As part of the human condition, whether you are suffering from a personal loss or are struggling to come to terms with what is going on in the world, all of us suffer from emotional pain at different points in our lives and this can take a toll on our minds and bodies in a variety of ways. Initially, we are likely to experience mental exhaustion and the inability to get adequate sleep, leading to a loss of concentration in day-to-day tasks and declining mental health. Emotional stress can also manifest in physical symptoms, such as digestive issues, muscle pain, and an increase in headaches. So what can help?
In recent years, we have become much more aware of how the mind and body are linked. With that, practices such as yoga have become increasingly popular. There are many different ways to practice yoga. You can sign up for classes at a physical location such as Perennial Yoga in Fitchburg, or Dragonfly Hot Yoga in locations across the Madison area. You can also search for online classes for free, and browse for a class that pertains directly to your specific ailment. YouTube now has hundreds of different instructors – more now than ever before as physical locations were closed during the COVID-19 pandemic – so there’s no lack of resources to choose from. The benefits are the same however and wherever you choose to practice, so this month we want to walk you through the restorative tools that lie at the heart of every yoga practice and how they can be beneficial in helping you heal emotionally.
One of the most significant benefits of yoga is that it can help you manage your overall stress level. Multiple studies have shown that it reduces the amount of cortisol (the primary stress hormone) released by your body while simultaneously increasing endorphins, which are natural neurochemicals that have been shown to elevate your mood. This means that whatever level of stress you are experiencing, you are almost guaranteed to be in a calmer state following your practice.
One of the core principles of yoga is breathwork, as each movement of a yoga sequence is performed in alignment with your breath. By focusing on this link, you are engaging in a mindfulness practice. Mindfulness actively brings your consciousness fully into the present moment, inviting you to let go of how you feel about events that have passed while also letting go of your expectations for the future. There are so many benefits to practicing mindfulness when it comes to healing of any kind, but one of the most significant for emotional stress is a decrease in rumination, or getting stuck on one thought, as noted in a recent article by the American Psychological Association. Therefore, focusing on body postures and breathing patterns can shift your attention away from negative thinking, meaning you are more likely to be able to let go of the thought that is causing emotional pain, even just for the duration of the class.
Yoga is often described as “moving meditation,” partly because of the link between movement and the breath, but also because many sequences end in a meditation pose called Savasana, where the purpose is to relax the mind and body while remaining present and aware. Even just a few minutes of meditation has been shown to increase mental resilience. A study performed by researchers from The Johns Hopkins University recently showed that the effectiveness in meditation practices rivals that of antidepressants in treating depression, anxiety, and pain, making this another emotionally healing component of yoga.
It’s common knowledge that when you are feeling stressed, exercise is a great way of calming the mind and working through your emotional pain. Compared to other forms of exercise, yoga is considered to be a more wholesome practice, taking into account both the mind and the body at the same time. Whether you choose to join a studio or practice from home, yoga can provide a retreat from an otherwise emotional and stressful period in your life. When practiced regularly, it can have many long-term healing effects on both your mental and physiological well-being. If you are struggling with emotional pain, particularly from losing a loved one in the current climate, please know we are here for you. You can find support here or reach out to our team here.