You will have heard of the many benefits of yoga by now (toning, joint limbering, muscle strengthening, to name but a few), but aside from the considerable advantages to your physical health, yoga has now been proven to do great things in your battle against stress.
New research has revealed that yoga and meditation can reduce stress and the risk of cancer. It does this by changing your DNA, studies have suggested.
Avid yoga enthusiasts will already appreciate the calming virtues of the art of yoga. You needn’t be a double-jointed expert to appreciate the calming effect yoga can have on your stress levels either; even a short way into a session of easy-going poses can quiet the mind and offer some respite if not just from the tranquillity of focussing on your breathing and balancing while getting rid of a few niggling muscle aches.
Your physical and mental health are intrinsically linked, and what is good for your body can benefit your mind. People who practice so-called mind-body interventions (MBI), such as yoga, meditation and Tai Chi, produce significantly lower amounts of molecules that activate inflammation-causing genes, a study review found.
Yoga For Stress & Anxiety
Inflammation has been linked to cancer, accelerated ageing and poor mental health. The research from the universities of Coventry and Radboud analysed 18 studies with 846 participants, finding that people who practice MBIs produce significantly lower amounts of molecules that activate inflammation-causing genes.
These molecules are released after a stressful event due to the ‘fight or flight’ response.
Lead investigator Ivana Buric from the University of Coventry said: ‘Millions of people around the world already enjoy the health benefits of MBIs like yoga or meditation, but what they perhaps don’t realise is that these benefits begin at a molecular level and can change the way our genetic code goes about its business.
‘Put simply, MBIs cause the brain to steer our DNA processes along a path which improves our well-being.’
For those who haven’t quite mastered the delicate yet purposeful movements of yoga, or find that their unsupple limbs are more vexed than relieved by trying to get their leg behind their head, yoga can seem a stressful experience – however, it might be that you’re not doing the right poses.
Seated postures can help you to feel calm and assist with a more meditative state when you need to reflect. Standing poses, on the other hand, can make you feel empowered while awakening your muscles and focussing your mind.
Top Yoga Poses
A poll, including experienced pros and yoga newbies, suggests that some poses are more relaxing than others. So if you’re looking for a good place to start for the most relaxing possible session, these are the top 5 calming poses:
Child’s pose (Balasana): This key calming pose is one you return to many times during a yoga session.
Bridge Pose (Setu Bandha Sarvangasana): This tension-relieving pose helps unwind in the throes of anxiety.
Corpse Pose (Savasana): This may be considered one of the easiest yoga positions, but when stress has the better of you, lying still can be quite the challenge. This pose triggers your relaxation response. Consider it practising to relax.
Standing Forward Bend (Uttanasana): This transitional position can help to relieve tension when held as a pose of its own.
Eagle Pose (Garudasana): This pose relieves your shoulders where much of your tension gathers after a trying day. Balancing focuses the minds, uncluttering your thoughts.