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6 Ways Yoga Can Help You Reduce Stress

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The way I see it, stress isn’t something we can entirely avoid. In fact, it kinda goes with the territory of being a person, doesn’t it? A little bit of short-term stress may actually be quite helpful in certain situations, but stress that goes beyond the short term quite frankly sucks.

Prolonged stress takes its toll physically, emotionally and mentally and can affect everything from sleep, digestion, libido and our relationships.

Bubble baths are great but as important as it is to find a releasing outlet, it’s also super important to find tools that help reduce the impact stressful situations have on us. And this, my friends, is where yoga can be a massive help. Check these out.

1. Relax The Body.

Yoga practised in the right way can be as soothing as a hug or a message when it comes to reducing tension and relaxing the physical body. Certain postures have a deeply calming effect on the whole system, particularly forward bends and inversions.

I need to single out Balasana (Child’s Pose) here because of it’s wonderful ability to soothe the adrenal glands and create internal and external calm. Restorative and Yin are great styles for practising the art of letting go as is Shavasana/relaxation at the end of a yoga class.

2. Relax The Mind.

When we are stressed out or anxious, the mind becomes busy -- often to the point of frantic. Learning to focus the mind on one thing at a time may seem like the most difficult thing in the world, but with practice, it becomes easier. How?

Meditation is an incredibly powerful tool for relaxing and slowing down the mind as is any kind of breath awareness. Whether you’re holding postures, flowing through sequences, or in a seated meditation pose, everything begins to focus and slow down when you take your awareness to the breath. Over time and with repeated practice, you start to develop new habits towards a more relaxed internal state.

3. Breathe More Effectively.

Stress and tension can cause us to breathe in a rapid, shallow way, which can lead to more anxiety. Yoga gives you the opportunity to breathe more effectively, using the diaphragm and utilising the whole lung capacity.

Certain Pranayama techniques are useful for reducing stress, particularly Brahmari (humming bee breath), Nadi Shodhana (alternate nostril) and Ujjayi (victorious) breath. Left nostril breath can have an internalising and calming effect too.

4. Develop a Connection Between The Mind And Body.

When the mind and body are connected, there’s generally a greater sense of harmony and ease in our lives. The body sends important signals when something is off balance, which happens so often when we are under pressure. Having the ability to respond is therefore really important for our wellbeing.

Yoga teaches us to be sensitive to each movement and to listen to our bodies. The practice encourages us to exist in the present moment and to live in a more mindful, conscious and connected way.

5. Understand How Your Mind Works.

For me, this point is the most crucial when it comes to long-term stress management, as so much of our stress comes from the way our minds turn. When we let our minds run on auto-pilot mode, that is to live unconsciously, we are at the mercy of our conditioning.

Yoga can help us develop awareness of how our own unique mind works and that awareness can help us live in a more conscious way. As an example, when we are in a challenging place on the yoga mat, awareness lets us see how our mind responds to stress. Our reaction might be to immediately pull out of the pose. Or perhaps it’s to push ourselves further. It might be to get angry at the teacher, or it might be to roll up the mat and get the hell out of there.

By developing awareness over our mind patterns in response to stress, we give ourselves the opportunity to be less affected by them, and to consciously choose another response. I am calm, all is well.

6. Release Emotional Energy.

Negative emotions like fear, anger and guilt can cause stress, particularly if they are not expressed. A build-up of anything creates pressure. Emotional pressure often gets released in an unrefined way, such as shouting at your partner, snapping at a work colleague or getting unreasonably fired up that you got a cappuccino when you ordered a vanilla latte!

We actually release emotional energy really effectively throughout our yoga practice, even if you’re not aware of it. Postures that release the hips and shoulders (where we commonly store emotional tension) are particularly effective.

If you feel a bit wound up, try taking a hip opening yoga class and notice how you feel afterwards. If any residual emotions come up, notice them and then simply spend a few minutes letting them go via the exhalation.

I have a long history with ongoing and at times chronic stress. In my experience, I have found yoga and meditation to be the most effective and by far, the most enjoyable tools to unwind and relax internally and externally. As I’ve mentioned, stress is not something we can completely shelter from, but through yoga and meditation, we can learn how to reduce the impact stressful situations have and set ourselves up for a much happier, healthier and more chilled out future. Om yeah!

posted Dec 10, 2018 by Prathibha.m

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Mindfulness Meditation for Stress and Anxiety

Stress and anxiety result when we feel we can’t handle the pressures and adverse situations of everyday life. It’s a simple question of supply and demand of available emotional resources. 

It’s not about whether the perceived stressor is valid or not—we feel a responsibility to respond to all of the pressures and demands. When we are stressed, the first question we need to ask is whether or not a response is truly necessary.

How Does Meditation Reduce Stress?

Stress Management: Supply & Demand for Emotional Resources

Do we have space in our minds to figure out which tasks are actually essential and which are not so important? This is where mindfulness meditation for stress and anxiety, the feeling that continues after the stressors are gone, can provide relief.

Do we have enough space in our minds to figure out which tasks are truly essential and which are not so important? This is where mindfulness meditation for stress and anxiety – the feeling that continues after the stressors are gone – can provide relief.

How does meditation relieve stress? It gives us the space to sort out which demands on our energy, attention, and emotions are valid and which are not. Just think—if we had the ability to distinguish between the two, our experience of stress and anxiety would be much different. We feel pressure when we don’t have this space in our minds and in our lives. We experience relief when meditation gives us space and clarity we need to organize our priorities. This is the demand side element of stress management.

The other key element is the supply side: increasing our resources. Science has shown that brain plasticity – the brain’s ability to change and adapt throughout life – is extraordinary. By using meditation techniques to train our minds, we increase our mental resources and become more capable.

As a society, we have become very conscious of how important it is to have a fit, healthy body—the gyms are full. It is just as critical to have a fit, healthy mind. Through mindfulness meditation practice, our minds can become more capable, focused and clear, enabling us to better handle stressful and demanding situations. This is how meditation for stress reduction enables us to experience a calmer life.

Stress Prevention

Mindfulness meditation is also a good baseline practice for stress prevention so that when adverse situations occur we don’t let them get out of control.

We all experience stressful situations in life, such as the loss of a loved one, divorce or moving, all of which are considered high-stress events. Any situation of this kind demands a lot from us, so we would be wise to learn some basic ways to respond to stressful situations that cannot be avoided. At those crucial points in our lives, meditation can help provide relief. How? By giving us a better grasp of how to work with situations, a heightened awareness of our emotions, and more space to respond. For example, when we grieve for someone, the more aware we are of everything that is going on in our minds, the better we are able to process our sadness and grief. When we’re not aware, our emotions tend to colour our perception and judgment and inflate our sense of what the situation demands of us, so that it is perceived to be beyond what we think we can provide. This is the insidious cycle of stress.

This is a glimpse of how meditation reduces stress. We begin by creating the space in our minds to reduce demands by discerning what is essential. And we train our minds and increase our mental resources. Then, when stressful situations arise, our training will have provided us with the skills we need to work with our emotions. We can deal with stress in a more peaceful way. Mindfulness meditation practice is the ideal tool for stress management.

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