing, an essential aspect of yoga, helps you master yoga poses and keeps energy flowing freely through your body as you transition from one movement to the next. Yogic breathing reduces stress by improving the flow of oxygen to your brain, decreasing your blood pressure, slowing your heart rate, and relaxing your muscles.

Finally, meditation prevents negative thoughts and feelings from increasing your stress level. As you meditate, you'll focus only on a sound or image and banish all thoughts from your mind. If unwelcomed thoughts intrude on your meditation session, you'll acknowledge them without attaching any emotional significance to them, then quickly dismiss them and clear your mind.

These positive effects of yoga on stress are supported by research. A study that appeared in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine compared the effects of yoga and walking on mood and anxiety. Participants who performed yoga experienced greater improvements in mood and had less anxiety than those in the walking group.

Yoga classes offer the perfect way to stay centered and relaxed despite the pressures of the holiday season. Whether you've never tried yoga before, or it's been a while since your last class, your instructor will help you master the basic principles and set goals that will improve your physical and emotional health.

Luckily, you can still take advantage of the calming effects of yoga even when you aren't in a class. A family room yoga session is the perfect way to start or end the day. When you're feeling stressed throughout the day, performing chair yoga and practicing deep breathing and meditation will help you banish worries and stress.

Are you ready to find out how yoga can help you manage stress this holiday season? Get in touch with us to schedule your first class session.

Sources:

American Heart Association: Lower Stress: How Does Stress Affect the Body

Yoga Journal: A TCM-Inspired Home Practice to Ease Holiday Stress, 12/11/18

Yoga Journal: Change Your Stress Response, 4/5/17

Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine: Effects of Yoga Versus Walking on Mood, Anxiety, and Brain GABA Levels: A Randomized Controlled MRS Study, 11/10

International Journal of Yoga: Exploring the Therapeutic Effects of Yoga and Its Ability to Increase Quality of Life, 7-12/11

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