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.
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If 20 million people are doing it, chances are, yoga classes across the country are pretty crowded. And some people consider their mat and placement of their mat sacred. “If someone takes your ‘spot’ or steps on your mat, you may fume through the entire class,” Santas says.
Try taking your yoga class at an off time instead of peak hours when the classes tend to be more crowded. This can vary from studio to studio, so be sure to ask before you sign up for classes. Or, if you can afford it, take a private lesson or enlist the use of a yoga instructor who comes into your home.
An outlook adjustment can also help. “While traveling in India, I had the privilege of practicing yoga in some very beautiful and crowded spaces,” recalls Rajendran. “It provided me with an opportunity to understand that the feeling of ‘being crowded’ only existed in my mind. As long as the four corners of my mat fit on the floor, I had all the space I needed,” she says.