Shift Stress into Low Gear

You might equate a stress-related health problem with a minor upset stomach or a tension headache. But physician and Yoga Journal medical editor Timothy McCall warns that stress may also fuel chronic illnesses, such as obesity, diabetes, and heart disease. “If you are continually stressed, you leave the door open to a variety of health conditions,” McCall says. Yoga is an effective stress reducer. Here are McCall’s tips for using your practice for that purpose.

Focus on your breath. The ancient yoga masters taught that moving and breathing with awareness quiet the mind. When we stop ruminating and our inner monologue slows, we tend to experience relaxation and a feeling of being centered.

Practice restorative poses and forward bends. Both are thought to calm the nervous system. Use blankets, pillows, and bolsters to support you in the poses.

Be consistent. Long-term, regular practice will encourage a sense of inner peace that will last throughout your day. “This equanimity and mindfulness has countless positive effects, including an appreciation for the beauty around you in every moment,” McCall says. “You may even realize that some of what you’ve been getting worked up about really isn’t that important. And that may be the biggest stress reducer of all.”