We’re always looking for ways to prioritise our health and wellness, especially as the demands and expectations of everyday life seem to keep increasing. We’re always ‘on’ and expectations are high – both for ourselves and from others.
From exercise and Believe practices to nutritional choices and time management, there are various ways to ensure that we are keeping on top of our mental and emotional wellbeing to avoid (or at least reduce) stress, anxiety and burn out.
We spoke to our friend, Yogi and Pharmacist, Merae about how yoga can help manage stress and anxiety.
Can yoga really help you deal with stress and anxiety?
In our current society, the signs and symptoms of anxiety are alarmingly common. Every day I see patients who come into the pharmacy searching for a miracle pill to help reduce the impact stress and anxiety are having on their lives. Yoga and meditation have long been linked to reducing stress, but it can really actually help?
The yoga asanas (postures) and pranayama (breathwork) have been calming jittery minds and smoothing the stress spikes people experience for thousands of years. It is this ancient discipline that has taught people how to stay in the present moment, recognise when stress arises and be able to respond to it in a more balanced way.
Like most people, you may find that you walk into a yoga class with a lot of stress and tension, and within sixty minutes, feel like you’re floating when you walk out of one! How does this miracle hour give you that feeling? Below is a bit of science as to why and how.
Many of the benefits of yoga come from the close work it has on our nervous system. Our Autonomic Nervous System is made up of both the Sympathetic Nervous System (SNS), known as the “accelerator”, and the Parasympathetic Nervous System (PNS), known as the “brake”. When we are in balance, the PNS is dominant. This helps our muscles to relax, our heart rate to slow down, and our energy to move into maintaining the systems of the body, like digestion.
When we are stressed, the SNS kicks into gear. This starts a cascade of actions within the body, causing the adrenal glands to secrete cortisol and other chemicals. This makes your muscles tense up and your pulse rate sky-rocket, as your body moves into “fight or flight” mode. As the stress we experience has become more psychological and sustained, the SNS accelerator remains dominant and active in most people.
Yoga offers relief, as it activates both the SNS and PNS. A well-rounded yoga practice kicks the SNS into gear with Sun Salutations, and balances it with the PNS at the end in corpse pose (savasana) and meditation. Through yoga, we learn how to build up a more resilient nervous system, and know how to operate both the accelerator and more importantly, the brake.
Beyond the pretzel-like yoga postures you often see, yoga is very much an internal practice. As you learn to be self-aware of how you place your body on your yoga mat, you become more aware of what’s happening internally and are able to recognise the signs of stress before they rise to the surface. As anxiety usually affects our breathing first, the pranayama in yoga can teach you how to slow your breath, know how to guide your mind, and stop anxiety from escalating.
If you can’t manage to get to a yoga class, below are 6 simple postures you can try in the comfort of your own home to help you slow down.
Try to spend at least 3-5 minutes in each posture to gain the maximum benefit!
6 Simple Postures To Reduce Stress & Anxiety
Breathe deeply and fully while holding each of these poses for as long as you need to start to calm your body, mind and spirit. xx
What calming practice works for you?
Merae learnt the power of a disciplined and focused mind from an early age. She learned that if you can see it in your mind, you can achieve it in reality.
In 2009, she discovered yoga and fell absolutely, crazily, head over heels in love with the practice. What began as just a way to work out physically, soon became both a mental and spiritual practice, which she has since dedicated herself to daily.
As a pharmacist, Merae viewed yoga as true form of medicine – a natural way to nourish the mind, body and soul.
Merae has sought out some of the most respected leaders in the field of yoga. Known as the ‘Mother of Yoga’, Merae has been certified with both the 200-hour Foundation & 200-hour Intermediate teacher training from Nikki Knoff Foundation. She has also been certified in Chair Yoga with the Knoff Foundation in 2016. Further, she has trained and received her teaching accreditation with Simon Borg Olivier in 2015.
She is also a registered Pharmacist and completely mad about all things health.