Summer in the Connecticut Shoreline area is a time for a great escape. For many it is the chance to reclaim the outdoor activities and leisure time compromised by cold weather and busy personal and professional lives at other time of the year.

Even as we seek to recreate with our favorite activities stress can remain lurking in the background  as is an unavoidable part of life. Even if you live in a bubble, you may still feel some sort of stress. You might feel the niggling anxiety of worrying about things you are leaving undone, family issues that may be coming to light or the other issues that that may come ot light as the din of our daily lives are lessened. Point being: No matter who you are, what you do, or where you live, the pressures of life will always be around.

Many people find that yoga works wonders when it comes to relieving stress. As a whole self-care system of the mind and body that  combines physical strengthening and stretching, relaxation and controlled breathing along with  the invitation to absorb ourselves in the moment makes our Yoga practice the first defense in addressing and redressing the short and long term effects of stress.

Each season of the year and in different phase of our lives we may be asked to re-calibrate our needs and goals to utilize our Yoga and Meditation practice in the most effective ways. For many the Yoga’s more athletic aspects may seem more important for weight loss or as a support to staying active in a favorite sport. For others this benefit may be balanced with a practice that focuses attention on mental well-being or other  ways of  restoring balance to a life that is overwhelmed with stress or dis-ease.

Fortunately, within certain parameters it is possible to find a practice that can indeed address all these disparate goals. So many students who have begun a Yoga practice with the goals related  to physical well-being or attainment have been surprised at how their Yoga practice has been the way for them to deal with the harmful  cumulative effects of stress of which they were only marginally aware.

Before getting into how yoga can relieve stress, it is important to understand the dangers of stress.

Effects of Stress on the Body

Stress is a normal response your body has to events that make you feel upset, threatened or of out of balance. When you feel threatened, whether it is real or imagined, your body’s “fight or flight” response kicks in as a way to protect itself. Under normal circumstances, this response helps keep you focused, alert and energetic.

If there is danger near, this response can help you think on your feet, and could possibly save your life. For instance, if a bandit walked up to you and wanted to hurt you, your “fight or flight” response might enable you to hit harder and run faster so you can escape. In work situations, the stress response can keep you on your toes, and make you push a little harder so that you’re more productive.

The problem with stress arises when you reach an overload. The cumulative effects of stress begin to manifest in more chronic and destructive  ways. PubMed.gov suggests that too much stress can cause the body to release pro-inflammatory cytokines. When this protein is produced for prolonged periods of time, it has been shown to cause tissue destruction, fever, inflammation, shock and in the worst cases death.

How can Yoga Boost Relaxation

If you don’t find a way to manage your stress, it can do some serious damage to your body. This is where yoga can help. Yoga is considered a mind-body discipline that is often used as a form of alternative medicine. The mental and physical discipline of yoga can work together to achieve serenity of the mind and body to help you relax.

Hatha Yoga has become for many the generic term for the Yoga practice with which most of us are familiar. Initially Hatha yoga evolved as a set of practices allegedly designed used to prepare people for meditating for extreme periods of time. To perform these feats of meditation optimal physical health and mental calm is required. The system of exercises, breath practices, cleansing and concentration techniques of Hatha Yoga are purported to bring amazing benefits of health and well-being as this preparatory stage to higher Yoga practices. Hatha Yoga is often referred to as “dual” yoga because it includes a duality between two opposites – the moon and the sun.

WE have come to view Hatha yoga is a way to build strength, flexibility and relaxation. There are a lot of yoga styles that have developed that vary in their degree of focus on aspects of the physical or other practices. It simply depends on what you prefer. The most relaxing types emphasize deep breathing, slow and steady movement, and meditation. Power yoga and vinyasa styles focus more on athletic movement and fitness and may be better suited for people looking to get in shape.

The main components of Hatha Yoga are the poses and breathing and mental focusing techniques.

Breathing:  Yoga teaches the art of controlled breathing. In this discipline, breathing represents vital energy. Controlled breathing is a way to teach you how to silence the mind and control the body. In addition, the deep breathing allows more oxygen to circulate through your body to help you unwind.

Poses: Yoga poses are also referred to as postures. They are a series of movements or stationary poses that help increase flexibility, balance and muscle strength. Some of the poses require a lot of bending and twisting of the body. Other poses are performed while lying completely relaxed on a mat.

Meditation/Awareness: Yogis believe the source of all enjoyment comes from within(in-joy-ment). When we are struggling with a distracted or restless mind or emotional distress enjoying any activity is difficult or impossible.

Breaking down mental chatter with skillful focus in our Yoga practice can bring greater safety, concentration and ease on the mat ind in our lives. It can also open us to moments of deep stress relief and connection to deep wells of joy. Many report that when yoga is practiced regularly, it can strengthen the relaxation response in daily life. Because  Yoga can help  reduce stress and anxiety in this way, it can be a powerful boost to your overall sense of well being. Incorporating  formal sitting and movement mediation and awareness practices in the fabric of the poses and breath work add potency clarity and joy to our time in Yoga.

Within the realm of current western  psychotherapy  practice adding mindfulness and awareness practices to conventional talk therapies is growing as accepted practice. It can be a pillar of support to well being and  effectively transform problematic  emotional and behavioral patterns that may be at the root of stress and unhappiness in our lives. When we have kept up with our self-care with skillful practice we are best able to let go of our external concerns, enter the present moment most  completely and partake in the joy inherent when we are truly present in our lives.