Yoga for Relaxation, Anti-Stress, and Sleep // By Anastasia Shevchenko

Yoga is an amazing tool that can be used in a great variety of ways, depending on the intention, personal needs & goals, and your state of mind.
If you need yoga as a physical ritual to get in shape, to live a healthier lifestyle, or just to explore and challenge your personal physical limits – yoga will do that for you. On the other hand, if you need yoga as a type of relaxation technique to help you de-stress, recharge your batteries, and improve on your sleep – yoga can help you there as well!

Yoga for Relaxation

You can practice yoga for relaxation in two ways. The first option would be by choosing a more “relaxing” yoga method. There are many different yoga methods/styles out there, and some of them are more fast-paced, invigorating, and physically challenging, while others are more gentle, relaxing, and even therapeutic.
The second option would be by practicing yoga in a specific way. This requires a little more self-awareness and a stronger ability to concentrate, which is something that completely beginners would find difficult to follow.
If you’re new to yoga, in order to use yoga for relaxation and de-stress, you need to practice in a more “relaxing” method. The examples of these gentler and slower yoga methods are: Iyengar yoga, Yin Yoga, Restorative Yoga, Viniyoga or any other Yoga Therapy method.
If you are a more seasoned practitioner and you don’t manage to relax after a yoga session, chances are you are not taking advantage of the two techniques that are available to you: concentration on the breath and body-awareness.
By concentrating on your breath, you enter into a more meditative mode that brings about mental peace and body relaxation. Concentration on the breath is a powerful tool for finding and exploring the body-mind or psycho-somatic connection.
Body awareness, as opposed to breath concentration, is something that takes more time and effort to develop. In fact, body awareness is something that you can always build upon, but you should start somewhere!

Yoga for Anti-Stress

Practicing yoga for relaxation will already have an effect on your ability to manage stress. However, sometimes the levels of stress accumulate and escalate so much, that no amount of Yin Yoga can help.
In the times of high stress and emotional turmoil, it is actually recommended to practice more dynamic forms of exercises and yoga methods, everything that is good at speeding up your heart rate, increasing the circulation and body heat, something that literally makes you sweat.
Some of the examples of these more dynamic yoga methods are: Vinyasa Flow, Prana Flow, Ashtanga Yoga, Jivamukti Yoga, Anusara Yoga, Hatha Raja Flow, etc.
A more dynamic form of exercise helps your body to release toxins and accumulated negative energy, recharges your nervous system, improves the hormone and brain function, as well as boost the immune system.
However, concentration on the breath and body-awareness are the essential tools that should be used in your yoga practice, especially when you are going through difficult times. Breath
concentration cuts down on the mental chatter and obsessions, and body-awareness makes sure that you don’t injure yourself.

Yoga for better Sleep

We all have experienced these times of challenge where we feel relatively relaxed and mentally stable, but nonetheless lose our ability to fall asleep, sleep badly, or wake up during the night and have difficulties going back to sleep.
Sleep has the most powerful effect on our physical and mental well-being, and the lack of it can take a serious toll on our energy levels, health, and a sense of life satisfaction. Amazingly, yoga can offer a solution to a sleep problem as well!
Provided you are relatively healthy, sleep problems almost exclusively arise as a result of overstimulations and both, positive, and negative types of excitement. Depending on the type of person that you are, you would need to experiment with what yoga method or yoga technique can help your difficulties with sleep.
Some people need to work-out hard and literally exhaust themselves into a good night’s sleep. Others, on the other hand, need to “take it easy” and “slow down” in order to prepare themselves for sleep.
If you’re the first type, pick a dynamic yoga method and practice regularly, but not too close to the sleeping time. Ideally, you should practice in the morning or right after getting off work.
Let’s say you’re the second type. In that case, a slower and gentler yoga practice in the evening will be most advisable.

BIO

Anastasia Shevchenko is a Berlin based yoga teacher and a founder of the Berlin Yoga Conference. She has been practicing yoga for the past 15 years and teaching for the past 6. Having cured herself from scoliosis, post surgery, and degenerate neck, Anastasia has firsthand experience in the field of self-healing through yoga. On top of that, Anastasia is an avid meditation practitioner and a researcher on various topics pertaining to yoga, philosophy, spirituality, science, art, and nutrition. She is a proponent of yoga for personal transformation in the body, mind, and spirit.