Over the years, many people have debated whether yoga and breathing exercises are truly beneficial. According to dietician Rachael Link, combining yoga and breathing techniques can relieve a host of problems, including high-stress levels, anxiety, fatigue and depression. Conversely, the Guardian’s Social Affairs columnist Dawn Foster has previously argued that such activities have the opposite effect. Based on analysis of a series of cases, Dawn concluded that too much focus on breathing can rouse tension and panic, provoking discomfort. From this, it is clear the effect of these techniques varies between individuals.
So we took a look at the evidence - do these techniques work and where’s the proof?
A significant amount of research shows that breathing exercises and yoga do induce calmness and elevate mood in some cases. There is a pathway in the brain which contains 175 neurons responsible for transmitting communication between the breathing pacemaker and the area responsible for attention, arousal and panic. Therefore, breathing rate directly influences anxiety levels. This may explain why some feel a sense of calmness after slowing down their breathing.
In addition, a number of studies have also shown practising yoga to release unnecessary stress by reducing the secretion of cortisol; the body’s primary stress hormone. Those who practise yoga before bed enjoy better quality sleep and are significantly less likely to wake up during the night. In fact, attaining lower levels of cortisol provides a range of health benefits. For example, maintenance of a healthy weight, prevention of high blood pressure, boosted mood and energy levels. This would suggest practising yoga on a regular basis can improve your overall quality of life.
Yoga before bed is particularly useful when you have a lot on your mind. Whether it’s a stressful day at work or you’ve lost your car keys, the right yoga stretches before bed can be the key to releasing built up tension. Being sure to pick the right yoga position before bed is crucial. A good stretch for accomplishing this is the ‘Child’s Pose’; one of the easiest stretches possible, requiring little flexibility or experience. Failure to do so poses risk of increasing your heart rate and energy levels. There are a variety of different stretches to choose from and the more you do, the more your mind and body will be thankful. Being a gentle exercise suitable for all age groups and physical abilities, there’s no excuse not to give it a go!
Take a breath...
An important breathing technique to try is the 4-7-8 sequence; a simple yet incredibly effective exercise – try it yourself. Inhale through your nose for 4 seconds, hold your breath for 7 seconds and then exhale for 8 seconds. Repeating this pattern 3 times can loosen the shoulders. Even completing this exercise occasionally at work will enable you to relax and think with a clearer head.
Try it for yourself...
Why not give yourself the best chance of a good sleep and transform your bedtime routine. A few stretches and breathing exercises accompanied by a warm cup of blackcurrant Benenox overnight recharge might be the key to a restful night.
So yes! Yoga and breathing exercises really do work for some – try it for yourself and develop a style that suits you…
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