Five Mind-Body Exercises to Reduce Stress and Improve Health

by NU Online on 10/20/20 10:15 AM

Most people attempt physical exercise to increase physical strength and cardio health. However, targeting both the mind and body in exercise can positively impact a person’s overall health, rather than just physical health. In addition to increasing physical strength and cardiovascular health, mind-body practices have been said to improve physical responses, stress levels, mood, and sleep, leading to a decrease in anxiety and a strengthened immune system.

Students entering into an online program can utilize the great opportunities that mind-body exercises provide to reduce stress and increase health. For example, an online education may be a new experience for many students, and online students may not have access to on-campus resources with similar benefits, such as a gym, sports fields, and clubs. In moments when life can become busy or stressful due to family, work, or school, engaging yourself in at least 15-minutes of mind-body exercise a day can lead you to the path of a healthy body and mind.

yoga pose

5 Mind and Body Exercises

While many exercises can benefit both the mind and body, five easily accessible and popular mind-body exercises include yoga, Pilates, tai chi, swimming, and gardening.



Having been practiced in India and Asia for more than 5,000 years, yoga is now widely popular globally and is often considered the most well-known mind and body exercise. Yoga utilizes calm and controlled movements so that you can focus on your breathing and mental state while targeting specific muscles and areas of the body that will improve coordination, strength, flexibility, and posture. Working on your mind and muscles through yoga may correct your reflexes and has been considered to improve sleep, digestion, and mood.

Branches of yoga with mind and body benefits include:

  • Bikram
  • Iyengar
  • Kundalini
  • Kripalu



A standout difference between bikram yoga to other yoga practices is that bikram yoga is set in a heated room at 100 degrees Fahrenheit or higher. This form of yoga utilizes that same 26 postures and two breathing exercises within 90 minutes. For mind and body benefits, bikram yoga not only improves flexibility and strength, bikram yoga also has been said to detoxify the body through excessive amounts of sweat, and it also can improve glucose tolerance, blood lipid profile, and bone density.



In contrast to bikram yoga, iyengar yoga focuses on precision so that people can master the yoga style at a gradual pace. Iyengar yoga utilizes props, such as blankets, belts, and blocks, making one of the main benefits of the practice as accessible to those at a lower skill level, physical limitations, and the elderly. While iyengar yoga will help build flexibility and strength, this practice focuses more on the mind and spirit.



For those looking for a balanced yoga type, kripalu yoga is a gentle yoga style that treats all yoga areas – poses, breathing, and meditation – as equally important. Poses in kripalu yoga tend to be held longer, and the time spent meditating during kripalu yoga is also longer compared to other yoga practices. Comparably, kripalu yoga will build your physical strength, but it may be more spiritual-focused than different yoga types.


madison lavern - yoga


Another spiritual-based yoga style, kundalini, differs from most yoga styles as it incorporates poses and meditation with the chanting of mantras. The significant difference in kundalini yoga is that, spiritually, people will gather energy at the base of the spine and send it through the top of the head to unblock the seven chakras. The seven chakras and their coordinating chakra colors in order from bottom to top are:

  • Root chakra: base of the spine — red
  • Sacral chakra: just below the navel — orange
  • Solar Plexus chakra: stomach area — yellow
  • Heart chakra: center of the chest — green
  • Throat chakra: base of the throat — blue
  • Third Eye chakra: forehead, above and between the eyes — indigo
  • Crown chakra: top of the head — violet

Those who practice kundalini yoga believe that spiritually unblocking the seven chakras through poses and chants will help build physical strength and a more positive mental energy.



For those interested in targeting core strength and flexibility, Pilates is a great mind-body exercise in lieu of yoga. Pilates was developed during World War I by Joseph Pilate, and it utilizes controlled movement to target the core, which consists of the muscles of the abdomen, low back, and hips. Pilates is similar to yoga in that it builds flexibility while focusing on breathing to improve circulation. However, Pilates aims to develop more physical strength, while yoga focuses on the spiritual and mental components of mind-body exercise.


Tai Chi

Originating in China for self-defense, tai chi is a slow movement workout that focuses on breathing and gentle motions. The slow and constant pace can put people into a meditation state as muscles will remain relaxed rather than tense, and movements will never be forced. People of all ages and fitness levels can practice tai chi, and tai chi can be adapted to nearly anyone, including people with low mobility. Similar to many mind-body exercises, tai chi can improve flexibility, circulation, energy, mood, and overall well-being. One additional benefit to tai chi compared to other exercises is that it can be practiced nearly anywhere, and since instructors do not need to be licensed, finding a video online to follow can make tai chi an inexpensive option.



Even though swimming may be considered a more intense workout than the other mind-body exercises, there is still a great mental benefit to this intense exercise. As a water sport, there is no impact on the joints so that cardiovascular health can be improved without extreme tension on one’s body. Also, the rhythmic motions and focused breathing can help relax the brain, and swimming has even been said to improve brain function, helping with memory and spatial navigation. As with any cardio-heavy exercise, a strengthened heart can lead to better blood flow.



Although gardening may not be the first activity that comes to mind when thinking of mind-body exercises, it is essential not to overlook the many benefits gardening has. Gardening is not physically demanding. Gardening allows people to spend time alone and gain patience through repetitive, light strength and cardiovascular tasks. Additionally, spending time in nature can decrease levels of anxiety and depression. As a reward, those who garden can eat the fresh fruit and vegetables that they grew themselves.


father son - gardening

Learn more

Both traditional and online students can benefit from practicing mind-body exercises to relieve stress and improve health while earning their degrees. Please email to get in contact with a Norwich admissions advisor who can help you successfully achieve your goals.




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Norwich University Online
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