Preserving Your Mental Health

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How yoga helps manage stress and overall well-being.

Now more than ever, it’s important to create rituals around self preservation and mental health.

Yoga gives us many skills to work directly with the central nervous system to regulate our internal and external environment. Michelle Young, C-IAYT, is the yoga therapist at Seton Hospital and serves Seton’s Cardiac Rehabilitation Facility, working with patients who have experienced cardiac events. These clients spend time working with Young, learning techniques to manage stress levels and improve their overall well-being.

“Many people don’t realize the effect that stress can have on their cardiovascular system or the relationship that the cardiovascular system has to the pulmonary system,” says Young. “When we get stressed, our bodies shift into a sympathetic state, and our ability to process oxygen decreases as our heartbeat increases to pump blood to the extremities. The only way to work with the autonomic functions of the central nervous system — without medication — is through the breath.”

Young teaches clients intentional breathing through yogic practices that anyone can use to self-regulate.

“This concept of breath regulation, known as pranayama, is one physical way we can regulate the central nervous system while relieving excess anxiety and stress,” Young says.

She also recommends the mental practice of comparing opposites of emotions and feelings in the body and mind.

“The practice of pratipaksha bhavana, or comparison of opposites, helps neutralize polarities in our perception of thoughts, feelings, memories and sensations. This mental tool, when coupled with asana and pranayama, can dramatically reduce our perceptions of stress and even the body’s stress response,” she says.

This May, Young is opening My Vinyasa Practice, Austin’s newest donation-based yoga studio on the campus of ACC Highland. The studio will offer daily vinyasa yoga classes along with Austin’s first ever donation-based yoga therapy. My Vinyasa Practice has been leading yoga teacher training both in Austin and online for over four years and is excited to make yoga and yoga therapy accessible for everyone. To learn more about the new studio or to register for her free Yoga Therapy for Anxiety course, visit her site at myvinyasapractice.com.

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