Stress, Yoga, Cortisol

yoga stretch

Cortisol, a hormone that responds to stress levels in our body, adheres to our circadian clock, reaching its peak in the morning to aid awakening and diminishing gradually throughout the day, reaching its lowest point before nightfall. However, heightened stress affects the continuous secretion of cortisol, disrupting the potential for restful sleep. Feelings of irritability, anxiety, augmented thirst, and the emergence of bruises or purple stretch marks on the skin may be associated with high cortisol levels.

Cortisol levels can be reduced by practicing low intensity exercise such as yoga stretch. Additionally, Yoga Lines stretches have demonstrated an ability to elevate serotonin levels, a mood-stabilizing hormone that diminishes stress and fosters a sense of well-being. Through relaxation of muscles, increased range of motion, and stabilization of cortisol levels, stretching serves to ease tension and bring balance. Another facet to consider is that reducing cortisol levels triggers the activation of the prefrontal cortex in our brain, thereby facilitating the ease of decision-making.

Best yoga pose that is known for its stress-reducing and cortisol-lowering effects is the "Legs Up the Wall" pose (Viparita Karani). This restorative pose is gentle and accessible and here's how you can practice the Legs Up the Wall pose:

- Find a space near the wall where you can easily stretch your legs upward.

- Sit on the floor, positioning your hips as close to the wall as possible (you can maintain some distance between the hips and the wall for a less intense stretch).

- Gently swing your legs up the wall as you lie down on your back. Extend your legs upward, allowing them to rest against the wall.

- Place your arms at your sides with your palms facing up.

- Allow your shoulders and head to relax on the floor.

- Close your eyes and focus on your breath. Take slow, deep breaths, allowing your abdomen to rise and fall with each inhale and exhale.

- Remain in this position for a few minutes, gradually extending the duration as you become more at ease.

Modifications are available for the Legs Up the Wall pose to ensure accessibility if the original variation is not attainable. The pose itself promotes relaxation, encourages gentle stretching of the hamstrings, and facilitates venous return, which can also improve blood circulation. This pose is particularly effective for calming the nervous system and promoting a sense of tranquility.

As always, listen to your body and practice mindfully. If you have any medical conditions or concerns, consult a healthcare professional before incorporating new yoga poses into your routine.

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