Yoga and breath to relieve stress

Yoga pose with A mudra

Yoga and Breath to relieve stress

At Centerlife Counseling we meet our clients where they are at.  This includes offering a wide variety of proven ways to help with the issues clients are experiencing. The field of psychology has found evidence that yoga and breathwork are helpful in overcoming mental illness such as depression, anxiety, trauma and just daily stress.  In the yoga world, we say, “your issues are in your tissues.”

These days, being super busy is more the rule than the exception.  But, busyness can have a dark side: You feel overwhelmed, driven by your schedule, afraid of what will happen if you let something go.  It can make you so task-focused that you ignore others’ needs as well as your own.

To release the compulsion that often arises when you are in a hurry, try this practice the next time you feel yourself rushing. Stop.  Stand or sit still for one full minute. Say to yourself, “I am at peace.” Then, bring to your mind something you find very peaceful. It can be the leaves blowing gently, ocean waves, snow stuck on the trees.  Hold the thought of the image in your mind while you breathe deeply and slowly 5 times. Keep that image in your mind as you continue through your day.

Yoga is a harnessing of attention or consciousness.  It has a goal of helping you to realize true happiness, freedom and enlightenment.  However, yoga also has a number of secondary goals such as physical health, mental and emotional balance.  Yoga is NOT a collection of difficult poses for flexible people, a type of fitness, or a religion.

In relation to psychotherapy, yoga can help to bring you to the present moment which is often an issue with those affected by mental health.  It also transforms the relationship with one’s body, mind and self into a positive one, culminating compassion, acceptance and non-violence. It empowers to self-regulate and make clear choices. It teaches tools for self-regulation, including energizing poses for depression and calming practices for anxiety.  An example of a pose to help with depression would be a bridge pose. An example to help with anxiety might be a forward fold. There are many other poses that work with client’s specific symptoms to make them feel better. Studies have shown that even one pose done 6 times a day for 6 weeks has made a difference in people struggling with mental illness.  Finally, yoga can help access emotions that may not be available through talking.

Along with yoga comes breath.  When doing any sort of yoga pose or yoga class, breath has a very important part.  Breath can be done alone, but yoga must be done with breath work. The example above is one such idea for using breath to calm the system.  Our bodies are a well-oiled machine. When we breathe shallow and quick, our heart must beat faster sending a signal to our nervous system to fire up (fight, flight or freeze).  When we slow our breathing down, our heart will automatically slow itself, sending a different signal to the brain for calm and relaxed feelings. There are many ways to breathe, but the best way is to breathe slowly when the goal is relaxation.  

An easy way to start is just by noticing your breath.  Take 3-5 times per day to just stop, close your eyes and notice what your breath is doing.  Are you breathing shallow, short? Or do you have calm, clear deep breaths, filling your lungs or even your belly expanding?  If not, now is a good time to take 5 good breaths. Inhale through your nose, feel your lungs or belly expand as the air goes in, hold for 4 seconds at the top and release as slow as you can out of your mouth.  Sometimes it is easier to count. We call this breath 4X4X4. Breathe in to the count of 4, hold for 4 and breathe out for 4(or longer). Doing this breath exercise many times throughout your day will not only help you become aware of how you are breathing but able to correct it and stay in a calm, clear space. This in turn will help to handle stress and annoyances as your body is calm causing your mind to be clear and more patient.

Breath and yoga work are great options for stress reduction and feeling better when dealing with mental illness symptoms, but, like anything, it takes practice.  The more you do it, the better your will feel.

Contact Centerlife Counseling for a variety of ways to incorporate body work with your talk therapy experience.  Heal the issues in your tissues.  

Blog written by Jari Welle, MA, LMFT.

Call CenterLife Counseling today to schedule an appointment. 

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Centerville, MN 
7039 20th Avenue S
Centerville, MN 55038

Phone: 651.288.0332
Fax: 651.288.0493


White Bear Lake, MN
4444 Centerville Road, Suite 235
White Bear Lake, MN 55127

Phone: 651.289.3111
Fax: 651.289.3113

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