Does Yoga Actually Reduce Stress? The Facts.

how yoga reduces stress

One of my favorite sayings about yoga is how it’s funny how outsiders think yogis are all calm people when, in fact, we’re all here because we’re all nuts. Ain’t it the truth! As my anxiety and stress levels only increased with my age, I realized I wasn’t utilizing the proper, or any, coping mechanisms to deal with the pressures of *adulting*. The shallow breathing, consistently feeling overwhelmed, unregulated emotions, ya know, the good stuff when you can’t get a grip on life. And while I’ve seen many friends turn to medication as a solution (all the more power to them), I wasn’t yet willing to give up this fight to modern medicine. I wanted to address my issues holistically, identifying the root of these emotions and develop strategies to handle them in any and all environments.

So, I had no choice but to finally get serious about my yoga and meditation practice. While my occasional Sunday evening classes were enjoyable, they weren’t enough for me to change my thought patterns. Yet, driving to the studio and rolling out my mat for 75 minutes every day just wasn’t feasible with a full-time job (and my addiction to watching Friends reruns). I needed my practice to meet me where I was, literally, at my house. Although I was initially shaky and unsure of my yoga sequencing, a few vinyasas followed by a series of slow stretching and meditation allowed me to recreate my nightly routine. By taking my mat out each night, I also picked up some other habits, like keeping my phone in another room, turning the tv off and shutting down my busy mind in order to focus on my movement..ridding all the usual suspects known for causing stress.

And, shocking to no one, it worked. I learned to control my breathing, to recognize the signs of anxiety and stop them before they drowned me. Ultimately, I made major life decisions that altered my entire way of life. Instead of concerning myself with how I thought my life should look, I got rid of all the fluff. Ya know, the expectations ingrained in me, both from internal or external factors, that didn’t entirely match my interests or passions. Can you relate? Now, I finally had a clear vision to determine what direction I truly wanted to go in. So, I changed my entire social circle, altered how I viewed my day job, and, most importantly, registered for my own 200 hour yoga certification, giving me the ability to share this revelation with others.

It’s important to note that yoga doesn’t avoid uncomfortable positions. I mean if you’ve ever seen someone in revolved half moon, then you know this is true. Ugh, that pose it TOUGH. I digress. Yoga doesn’t shield away from tight, suffocating spaces. Instead, yoga puts you in these places to teach you how to respond to them in a positive way. It *changes* how your body reacts to frustrating moments in a healthy manner so that your body will start to react that way on its own.

yoga shedule

Still not buying it? Totally get it. I, too, am a “show me the data or I’m believin’ nothing” type gal. So here you go. Check out this study here that states that yoga can be considered as a possible adjunctive therapy for those dealing with stress and anxiety. Because it has no lasting side effect (only good ones..) or conflicts with any other form of treatment, yoga is shown to encourage overall quality of life. Or this one, where prisoners who completed a yoga or meditation program while incarcerated showed increases in their psychological well-being.
Even more so, in as little as nine days, another study suggests that “lifestyle modifications and stress management programs lead to favorable metabolic effects”.

Sold? Good. Now it’s time to put this into action. Tune in later this week for a simple ten minute sequence that will release tension, reduce stress, and empower your soul wherever you might be. For real. See ya then!

YOGA UPDATES! Are you in the Washington, D.C. area? Do you have a pre-teen or teen that could benefit from practicing mindfulness and yoga (aka all of them!)? I’m offering a pre-teen to teen yoga summer camp at Your Life Energy that will focus on building strength, balance, flexibility and healthy habits for when kids need it most! Find out more info here.

How do you handle stress? If at all?

xx,
Juliette

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Why You Need To Set an Intention For Your Life

how to set an intention for your life

While we’re used to setting our intentions at the beginning of our yoga practice, it’s not often that we take this strategy outside of the lavender scented studio. Yet, intentions can do so much more than simply help you achieve balance in tree pose, or give you strength in chaturanga. If you’re not into the yoga lingo, you’re in luck. It’s time to view our intentions through the context of the real world, not the zen one we escape to twice a week.

Unlike goal setting, where we aim to reach a specific target, creating an intention is more about how you lead your life on daily basis, rather than focusing solely on where it ends up. Intentions have been shown to increase your overall success, as they cause you to establish your value and prevent you from wasting your emotional energy on areas that are not needed.

Real talk, I’m often inclined to feel overwhelmed and anxious about every.little.thing, causing me to constantly view the world in an stress-inducing state. My train is late? Melt down. My schedule at work was changed last minute? The day can not go on. Yet, when I began to give myself a brief pep talk in the mirror each morning, repeating the intention to “be calm” over and over again, I started to identify the peace in the moments that used to drive me crazy. Train late? I can use the extra minutes to read my favorite article. Schedule busted? I get time to see coworkers I don’t normally run into. Am I perfect at it? Well, no. But the world is portraying itself to be a less tense planet than I had previously been living on. Life, altered.

Why You Need an Intention
We see exactly what we’re looking for. If you’re feeling empty and lonely, then you’re more likely to recognize the moments that cause you to exasperate that emotion, only building upon the negative truth you’ve built for yourself. A friend not returning a text will send you into a downward spiral. However, if you tell yourself your intention is to be kind to others, you’re more likely to notice when others do the same. While you initially might have overlooked your barista memorizing your coffee order, you might now take a moment to see the generosity in this easily forgotten action.

Shift in Perspective
The more we compel ourselves to see the good in our world, the more good will be revealed to us. As humans, we generate our own energy that runs through our bodies like ocean waves, influencing how we think, act and, in turn, treat those around us. When we send positive vibes through our minds, even if we have to force them to start, it comes out in our thoughts, words and actions. If we tell ourselves it’s a beautiful day, finding peace in the rain or coziness in the blizzard, we’re more likely to share that thought with those around us, ultimately enlightening them to also see the bright side. While this makes our world a better place, it also, selfishly, allows us to view the reflection of all the goodness back onto us.

You Are Larger Than Your Body
Goals are often very intricate end points we strive to meet as an individual. An intention, however, allows us to come out of our heads and take in the world from another vantage point. We are able to alter our intentions based on the present status of our lives, requiring us to take notice of the people and places around us. If we see the world needs more empathy, we make it our intention to show compassion to friends and strangers alike. If the world needs to change, we can shape our intention to be proactive.

Creating Your Own Intention
While our intentions can change quickly and often, and should, it’s helpful to create an underlying intention until you feel as though it is your natural state. If you tend to be a pessimist, you might set your intention to limit your complaining and only spread words that add positivity to others. If you’ve lessened your complaining and feel as though your overall mental state has reflected this change, then considering altering your intention to what your world now craves.

intention setting

We tend to restrict the abilities of our mind to the inside of our heads, not realizing that what we see in our minds ultimately shapes the lives that we lead. Good things and bad things will continue to occur out of our control, (looking at you, flat tire) yet how we respond is within our power. It is with purposeful intentions that we can regulate our reactions. The only way we can make a more peaceful and kind world is to view and act as though it already is.

What is your intention for today?

xx,
Juliette

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