In the 21st century, many people are overwhelmed by the fast pace and demands that characterize the current era. Bosses, clients, and spouses have a variety of ways to keep tabs on each other, whether it be via cell phone, texts, email, or Facebook. Traffic and unemployment are on the rise, while our economy and the welfare of the environment are in decline. The ability to relax is quickly being replaced by feelings of stress and anxiety.
Yoga is an effective method to combat these ill feelings and promote mental well-being. Furthermore, there are several branches of yoga which are most effective at cultivating a healthy mind. For instance, Hatha yoga employs asanas or physical poses in order to promote mental focus. Jnana yoga is seen as yoga of the mind. With Raja yoga, one practices the art of natural meditation.
Yoga integrates a variety of techniques, namely exercise, breathing, and meditation to unify mind, body, and spirit. As mentioned above, practicing asanas requires focus on the task at hand. This intense focus helps to quiet the mind. Pranayama or the practice of proper breathing teaches students how to take slow, deep breaths. This aids in more effective delivery of healing oxygen to the brain and other organs. Also, breath tends to become short and shallow when the body feels stressed or anxious. Building awareness of prana, meaning breath or “life force,” allows the yoga practitioner to utilize effective breathing techniques more consistently, even when faced with stress or anxiety-inducing circumstances. Again, meditation is another technique employed by yoga practitioners in order to disengage from stressful thoughts.
Restorative poses, forward bends, and inversions are known to have calming effects. For example, downward dog and shoulder stands provide a temporary increase in blood pressure in the cranial region, activating the body’s soothing mechanisms. Asanas, such as side bends or twists, help to balance out excessive emotions. Whatever mental or emotional imbalances you are experiencing will most likely be alleviated with dedication to the practice of yoga.