How’s that for an attention-grabbing headline? No, to clarify: yoga provides numerous health benefits. However, many today do yoga to manage stress. The purpose of this article is to argue that if stress is effectively managed, the yoga class may not even be necessary.
The real issue seems to be this concept of “self care,” something that is easily forgotten in our “twenty-four/seven” culture propelled by Starbucks, computers, and electricity that allows night to turn into day.
A habit as simple as leaving work on time can be a crucial element of good self-care. This practice may not be so easy, though, for the average work-obsessed American. To comprehend the benefits of leaving work on time, it helps to consider the opposite: leaving work late. Let’s say one is attempting to get to the gym for an exercise class that begins not long after this person is “off the clock.” In this situation, leaving work later than usual, then fighting traffic, changing into work out gear, and getting into the exercise class creates much unnecessary stress. Cortisol, the stress hormone, is released and floods one’s system in the race across town. Additionally, markers such as blood pressure may be elevated, sending the body subtle messages that there is a race against time. Years of this frenetic-paced lifestyle can take its toll, actually accelerating the aging process.
Stress management is just one of the aspects of self-care, however. Setting limits with those people and activities that expend your time and energy is also crucial. In the twenty-first century, most people’s time and energy is pulled is pulled in so many different directions that the ability to determine the best uses of those resources becomes a critical skill.
Another element of good self-care involves living one’s life at a comfortable pace, and this differs depending on the individual. Though clearly there are times when life circumstances dictate a faster pace than desired, ideally those times are the exception, not the rule. Indicators that one’s lifestyle may be more harried than healthy include: not being able to get routine life chores completed, such as dishes, laundry, oil changes and bills paid on time; not having enough time to grocery shop; inadequate hours for a good night’s sleep and/or exercise; and little to no “downtime” or leisure activities.
Other aspects of self-care were alluded to above, such as having time for regular exercise that one enjoys, as well as getting restorative sleep, and enough of it to fulfill one’s individual needs.
Lastly, in addition to the obvious importance of providing oneself with healthy food and water, a less obvious element to consider is that of satisfying and supportive relationships. Having a network of friends or family that are accepting and dependable will enhance anyone’s life as well as assist during difficult times.
In closing, these are just some of the ways to care for oneself. Yoga, of course, is another excellent practice. However, if the suggestions offered here are implemented, yoga may become the “icing on the cake.” And yes, the occasional treat is important, too!