Yoga Exercises Help Reduce Anxiety and Depression

Whether you’re a big runner or you spend hours each day parked at your desk, yoga postures help improve flexibility and strengthen the core. Research shows yoga also helps reduce anxiety and depression.

The first pose in the Sun Salutation, Chaturanga Poses stretch and strengthen the thighs, quads, hips and shoulders. They also open the chest and stretch the rib cage.

Stretches Your Muscles

Stretching — and yoga exercises in general — lengthen muscles that have been tightened during activity. This helps prevent injuries, supports posture and improves flexibility and range of motion. Stretching increases blood flow to muscles, which delivers oxygen and nutrients that help heal damaged tissue.

Aim for a warm-up session of about 15 minutes to prepare your body for yoga and other forms of exercise. Perform dynamic, or moving, stretches before static stretches.

Aim for four to six deep breaths as you stretch your upper back, shoulder blades and neck. This beginner-friendly pose is an excellent way to relieve stress and relax your shoulders.

Strengthens Your Core

Strengthening your core, which includes the abdominal wall muscles in the front, obliques and lower back, can improve posture, increase stability, reduce low-back pain and help you perform everyday movements, such as bending and twisting, with greater ease. As a bonus, strong core muscles improve your breathing, making it easier to sustain long runs or power through HIIT workouts, Beachbody trainer Marcia Denis, PT, DPT, CPT, tells SELF.

Most yoga poses involve some element of core strengthening, but some postures are better for your abs than others. For example, a standing balance pose is more effective than an easy pose that involves your upper body, because standing balance works your core from different angles. Breath awareness, or diaphragmatic breathing, is also important in core strengthening yoga. Deep, full breaths can help you engage your core muscles and promote proper alignment in all your poses.

Increases Circulation

Studies have shown that yoga improves blood circulation throughout your body. It increases levels of hemoglobin and red blood cells, improving oxygenation to tissues. This also helps prevent heart diseases.

The movements and postures in yoga compress and expand the body, which promotes circulation. Twisting poses wring out venous blood from internal organs, which is then carried by the blood vessels to the heart and lungs to become oxygenated. Inversions like the downward dog position help your body circulate by placing your heart above the head and allowing gravity to improve circulation.

Yoga reduces stress and anxiety, which can also have a positive impact on your circulation. This is because lower stress levels and blood pressure are linked to improved blood flow throughout your body. In addition, yoga may increase the production of nitric oxide, which relaxes blood vessels and improves circulation. This is particularly important for your joints, which can be affected by poor circulation.

Relaxes Your Mind

Most yoga exercises require you to balance and focus, which helps calm the mind. The meditation techniques used in yoga help reduce stress and promote healthy sleep, lower blood pressure and improve overall health.

The physical movement in yoga increases brain cell development, which makes it easier for you to learn and remember things. Yoga also boosts mood by raising levels of a brain chemical called gamma-aminobutryric acid, or GABA, which helps you feel more relaxed and less anxious.

A few simple yoga poses can help you relax before a test or during a stressful day. Try neck and shoulder rolls to relieve tense muscles in those areas. Or take a few deep breaths and stretch your spine and tailbone in a relaxing pose such as Extended Side Angle or banana pose (Banasana). You don’t need a lot of space to do these restorative poses; all you need is a quiet spot and, if necessary, some props.