A healthy stressor can be the kick in the pants you need to get things done, like looking for that new job or saving money to pay off your car. However, long-term stress can lead to anxiety, weight gain, decreased immune system, and emotional distress. Yoga has been proven to counteract these effects. Before stress gets the best of you, step onto your yoga mat.
There’s a reason why some of the most notable business people and celebrities (Arianna Huffington, Madonna, and Kate Hudson to name a few) incorporate yoga and meditation techniques into their high-pressure lives. It’s not that yoga erases all stress; rather it is the tool with which to manage it.
Yoga is an ancient practice that has an immediate need in our modern world. Dozens of devices and a million apps have been created to make our lives easier, but it seems that our stress is at an all time high. Perhaps we’re doing too much at all times. Slowing down, and tuning into the feelings and sensations in your body, are essential, and yoga helps you do it. Practice these stress-relieving yoga and meditation techniques at any time to calm your mind.
Yoga enforces the use of breath for everything you do from movement to stillness. One of the most common breathing techniques used in yoga class is Ujayi breathing. With lips sealed, you breathe in and out through your nose with a goal of matching the length of your exhales to the length of your inhales. This technique calms the central nervous system and lowers the heart rate.
Stress has a way of magnifying a situation or circumstance. In a state of stress, our thoughts begin to jump to the past or future. I should have done this. Why didn’t I do that? How will I ever get this done? What if…? These thoughts only cause more stress and anxiety – oh the vicious cycle! You only have control over what is happening right now so staying present actually soothes your stressed state of mind. Practicing meditation daily helps with focus, awareness and staying present. There are several ways to meditate, and while there is no right or wrong in meditation it takes practice – so keep at it!. A couple techniques you can do right now include closing your eyes and listening to your breath, or repeating a mantra. There are a ton of great meditation apps that will help you too.
The sense of being “grounded” (think anchored or rooted to something strong) helps alleviate feelings of anxiety or panic (which have a frenetic quality). Mountain pose, or Tadasana, is a simple yoga posture that reminds us to stay strong and still, not hasty and reactive. In this pose you stand on both feet with your hands by your sides. Gently tuck your pelvis under, lengthen the top of your head toward the sky, and roll your shoulders down and back. Now stay here and breathe. It seems pretty basic, but stillness isn’t always easy – especially in a state of stress. Mountain pose is always available to you. At any moment when you feel stressed, bring your feet flat on the floor and visualize yourself in Tadasana pose (or stand up and do the full pose). Plant your feet and be still.
Yoga is much more than a good stretch. With a consistent practice you will build strength, increase your flexibility, improve your health, and, most importantly, find calm in the midst of a stress storm.