Anxiety chronic pain mindfulness stress Yoga

How to use yoga for stress relief

woman leaving yoga class

Ever left a yoga class and still felt stressed? Yeah… me, too. In my humble opinion, it’s hard to use yoga for stress relief without incorporating mindfulness teachings. After all, that is actually how yoga started centuries ago – as a spiritual, meditative practice (read more about the history of yoga here).

Some yoga teachers are excellent at weaving mindfulness teachings into their yoga class. Others… well, not so much.

In the Western world, yoga has morphed into just another exercise class. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. But if you come to yoga for stress relief and pain, it can be hard to find a class that prioritizes mindfulness over cardio.

woman doing child's pose
I always get psyched for child’s pose.

Here are some of the common stressors that come up during yoga classes, and how to resolve them through a mindfulness lens. Get the most out of your yoga class using these tips and tricks.

1.The instructor is moving too fast!

It’s okay to adapt or skip poses. It’s okay if you’re a few poses behind everyone else. Go at your own pace.

This may feel uncomfortable. We are so used to deferring to authority. You might worry about classmates judging you.

When you notice feelings of discomfort, take note, and continue to go at your own pace anyway.

adapting yoga for pregnant women
Absolutely anybody can do yoga. Just trust your body.

Mindfulness teachings encourage people to trust their inner wisdom and listen to their body. This is important for everyone. It is especially important for people with special conditions (pregnancy, chronic illnesses, disabilities, and so on).

You will get so much more out of your yoga class if you do follow your own intuition, even when it goes against what others are doing.

2.There are too many distractions to relieve stress.

girl distracted in yoga class

Someone’s loud breathing. A water bottle getting knocked over. A cell beeping. Cars honking.

Ever felt like there were so many distractions going on during your class that you couldn’t focus? This is a very common experience.

Here’s my mindful advice: Whenever you notice yourself getting distracted, gently bring your attention back to your breathing, or the physical sensations in your body (for example, tingling or warmth in your muscles, hunger, thirst, and so on).

Most of us live in a busy, loud environments, alive with machines and people. Accept that distractions are part of life – they aren’t going anywhere anytime soon.

Think of yoga as an opportunity to practice observing your reactions to stimuli in your environment. If any judgments come up about yourself or others, make note of those, too. Try not to judge yourself for judging.

3.I can’t stop thinking about other things.

When you notice yourself thinking about what’s for lunch, or worrying about how many other things you have to do, that’s okay. Just bring your focus back to your breathing and your body sensations.

If you have to return your attention to your breathing hundreds of times in 30 seconds, that’s okay. No one’s counting, and it’s not a contest.

Be compassionate with yourself when your mind wanders. After all, it’s what our minds are used to doing.

What difficulties have you come across in yoga class? Any tips on how to overcome them? Comment below or contact me.

Rebecca Ogle is a licensed therapist who practices telehealth counseling in Illinois. Rebecca empowers therapy clients to cope with anxiety, depression, self-esteem, and relationship problems using their natural strengths and inner wisdom. 

Want to find out more about me?

Want to learn more about online counseling?

1 thought on “How to use yoga for stress relief”

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.