Tuesday, December 02, 2008


Yoga can help relieve stress and tension

People often contact me for yoga classes, saying, “I’ve heard yoga is good for dealing with stress. Is that true?” Yes it is. There are many reasons why yoga can help deal with stress and tension.

Because yoga works in the body, and much of our daily stress gets transferred to, and stored in the body. Have you had a tense neck and shoulders? Do you ever feel fatigue or tightness in your back?

Not to mention the many varieties of back pain. Ongoing accumulations of tension and anxiety reveal themselves as knots, soreness, stiffness and pain in muscles and joints. Stress also eventually takes a toll on our vital organs and functions, diminishing their effectiveness and efficiency, and making our bodies uncomfortable places to be.

Yoga works on gradually stretching and strengthening the muscles, releasing chronic tension. When the muscles can be both strong and relaxed, the body can recover its own optimal alignment. A properly aligned body is much easier and more comfortable to live in.

Yoga works because it fully engages the mind, where stress typically begins. When you begin to think about – or dwell on -- an unpleasant or worrisome event in the future or in the past, you begin to build stress.

Yet when you keep your focus on the here and now, pressure is much less likely to build up. This is a primary focus of yoga: learning to keep your mind in present moment awareness. It is about choosing how to spend your mental time and energy, instead of being “run” by your thoughts. When the mind is able to rest and find quiet, mental tasks are easier to take on.

Yoga works because it goes to your heart and soul, your emotions, where stress takes a toll in the form of depression, numbness, anxiety, feeling restless, lost or simply ill at ease.

Strain shows up in your emotions and your spirit. You just know whether you feel "okay" with yourself and the world -- or not. Yoga builds acceptance and a calm equanimity.

From a relaxed and neutral emotional foundation, problem solving and motivation are much easier to connect to. Starting with your yoga practice “on the mat,” you can extend more and more of the dispassionate mind-set to everyday life.

Stress is one of the largest contributing factors to almost all diseases and interferes significantly with the healing process. By taking time and making effort to reduce your stress and relax, you are making a significant investment in your overall health.

Yoga can help create the conditions for your own immunity and healing powers to be activated or enhanced. It is an ideal complimentary therapy for many medical conditions.

Carol Klammer teaches yoga at The William W. Backus Hospital’s Center for Healthcare Integration and Birthing Center, and offers other yoga services to the community. You can reach Ms. Klammer at 887-3388 or hathayoga@snet.net. This column should not replace advice or instruction from your personal physician. E-mail any of the Healthy Living columnists at healthyliving@wwbh.org or comment on their blog at healthydocs.blogspot.com.

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