Yoga: Improve Your Stress Management and Relaxation Skills

Being stressed is an awful feeling. It can toy with your mental state ("I'll never get my work done") and can affect your physical well-being: according to a recent study, being stressed can actually make you itchy. But the secret to stress management may lie in an activity that involves fundamental human actions: stretching, breathing, and relaxation. In other words, yoga.

Recently, researchers have found that practicing yoga can help improve a variety of different ailments. Between 2004 and 2005, one study found that 6 months of yoga significantly reduces fatigue in people with multiple sclerosis, another found that yoga can help combat eating disorders, and a third sought breast cancer survivors to see if yoga could improve energy, mood, and physical functioning. And in 2007, researchers at Boston University found that because of its role in elevating the brain's gamma-aminobutyric levels, the practice of yoga could be explored as a possible treatment for depression and anxiety.

Doctors-even those who support it-make certain to distinguish between modern medicine and yoga. But yoga is more than a chic alternative to the gym; it helps real people with real problems. Here are four different types of yoga and how they can help your stress management and relaxation skills.

Iyengar Yoga

According to the Iyengar Yoga National Association of the United States, Iyengar Yoga "emphasizes correct alignment of all parts of the body within each asana (posture)" and can have therapeutic benefits. A recent study from Temple University suggests that practicing Iyengar yoga can help prevent falls in women over 65 years old.

Pranayama Yoga

This is the third practice of Iyengar Yoga. It requires quiet and deep breathing exercises that provide oxygen to the system. In 2006, a 12-week study presented at an American Heart Association conference found that pranayama yoga decreased body mass index among obese teenagers.

Hasya Yoga

If you're walking down the halls of a building at the University of Michigan and you hear laugher, it's because the students-grown women-are practicing hasya yoga. Developed by a family physician in Indian, it involves breathing, stretching, and laughing-and can help oxygenate the body and reduce stress. 

Yoga Rx

In 2002, Dr. Richard Usatine, a Florida State medical educator, co-authored a book entitled Yoga Rx, which offers a step-by-step wellness plans to combat ailments. The plan synthesizes a specific yoga routine with exercises, dietary changes, and sleep patterns.