Yoga aids physical, mental stress

The practice of yoga has been traced all the way back to 5,000 years ago making it one of the  oldest practices of meditation.  Yet Western culture has shaped yoga and formed it to include different styles. Be it cardio or hot yoga, instructors all around the world are starting to experiment with various techniques of yoga to balance the mind and body.

“Now more than ever yoga classes are beginning to include different exercises within one class,” said Rachael Grazioplene, yoga student at the University of Minnesota.

Some people may have the cultural misconception that yoga is about finding your chi or getting in touch with your inner spirit, and while there can be some yoga classes like that, not all of them are, said Grazioplene.

“What others don’t realize is there are other classes that include fitness-like and hot yoga,” Grazioplene said.

Fitness-like yoga includes exercises that would normally be done in a typical physical education (PE) class. They vary from running in place to pushups and situps. Many yoga classes incorporate cardio activities in order to get the body warmed up before stretching any muscles.

Similar to the intensity of exercise and connectivity of the body to the soul in fitness-like yoga is hot yoga. Hot yoga includes performing regular yoga poses, but instead, students practice inside a 90 degrees Fahrenheit room.

Yoga can also help with various pains in the body because there’s a combination of relaxation, stretching, strength and support, yoga therapist Robin Rothenberg said. One type of pain is chronic back pain, which originates from the muscles, nerves, bones, joints or other structures in the spine. The intensity of the pain can range from mild to extremely intense.

“We use yoga therapy for chronic back pain by performing basic postures while at the same time connecting to the mind, spirit and and overall health,” Rothenberg said. “We work with the whole person, their emotions and how they relate to others.”

Along with physical benefits, yoga can also have many mental advantages. It can be extremely effective for stress management, yoga instructor Rachel Allyn, said. Allyn’s licensed degree in psychology has allowed her to explore the psychological benefits from yoga

Students and adults seek stress and anxiety management since sometimes school and work can be a burden for people, Grazioplene said.

“Yoga can help manage stress in two ways,” Allyn said. “The first way is that yoga’s focus on breath can manipulate the nervous system. For example, long exhalations can calm the nervous system whereas emphasis on inhalations can energize the nervous system.”

Yoga involves an accepting mindset different from a typical physical education (PE) class when it comes to being in touch with oneself and expressing emotions. Two problems yoga can help reduce are social anxiety and self-esteem issues, Rothenberg said.

“Yoga philosophy emphasizes acceptance, non-judgment and connectivity instead of separateness and competition,” Allyn said. “These are all vital for re-wiring neural pathways that may become overly negative and overwhelmed from the demands of modern day living.”

So with not only physical benefits, including chronic back pain relief and detoxification of the body through sweat in hot yoga, but also mental, such as a self- esteem boost and a stress management, yoga can be a smart option for students and adults alike.