yoga for stress release

Soothe Your Inner Hulk: 5 Ways Yoga Practice Can Calm the Beast in You

By: 
Dr. Nolan Lee

The world can be a tough and stressful place that causes us to “Hulk out” sometimes. If you’re not familiar, the Hulk is a comic book hero who is a genius scientist that turns into a huge, monstrous rage machine when he gets overly stressed or irritated. He then goes about wreaking havoc and destroying everything in his path. Maybe that sounds familiar to you sometimes? The good news is yoga can help! Let’s look at how a little yoga knowledge can soothe your inner Hulk.

The Calming Effects of Yoga

Research and physiology have shown that yoga can calm your inner beast in several ways. Much of the effects appear to be from balancing out your autonomic nervous system. This is the system that controls many of your body’s automatic functions such as blood flow, temperature, digestion, and elimination.

When you are stressed, your system goes into fight-or-flight (sympathetic) mode and your body directs your energy toward preparing you to run away, fight and/or destroy. Your face will flush. Your muscles will tighten. You’ll sweat more. Your blood pressure will rise. Your heart will race, and the hulk will take over!

If you’re constantly “Hulking out,” your body’s automatic functions don’t perform well. This can contribute to indigestion, headaches, constipation, insomnia and other issues. However, yoga is a great tool to help push you back towards rest-and-digest (parasympathetic) mode. This will direct your energies back to performing all of your regular functions. Below are some of the ways that yoga can help.
 

  1. Open and expansive postures like backbending reduce cortisol, a major stress hormone that kicks up the fight-or-flight response.

  2. Good spinal alignment helps improve breathing quality, and good breathing reduces stress and anxiety.

  3. Some inversion poses, especially Salamba Sarvangasana (Shoulderstand Pose) and Viparita Karani (Legs Up the Wall Pose) increase activity of the rest-and-digest mode.

  4. 2:1 breathing (exhalations twice as long as your inhalations) lowers blood pressure.

  5. Chanting increases activity of the rest-and-digest mode.

So next time you feel your inner Hulk coming out to destroy, take a breath and strike a pose!

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Reprinted with permission from NolanLee.com

 

Dr. Nolan Lee is a yoga teacher and physical rehab specialist in Chicago, IL with an extraordinary passion for understanding how the body moves and functions. Nolan has the unique ability to blend the science of anatomy with the art of yoga. With an active practice at this clinic, Balanced Flow Wellness, he practically applies yoga to restore and maintain health. Dr. Lee also holds a Master of Acupuncture degree and is a NASM certified corrective exercise specialist (CES). He enthusiastically shares his knowledge of yoga and anatomy in lectures, workshops and on his blog.