Gentle yoga styles focus on stretching, meditation and light muscle strengthening, and often include breathing techniques and chanting along with a variety of poses. These methods, which include Integral yoga and Viniyoga styles, typically aim to encourage mindfulness and relaxation. Gentle yoga is ideal for older adults, beginners or anyone seeking a peaceful experience. Even gentle yoga may be dangerous for some, however, so see your doctor if you are pregnant or have any medical conditions.
Yoga takes your focus off things that stress you out, forcing your attention to your body and breathing as well as the teacher’s instructions. MayoClinic.com recommends the activity as a stress reliever, stating that it joins the body and mind to promote a more restful state and help banish anxiety. Although yoga can help ease stress, the practice alone may not be enough to relieve severe cases. If anxiety continues to pose a problem, MayoClinic.com recommends counseling to help establish good mental health.
Yoga postures, called asanas, gently twist and bend your body into new positions, stretching your muscles to improve flexibility. If you haven’t been able to touch your toes in a while, this may be a welcome reward. Even people who are already relatively flexible can benefit from stretching. The more flexible you are, the better your posture will become, according to the American Council on Exercise. You’ll also increase your range of motion, which can improve athletic performance. And if your muscles are tense or sore, gentle stretching can help relieve your discomfort.
If you suffer from insomnia, gentle yoga may help. In a study published in the “Journal of Clinical Oncology” in 2010, researchers observed 410 cancer survivors with sleep problems, instructing half of them to perform a four-week yoga program blending Hatha–a type of yoga that focuses on physical and mental strength building movements and postures–and restorative styles. At the end of the study, 22 percent of the yoga group reported improved sleep quality, compared to just 12 percent of the control group. In addition, the yoga group reported a 42 percent decrease in daytime sleepiness.
Yoga may also help relieve symptoms of depression, according to a small study of women with clinical depression published in the journal “Issues in Mental Health Nursing” in 2013. Study participants reported dwelling less on problems after performing gentle yoga, and felt the activity was effective for self-care. In addition, research shows that yoga may be effective in easing lower back pain, reducing blood pressure and heart rate and improving general quality of life, according to the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine.
References & Resources
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Yoga
- MayoClinic.com: Stress Relievers: Tips to Tame Stress
- American Council on Exercise: Flexible Benefits
- Issues in Mental Health Nursing: “A Feeling of Connectedness:” Perspectives on a Gentle Yoga Intervention for Women with Major Depression
- National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine: Yoga for Health
- Medical News Today: Yoga Helped Cancer Survivors Reduce Fatigue, Improve Sleep Quality