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Stress Less with Yoga and Breathing Exercises

Everyone gets stressed out now and then, whether it’s because of finances, work, family, health, or something else. If you don’t have a way of relieving stress, it can feel never-ending.

Yoga and deep breathing exercises are two great ways to cope with stress, and they come with added health benefits.

Yoga for Stress Relief

According to Harvard Medical School, any form of exercise reduces stress by causing a release of feel-good chemicals called endorphins and an increase in flow of oxygenated blood to the brain. But yoga goes one step further and raises the levels of gamma-aminobutyric acid in your brain, which causes a calming effect.

Yoga is an ancient practice rooted in Indian philosophy and spirituality that grew in popularity for its physical and mental benefits, according to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. While there are many forms of yoga, those practiced in the Untied States typically focus on posture, breathing, and meditation.

Research suggests that yoga may also help:

  • Support healthy habits
  • Improve mental and emotional health, balance, and sleep
  • Relieve low back and neck pain, and possibly tension headache and knee osteoarthritis pain
  • Support weight loss
  • Manage anxiety or depressive symptoms
  • Relieve menopause symptoms
  • Support smoking cessation
  • Manage chronic disease symptoms

Wellspring's certified yoga instructors lead yoga classes for all fitness levels. You can also practice yoga poses at home with these recordings from UW Health.

Deep Breathing for Stress Relief

According to Kaiser Permanente, deep breathing is one of the best ways to lower stress in the body. It encourages your brain to relax, which then relays the message throughout your body. Many side effects of stress – like increased heart rate, fast and shallow breathing, and high blood pressure – decrease as you practice deep breathing.

One technique to try is the 4-7-8 Breath Relaxation Exercise. This exercise, outlined by the Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine, helps to naturally calm the nervous system. It starts subtly but gains power the more you practice it. Try this exercise when you start to feel stressed, or even before bed to fall asleep faster:

  • Begin by sitting with your back straight.
  • Place the tip of your tongue against the roof of your mouth right behind your front teeth and keep it there throughout the exercise.
  • Exhale completely through your mouth, making a whoosh sound. If this seems awkward, purse your lips slightly.
  • Close your mouth and inhale quietly through your nose for a count of four.
  • Hold your breath for a count of seven.
  • Exhale completely through your mouth, making a whoosh sound, for a count of eight.
  • This is one breath. Inhale again and repeat three more times for a total of four breaths.

If you have trouble holding your breath, speed up the exercise but keep the ratio. With practice, you can slow each breath down.

Practice this exercise twice a day. You cannot do it too frequently, but do not do it more than four breaths at a time for the first month of practice.

Yoga Classes at Wellspring

Sauk Prairie Healthcare's Wellspring offers yoga classes for all fitness levels. Click here to find an upcoming class.