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How yoga helps manage the stress of city-living

It’s no secret that most of the urban population is experiencing stress due to long commutes, high competition and rising costs of living. In fact, 80-90% of doctor visits are stress-related, but not many doctors actually explain how stress can be managed. Other than therapy, self-medicating and exercise, there is a different way to approach the stress of our busy lives and it is yoga.

Breathe in, breathe out… what’s the big deal?

Yoga is different from regular exercise and there are various types of yoga that suit different needs. Exercise such as jogging, cycling or weight-lifting does not involve the practice of mindfulness. Yoga incorporates both physical movement, mindful breathing and awareness for a more holistic approach. In fact, studies show that it is a therapeutic practice that can help relieve depressive symptoms and pain management as well as improve sleep and the overall quality of life.

Read more about the benefits of mindfulness in my previous post.

The basics

Yoga has three main components:

Poses (Asanas). Poses range from simple to more challenging and are designed to increase strength and flexibility. They can be completed in a sequence at different speeds and usually have modified versions.

Breathing. Breathing is meant to be controlled in yoga unlike during regular exercise. Breath is supposed to guide and direct the flow of movement.

Meditation. This component entails being present in the current moment and observing it without any judgement.

Choosing a yoga style

There are various styles (in fact, eight) but Hatha yoga is the most popular style amongst beginners. It consists of gentle sequential movement and guided meditation. However, yoga allows for mixing and matching as styles can be changed depending on mood, skill and ability.

Ways to practice

Numerous instructional videos and articles are available online, as well as offline group classes and sessions with yoga gurus. it is not hard to find your own way to practice. If you are still exploring and don’t want to invest in offline classes, then YouTube is the place to go. Channels such as Yoga with Adriene and Yoga with Cassandra offer great videos for beginners and provide tips and tricks for correct postures and guided breathing. These channels also offer a variety of practices on stress management and pain relief, all of which can greatly aid with our day-to-day challenges.

Tools and props

Practising would normally require a yoga mat, which does not have to be branded or expensive. If this is not available, at-home yoga props, such as a towel or blanket, can always be used. Yoga blocks might also be helpful, however, a pile of books or a box can also work. After all, it’s all about the practice and the main tool is your body. Special clothes are also not required, as anything that doesn’t restrict movement and feels comfortable will fit.

Practice turned into a life journey

The most important thing is to start, try it out and observe. Yoga is not a rigid list of practices or rules that need to be followed and it is not meant to induce more stress. Finding a way that works for you is the most important goal to strive for, which means understanding your body and its needs as well as its limits. There is no set number of times yoga should be practised a week or a minimum duration of each practice, and no indicators of success or failure.

Carve some time for yourself and hop on the mat without judgement. Enjoy the journey and surrender to whatever is happening.


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Image by Bundo Kim

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