One way to relieve stress while staying fit at the same time is to practice yoga. Yoga relaxes the mind and improves the body’s coordination, flexibility and strength.
Elizabeth Shannon, the owner of The Yoga Room and an Auburn alumna, teaches Vinyasa yoga at her studio.
“Vinyasa yoga is a dynamic form of yoga that links breath with movement,” Shannon said. “Vinyasa is a type of yoga, but it’s also a series of poses used as a transition throughout a flow.”
When talking about the beneficial effects of yoga on the mind, Shannon said yoga has the potential to improve focus, reduce anxiety and reduce depression-related symptoms.
“Yoga is a powerful tool in alleviating stress because of the focus on the breath, whether you’re moving with the breath or sitting still in meditation,” Shannon said. “Breathing intentionally, known as pranayama, allows for a greater awareness and sense of presence and this can have an incredibly calming effect on the mind.”
Shannon also explained the effect of mindfulness in yoga.
She said, in yoga, whether you are still or moving, you are focusing and concentrating on what is occurring in the present moment.
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This mindfulness can help clear the mind and can help people settle in their surroundings without judgment.
“The practice [of mindfulness] allows the neurons in the brain to ‘rewire’ or to fire in different ways, thus improving cognitive function and mental health,” Shannon said.
Mindfulness also improves mental health because you become more in-tune with yourself as a person, she said.
“There’s a great clarity that comes when you specifically make time to simply notice how you are; physically, emotionally and spiritually,” Shannon said.
When you are in-tune with yourself, she said you can recognize certain patterns in your mind, body and attitude. There are patterns you will realize you should let go of, and patterns you realize you should hold on to, she said.
Shannon said while on the mat, you can learn about yourself without attaching judgment as you are in-tune with yourself in that moment.
Along with the benefits of the mind, yoga has benefits on the body with strength and cardio.
Shannon said the more rigorous yoga classes can help get people in shape.
“A power flow or vigorous vinyasa flow provides the whole package; cardio during Sun Salutations, major strengthening of muscles in longer pose holds, and definitely increased mobility and flexibility,” she said.
Shannon said yoga has beneficial effects on the body by providing strength, flexibility and stability.
However, she said you don’t need to be flexible to succeed in a yoga class.
“If you do yoga, you will increase your flexibility,” Shannon said. “Being somewhat flexible does allow for a less frustrating practice. However, we’re all tighter in certain areas and that’s where props and modifications come in. Most yoga classes can be made accessible for any student regardless of experience, strength or flexibility level.”
For beginners looking to improve their mental awareness and the condition of their body, there are places to start.
“A good class for beginning yoga students would be any level 1 Vinyasa class, as well as Yin or Restorative yoga, Gentle yoga, or Hatha yoga,” Shannon said.
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