By Caitlin Graziani, Alex Trafecante and Jacob Peirce
Take a deep breath, and let it out slowly. Begin to let go of the tension in your body, starting at the feet, calves, thighs, back; take notice of how your body feels. This is how a typical yoga class begins, awareness of breath and tension in the body.
Yoga is a form of physical movements that began in India 5000 years ago. The practice of yoga employs the use of various physical motions that are believed to be essential to achieve a sense of both physical and mental well-being.
Although yoga is an old practice, it is still in use today and has many stress relieving benefits.
Kimberly Williams is the stress management specialist for the Dean Ornish Program at West Virginia University Hospital as well as a certified yoga teacher and professor in community medicine.
The Dean Ornish Program is an intensive lifestyle program for reversing heard disease; Dean Ornish, M.D., started it over 20 years ago.
“We teach gentle yoga postures. We also teach breathing practices, meditation, guided imagery and relaxation. All of these practices really come from yoga,” Williams said.
“We’ve adapted the classical yoga poses by making them supported and choosing poses that work to open up their chest so that their heart and lungs can work more effectively,” she said. “They release tension in their body which helps to release tension in their mind.”
Yoga is not only for those in need of reversing heart disease, it also benefits anyone who needs to reduce stress and relax, including college students.
“Stress is identified by students at WVU as the number one impediment to academic success,” said Colleen Harshbarger, Director of Wellness and Health Promotion for WellWVU. “Yoga has a profound impact on reducing stress, and we’ve begun to measure that and are finding this to be very true.”
According to Melita Mollohan, a local yoga instructor in Morgantown, W.VA, you don’t have to do a full hour of asanas (the physical practice of yoga) to reap the stress relieving benefits of yoga.
“All it takes is closing your eyes, where ever you are at: on the bus, in your car before you take off for the day, in your bed at night before you go to sleep. Just close your eyes and take five slow deep breaths,” said Mollohan. “It just takes a moment of time to really block things out, take a few breaths, and it can change your entire outlook on your day.”
Control of the breath, also known as Pranayama, is one facet of yoga that can be practiced anywhere. In this case, no one will notice those five extra deep breaths that you take. But, you take the stress relief benefits along with you for the day.
Whether you choose to take your stress out on the yoga mat or deep breathing exercises in your desk chair, yoga offers its benefits for anyone who chooses to embrace it.