Do you have any feeling of anxiety, sadness, mild depression, or difficult emotional response because of the COVID-19 pandemic? Does the overload of misinformation regarding the pandemic angers you and makes you lose focus? Do everyday events provide an emotional tension on your entire body, especially your shoulders or back muscles?
You are not alone. Surveys show that there is an increase in the number of U.S adults who reported symptoms of stressed mind, anxiety, depression, and insomnia during the pandemic. Some even increased their intake of alcohol or drugs, thinking that can help them in healing emotional trauma brought upon by the pandemic.
Yoga Can Help!
Instead of doing drugs and alcohol, you can do yoga which is a natural yet highly effective method of coping with stress, anxiety, and difficult emotions such as by anger management.
One study demonstrated that practising yoga and going into a meditative state decreases stress and improves immunity as yoga participants showed a greater ability to cope with stress and anxiety associated with lockdowns and COVID-19.
What Are the Benefits of Doing Yoga?
Yoga postures offer a lot of physical and emotional benefits for all kinds of people. If you do decide to practice yoga here are some changes that you will expect in your daily life.
1) Improvement of Strength, Balance, and Flexibility
When was the last time you could easily touch your toes during a forward bend? Yoga can help you with that. It can stretch your muscles but provide strength and stability at the same time. Standing poses will strengthen the muscles in the lower body, and inversions, like downward dog and arm balances, will work on the muscles in the upper body.
2) Improvement in Posture
The pandemic forced everyone to work long hours at a desk that could not only hurt your spine but could also make you feel worn out at the end of the day. Practising certain yoga asanas can help you stand up straighter and strengthen your core muscles, which can improve your posture and prevent pain in your neck and lower back.
3) Better Sleep
The reduced stress provided by yoga pose allows for a more regular daily routine which in turn makes a regular sleeping pattern. A relaxed body with emotional balance gets a deeper and more peaceful sleep than a body that has an emotional and hormonal imbalance.
4) More Energy and Brighter Moods
Practising yoga will let you explore a different side of yourself. You may feel a boost in alertness and enthusiasm, and feel fewer negative emotions. Overall, there is an increase in mental and physical sensations and energy that can help you take a more positive approach to life.
5) Ease Stress and Anxiety Levels
If you are looking for great support for stress management, mental health, mindfulness, healthy eating, or even weight loss. Yoga is the one for you. Simple breathing technique and yoga poses can help bring you extreme relaxation almost instantly, which can relieve stress and anxiety.
Which Yoga Practices Help in Emotional Management and Mental Health?
Kapalbhati is the act of breathing practice in yoga. Its name came from the Sanskrit words Kapal, meaning skull, and bhati meaning “to shine”. This practice can range from advanced to intermediate breathing techniques that strengthen your chest, cleanses your abdominal organs, and energizes your circulatory and nervous system.
If you are having trouble sleeping? Kapalbhati can give you a sense of balance, making your brain feel distressed and ready for bed. Aside from that, it can help your mood swings and alleviate minor anxiety.
Trataka is a Hatha Yoga method to develop concentration. It is a simple, yet powerful practice. To put the technique simply, it has to do with gazing or fixing the eyes on one point, either on an object or on a candle flame.
The principle in the practice of Trataka is if you forcefully fix your gaze on a particular point, you can induce a steady concentrated mind. Your thoughts therefore will become less turbulent and your mind can be brought under control.
3) Sun Salutations
Described as a series of postures in a flowing sequence, Sun Salutations are commonly used as a warmup at the start of yoga practice. Its benefits, however, go beyond and are far greater than a warmup. You can experience a myriad of physical and mental benefits when you practise Sun Salutations.
It can improve your strength, burn calories, and aid weight loss. For the mental benefits, you can experience a calm and relaxing mind. What’s more amazing is if you don’t have time for the full practice, just a few rounds of Sun Salutations can already make a world of difference.
A main component of yoga, Pranayama is the practice of breathing regulation. In Sanskrit, “prana” means life energy and “yama” means control. Pranayama is often paired with other yoga practices like physical postures (asanas) and meditation (dhyana). Using these practices harmoniously will yield the many benefits of yoga.
The practice of Pranayama involves breathing exercises and patterns. It is the embodiment of purposeful movement as you purposely inhale, exhale, and hold your breath in a specific sequence. You dictate the timing, duration, and frequency of every breath and hold. Ultimately, the goal of Pranayama is to establish a mind-body connection.
An asana is defined as a body posture that is performed for the benefit of the body and mind. It can lubricate the muscles, joints, ligaments, and other parts of the body which will aid to increase circulation and flexibility.
Performing asanas daily can also boost up energy and retain mind-body balance. Only 10 minutes of daily asanas will already do wonders for your physical and mental health.
Literally speaking, Dhyana means meditation or focusing entirely on one object, thought, or mantra. It involves concentration with the intention of knowing the truth about it. The deeper concentration of the mind in Dhyana allows one to separate illusion from reality and reach the ultimate goal of yoga: samadhi or bliss.
For regular yoga practitioners like you and me, Dhayana may sound too complicated but to put it simply Dhayana is about meditating to learn more about ourselves and find peace of mind when the world gets too hectic. Your mind will feel calmer, you will feel more at ease, and you will release stress from your body.
“To become aware of your inner voice” is the first step in practising Pratyahara or “sense withdrawal”. It is about the withdrawing of our senses from negative environmental influences.
These “negative environmental influences” range from food, to who we associate with, and even to our thoughts. Pratyahara believes that if we rid ourselves of these negative things our senses will be stronger leading to a stronger mind and body.
The fast pace of our world and the problems associated with it does not allow us to take the time off to relax and enjoy ourselves. That is what Dharana offers, a sort of pause button to everything happening around you and inside you to allow your mind to focus on one thing or sometimes nothing at all. Reaching a state of self-awareness aids us in balancing our struggles with anxiety, depression, and stress.
From easing your built-up anxiety using the breathing exercises of Kapalbhati and Pranayama, allowing your mind to focus on what’s important using Dharana, Dhyana, and Trataka, to stretching your muscles and relieving body pain using yoga Asana and Sun Salutations. One can find a lot of mental and physical benefits from practising yoga.
You can use the wonderful benefits of yoga when faced with difficult times. Especially during the pandemic when feelings of anxiety and uncertainty are at an all-time high. You can attain a better sense of self, a clearer mind, and a more peaceful perspective with the help of yoga which can certainly help you in these trying times.
Pandemic or not, our world gives us a lot of reasons to be stressed and practising yoga is an effective way not only to do physical exercise but to manage all of that and allow us to have a clearer, more focused mind for a better personal relationship.
However, note that while yoga is an excellent tool, oftentimes mental health problems such as anxiety and depression do not go away on their own.
If you are experiencing worsening or more frequent mental health symptoms, don’t hesitate to ask for help. Call your primary care provider or a mental health professional to ask about appointment options to talk about your anxiety or depression and get advice and guidance.