5 Reasons Your Yoga Class May Be Stressing You Out
And how to ensure that your “om” delivers the peace you crave
More stress is probably the last thing most of us need in our lives, but one anxiety-busting strategy used by millions may actually be increasing your tension: yoga. While not every yogi is looking to relieve stress—some practice to build strength, improve flexibility, or correct a slouching posture, among other things—yoga is one of the first things many people turn to when they need relaxation.
But don’t let this news stress you out: Once you know why time on the mat can rack your nerves, you can take the steps to make sure you’re getting all the mind-easing benefits you want from your practice.
The yoga breath is an integral part of every pose, but taking too deep of a breath could put stress on your central nervous system. “Too many people—some yoga teachers included—focus on big inhalations and what we call artificial good posture,” explains instructor Dana Santas, who has worked with dozens of professional athletes and Olympians in Tampa, Florida. You’re guilty of this if you find yourself breathing with a puffed-out chest, arched back, lifted ribcage, and your shoulder blades squeezed together.
“The problem is that there are receptors for our fight-or-flight system in our middle back, and these can be activated when doing ‘artificial good posture,’” Santas says. “We also tend to hold our breath there, further increasing levels of stress hormones such as cortisol.
Joanna Rajendran, founder of Our Love Yoga apparel line and certified yoga instructor practicing in Scarsdale, New York, suggests making a “ha” sound when you inhale and exhale, breathing similarly to the way you would to fog a mirror. “Once you find that breath with your mouth open, maintain the volume and depth of the ‘ha’ with your mouth closed. The action will occur at the hollow of the throat,” she explains.