The Real Reason Yoga Is a Stress-Relieving Exercise
View All Section Pages
Yoga is often viewed as a gateway to total relaxation. Some see it as a supplement to physical activity─a way to unwind and stretch in between tough cardio or strength training workouts.
In actuality, yoga is just as much a form of exercise as jogging, boxing or lifting weights. Caryn Sacher Fonberg, Group Exercise Instructor at Cooper Fitness Center, notes that exercise consists of recruiting muscle groups, controlled breathing and an intense focus on the activity at hand, all of which are key components to practicing yoga.
Yoga lends itself to stress relief when practiced correctly and with proper instruction. However, it might not be stress-reducing for the reasons many people believe. Yoga’s true value as a stress reduction technique is found through controlled breathing. While practicing yoga, one is encouraged to focus his or her mind on breathing─long inhales and subsequent exhales. This is where, Sacher Fonberg notes, cognitive dissonance comes into play. People cannot think about more than one thing at a time, and in this case, one’s entire focus must remain on the consistency of conscious inhaling and exhaling.
“This focus on breathing allows the chaos raging outside of the yoga studio, or even on the inside of one’s own mind, to be drowned out and forgotten throughout the duration of the practice,” Sacher Fonberg says. “The results are a temporary relief of tension and stress and a feeling of rejuvenation upon rejoining the ‘chaotic’ outside world.”
It has been proven that exercise is an excellent stress management tool in and of itself. Physical activity releases endorphins and serotonin, which are hormones that boost your mood and energy levels. However, people derive relaxation from different types of exercise based on their personal preferences, fitness level and other factors.
The same is true in yoga, no one yoga pose holds the key to total relaxation for everyone.
“While one person might find simple poses, such as downward dog or tree pose, put them the most at ease, another might feel more relaxed after performing a full, flowing sequence of more advanced poses,” says Sacher Fonberg.
Also, modifying poses to accommodate practice level, flexibility and other concerns is essential for maximizing focus and breathing, which, in turn, lower stress levels.
Yoga in its modern form is much more than simply balancing and breathing. It is a physical activity that offers benefits consistent with other forms of exercise with stress reduction and management being just one of those many benefits.
For information about Cooper Fitness Center and the 100-plus weekly group exercise classes—including yoga—available to members, visit cooperfitnesscenter.com or call 972.233.4832.
Caryn Sacher Fonberg has been a group fitness instructor at Cooper Fitness Center for 20 years. She is certified in Power Yoga Training and Yoga Sculpt Training through CorePower Yoga in Dallas.