Cut stress, feel better with yoga

Are you stressed out? Single women face a lot of stress—and I’m not just talking about finding Mr. Right. In today’s tough economic times, job stability is a major stressor. Single women have to carry the full load when it comes to finances and household chores. Many do not have a cushion to fall back on when faced with life’s ups and downs, like a major health issue, the loss of a job or other financial disaster. Stress affects us physically. The American Psychological Association’s survey, Stress in America, released in November 2010, reports the top five symptoms of stress in women are irritability or anger, feeling as though you could cry, fatigue, headache, and lack of interest, motivation or energy. Only 63 percent of single women felt they were doing enough to manage their stress. Gen Xers (ages 32 to 45) report the highest levels of stress.

We can’t live stress-free; life doesn’t work that way. But we can do things to help manage that stress. About 15 million Americans practice yoga. Of the different schools of yoga, Hatha yoga is the most common in the United States. It emphasizes postures (asanas) and breathing exercises (pranayama), and focuses on increasing flexibility, strength and balance.

Aside from relieving stress, yoga is a good addition to any general health regimen. A study published in the Journal of Complementary and Alternative Medicine in 2010 found yoga may be as effective as or better than exercise at improving a variety of health-related outcome measures. Additionally, the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, part of the National Institutes of Health, reports a number of studies show that yoga might:

  • Improve mood and sense of well-being

  • Counteract stress

  • Reduce heart rate and blood pressure

  • Increase lung capacity

  • Improve muscle relaxation and body composition

  • Help with conditions such as anxiety, depression, and insomnia

  • Improve overall physical fitness, strength, and flexibility; and

  • Positively affect levels of certain brain or blood chemicals.

While yoga is generally safe for healthy people, injuries can happen. Some forms of yoga are more vigorous than others. Gary Kraftsow, author of Yoga for Transformation notes that many yoga positions aren't suitable for everyone. Always consult your doctor before starting any exercise regimen if you have a medical condition.

The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services has designated September as National Yoga Month in order to build awareness of yoga's proven health benefits. If you’ve been thinking about starting yoga, what better time to begin than now.

New students can get one week FREE during National Yoga Month. The One Week Free Yoga card can be redeemed at one of more than 1,200+ participating yoga studios during September and October. For more information, visit the Yoga Health Foundation’s website at http://www.yogamonth.org/new_to_yoga.php. You can also check them out at Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/YogaMonth.

Photo credit: Christophe Baudot/Dreamstime