Written by: Annie Lockwood, RYT-200
Edited by: Bernice Thrill
The state of your life is never as certain as the correct answer to a math problem. If you add up your state of mind + state of body + emotions today, they may equal something entirely different tomorrow.
What are ways you can steady the uncertainty? Consider yoga.
“Yoga is so much more than a physical workout,” says Annie Lockwood, RYT-200. “Yes, yoga can help with increased flexibility, strengthening and toning, but you don’t have to be flexible to practice yoga.”
Along with physical benefits, yoga provides physiological and mental benefits as well, according to Lockwood.
Yoga can help you manage symptoms from a wide range of conditions, such as:
- injuries, arthritis, or inflammation
- high blood pressure
- digestive problems, such as constipation
- anxiety and depression
- difficulty concentration
- difficulty waking up in the morning
“The more you practice the amazing tools of yoga, the more you can shift your body’s response to stress and reap the benefits of living in a more relaxed state more often,” she explains. “In this relaxed state, our bodies thrive and function at their best. When we activate the parasympathetic nervous system (rest and digest state opposite the stress response), our bodies will spend more energy digesting, eliminating, repairing cells, and supporting our immune system. Our blood pressure, heart rate, and breath rate will lower, which prepares our bodies for rest and sleep.”
Lockwood goes on to explain that some people are often living in a chronic stress state that activates their sympathetic nervous system—the fight or flight mode.
“Our adrenals continue to release energy conserving hormones, which result in slow digestion, poor elimination, weakened immune systems, tight or sore muscles and fatigued bodies,” she explains.
How can yoga provide a formula for relief? Lockwood points to three areas.
The Body. “Practicing yoga is like giving yourself a massage—stretching and lengthening your muscles and ligaments. Through movement and activation of the parasympathetic nervous system, yoga aids in digestion and squeezes your internal organs, bathing them in fresh oxygenated blood. Regular practice increases flexibility, strength, and balance. Yoga is also a perfect supportive practice to an exercise routine.”
The Mind. “Yoga gives you the tools to focus on the present moment, right now. Ever hear of the term ‘mindfulness?’ Mindfulness is the practice of living in the moment; not thinking about what happened in the past and not worrying or planning for the future,” she says. “Through focus techniques on where your body is moving or stretching, along with the addition of breath observation, yoga is a mindfulness practice. The more we can let go of thoughts of the past and future, the more contentment we can appreciate in our lives.”
Emotional Support. “When we balance our stress response we can appreciate steadier moods. Yoga is a form of self care. As we practice with all the wonderful tools yoga has to offer, we can cultivate self compassion. Self compassion is the greatest form of love. Once we can attain self compassion, the seeds of compassion and love are planted and we can share the compassionate bounty with others.”
Lockwood personally benefited from yoga after being introduced when she was experiencing tendonitis in her forearms from typing at work. Her experience also inspired her to teach.
“I learned that there was more to yoga than the physical benefits. I didn’t understand what was happening.” She explains further, “With regular practice I noticed my moods were more balanced, I had increased self-confidence, less anxiety/stress, and more compassion for others. In addition, I found I had increased flexibility, strength, and balance. I found that I wanted to understand yoga better and learn how to apply techniques to achieve specific results, and I wanted to share this amazing experience with others.”
Lockwood currently leads Yoga for Desk Dwellers and Upper Body Care, which offers stress reduction and incorporates helpful adaptations of postures for neck, shoulders, back, arms, and wrists. It’s recommended for computer users, care takers, and anyone with tension in the upper body. She also offers group classes, private instruction and special events.
Learn more about Lockwood and her classes here