Restorative yoga can benefit both your mental and physical health. Discover why these therapeutic types of yoga are so good for your mind, body and soul.
Why are we always so stressed?
While we are used to functioning in cycle with nature's rhythms, making time for ourselves to unplug has become less of a priority on modern day to-do lists. Culturally we live in a highly stressed society where what's valued is producing more, doing more and becoming better. With the portability of tech gadgets like cellphones, tablets and laptops, we now carry our work and social life with us wherever we go. We're constantly having to extend ourselves because we have all these technological tools that facilitate us taking on more responsibility.
According to Kelly McGonigal, a psychology professor at Stanford University, stress impairs our ability to change a habit. When we're in fight-or-flight mode, our body believes we're experiencing a state of emergency, making the smallest temptations even harder to resist. Stress prepares our brain to act on impulse, so if you're trying to put down the cookie jar or turn off the TV at a decent hour, chances are you'll continue to yo-yo until you develop tools for managing stress.
Even ruminating over a work email can elicit the stress response, showing up physically in actions like nail biting, or in racing thoughts and high blood pressure. Whether stress is occurring outside of us or in our mind, our body still reacts the same way.
How therapeutic yoga can boost your mental health
In terms of self-healing, learning to actively rest our bodies is just as important as getting enough sleep. Yoga's guided meditation actually takes the mind into an active state of rest where the brain experiences alpha waves. You're alert, but your brain waves are the same as they are in the first stage of sleep.
We now know that meditation can actually change the limbic system and restructure the brain. Typically, grey matter, which makes the brain more efficient and powerful, depletes over our lifetime. According to recent studies, practising even just a few minutes of meditation on a daily basis produces more grey matter in the regions of the brain responsible for controlling attention, mental flexibility and emotional regulation.
We still need to get out and get active to keep our health in check, but it’s important to find balance in the type of practices you engage in. Therapeutic yoga classes tout a long list of payoffs, including lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol and decreased depression, making slowing down just as beneficial as sweating your heart out.