Yoga for Stress Relief
Yoga is commonly known to be great for stress. Everybody knows it, and yet when we’re all stressed out we tend to vent to friends, get angry at people or ourselves, go out and get drunk, make silly decisions, go too hard on ourselves, etc. I invite you to switch these options to learning a short yoga or meditation practice and I’m confident it’ll enhance your life :)
First, let’s befriend stress. Stress is there for our advantage actually. It is very much needed for survival. If there was no stress you wouldn’t run as fast as you can when you see a raging lion. Ok, maybe a mugger is a more realistic example :D But you get the point. To have a stress response is very much necessary. But the point is, stress response should come on occasion. In our stress filled 21st century lives we tend to have a stress response to something every 5 minutes. Your body cannot distinguish between having to run away from a lion or seeing your boss’s angry email popping up on your screen. You start the morning waking up to a loud alarm clock - stress. You’re going to work on public transport or driving a car - stress. You’re approaching your workplace and work related thoughts start flooding your mind - stress. During the day you have to deal with emails, meetings, calls like wonder woman - stress, stress, stress. You drive home from work in rush hour - stress. Gotta go shopping, should make some healthy dinner, totally tired - stress. See how your whole day is based on being stressed almost constantly. When you are stressed to whatever extent, your sympathetic nervous system is activated. This is the part of the nervous system that’ll get your body ready to fight & flight. When this system is activated it is impossible to feel relaxed. Chemical reactions program you to not relax.
So what to do to change this? We can’t give up our lives, jobs, families, etc. Thank God we don’t have to go that far to have some stress relief! We just need to activate the parasympathetic nervous system - the part of our nervous system that can signal safety and relaxation to the whole body. There’s many ways of activating this part, let’s see how!
The breath is closely connected to the state of the nervous system. If you see someone breathing rapidly you intuitively know they’re in pain, or in stress. When you visualise a buddhist monk breathing you can tell without having seen one in real life that their breath would be slow and steady. The good thing is you really don’t need to be a buddhist monk to control your breath. Anyone can do it anywhere! In any stressful situation close your eyes, listen to nature sounds or just be in a quiet place for a couple of minutes and do this: Breathe in as slow and deep as possible, then even slower release the air from your lungs. If you want to make sure your inhales and exhales are of equal length, count up to 4 on your inhale and 4 on your exhale. Over time you can count to 4 on your inhale and 5 or 6 on your exhale. Guaranteed in a couple of minutes you’ll feel relaxed! Now you know why we talk so much about the breath in yoga.
Sometimes we hold onto stress in our physical body. Again if you see someone with their shoulders pulled up and falling to the front you can already tell that person is stressed, depressed, or is dealing with anxiety. So physical tension release can help with stress we experience in our minds. Look for a short yoga or stretching sequence you can build into your daily practice. Look for yin yoga, restorative yoga, yoga for stress, or slow yoga classes.
Needless to write much explanation here - sitting still, focusing inwards, breathing steadily, maybe visualising nice things is a pretty obvious stress killer. If you’re new to meditation I recommend starting with 5-10 minute guided meditations. The internet is full of these, find one that speaks to you and have it in your daily practice. Most yoga classes also have a meditation part in the beginning and in the end to combine all the 3 above mentioned things for 100% stress relief.
Well, if by now you aren’t browsing for a yoga class, comment or message us, we’d like to help you further to find your way of stress relief :) But I do believe you’re now keen on trying short practices to enhance the quality of your days :) Check our schedule and join us to get to know what practices are for you :) See you on the mat!