Yoga and Self-Care

Have you ever wondered how people incorporate yoga into their everyday life? A lot of it has to do with simply breathing. Yup, you read correctly. Trying to find the balance between school, work, relationships, family, religion, and so much more which applies to everyday life can result in burnout. Sometimes self-care needs more than working out regularly, eating as healthy as possible, and participating in hobbies.

The techniques mention activating something called the vagus nerve and parasympathetic nervous system. By stimulating the vagus nerve you are reminding your body that it is time to relax and de-stress. This can lead to long-term improvements in mood, well-being, and spirit. Secondly, when the parasympathetic nervous system is aroused it provides a “rest and digest” technique as opposed to the sympathetic nervous system which activates an individual’s response to fight or flight. The parasympathetic nervous system acts like a brake and encourages the body to calm down after the danger has passed.

Here are 2 evidence-based breathing techniques that go above and beyond bubble baths and workout routines. These practices have evidence that supports their effectiveness. Either way, it is ok to allow yourself to practice doing something because it feels good.

  • Deep Belly Breathing: referred to as diaphragmatic breathing, by breathing into the lower belly—it stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS) and massages the vagus nerve. Experts believe it is the quickest way to return to a state of calm but unfortunately seems to be the most overlooked system of self-care. The benefit of deep belly breathing is that it can be done anytime and anywhere. To practice, lie on your back with one hand on your chest and the other on your belly. Notice how you take your breaths and how your breath flows. This simple breathing technique is the foundation for every other breathing technique used in therapy. A helpful tip when beginning to practice deep belly breathing is to imagine blowing up your stomach like a balloon as you inhale and deflating it when you exhale.
  • 4-7-8 breathing: (the author’s personal favorite); in this technique, you inhale for a count of 4 seconds, hold for a count of 7 seconds, and breathe out for a count of 8 seconds. This practice of breathing deeply into the low belly combined with holding the breath is another way of stimulating the vagus nerve and tapping into the PNS (parasympathetic nervous system).

Fallis, J. (2021, March 24). Articles. Optimal Living Dynamics. https://www.optimallivingdynamics.com/blog/?author=55832ca0e4b0fe87a727e7ed.

Schnur, O. (2021, April 5). Yoga-informed self-care strategies to help counselors avoid burnout. Counseling Today. https://ct.counseling.org/2021/04/yoga-informed-self-care-strategies-to-help-counselors-avoid-burnout/.

Written by: Abrea, 2021 Undergraduate Intern

Want to talk to someone who can help? If you would like to speak to a professional counselor or psychologist about this and are in the Chicagoland area, please feel free to contact Olive Branch Counseling Associates, Inc. at 708-633-8000. We are located at 6819 West 167th Street in Tinley Park, Illinois 60477.

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