Stress is a good thing. Strain however is not. Stress means that you are facing situations, challenging yourself and dealing with them based on the resources you have. We have learnt in physics that stress is force upon area. In life force is the external circumstance like a test or an appraisal coming up. Area is the resources you have to deal with the force, the time you have to prepare, the expertise to deal with questions or comments etc. Your body and mind get negatively impacted and you feel the strain when stress is overtime . This could be because the force is overwhelming or that the resources you have are inadequate.
We are living in a very exciting, challenging and therefore a highly stressful period. This means our successes will be larger than ever before and likewise the stress we face is unprecedented. Rather than wishing away challenges what is needed is to increase the resources that can calm us down. Thankfully those resources are available in plenty within you.
How to deal with stress?
Calming down, relaxation, resting are all related to the Parasympathetic Nervous System. It is important to make friends with your PNS in order to reduce stress. Yoga is universally known to activate your PNS. The yogic breathing or the full abdominal breathing is the simplest and fastest way to release tension. The practice involves slow long inhalations where your abdomen expands and then the chest expands. The exhalations are longer and ideally double the time taken for inhalations, during breathing out the chest falls followed by the abdomen. 10 long yogic breaths is the typical prescription to deal with stressful situation.
Most Yoga postures that offer the forward bending of the spine or inversion of the spine have a calming effect. The best is the Headstand or Shirshasan. 8 minutes is said to be equivalent to an hour’s deep rest. However it requires assistance from a trained instructor. Shoulder-stand that is Sarvangasan and partial shoulder-stand Viparita Karni are the next choices among postures. Downward facing dog or the Adho Mukha Svanasan, Childs Pose or Balsana, Seated Forward or Bend Paschimottasan are simple yet effective poses to deal with stress. Wind up with simple spinal twists to neutralize the spine and follow with Corpse Pose or Shavasan.
The Restorative Yoga style that uses pillows, bolsters and props to put you onto deeply relaxing poses is highly recommended for those who are finding it very hard to cope with stress.
Techniques to calm the mind
3 techniques that utilize the mind are known to have calming effects.
Pratyahara or withdrawal of senses where you relax different parts of the body such that you no longer feel that part. For instance relax the tongue and jaw, release the tension in the eyes by imagining them falling back into the socket, let the sounds around slowly fade till you hear only your breath at a distance. Here we shut down till the cause of stress melts away.
Another technique is based on Mindfulness where you become impartially aware of the totality of the situation. This is done by becoming aware of the air around you and how it touches your skin, the various sounds you can hear, the scents and odours that are present, the fall and play of light etc. By doing this we are no longer giving undue emphasis to the things that are stressing us but embracing the complete experience. The third is meditation. In its simplest form, sit tall and observe your breath, observe your physical body sensations, observe your mind till you are no longer disturbed by thoughts. For beginners guided meditation is an easier practice. You can try my guided meditation app www.aham.life for a quick and easy relaxation.
Thus, as you explore the resources your breath, your body and mind has to offer to reduce stress, may your strains melt away.
If stress makes you angry opt for breathing and meditation practices.
Opt for slow paced Hatha Yoga sequences or Restorative Yoga practices if stress makes you depressed
If stress reduces your competence and makes your restless internally then opt for fast paced Yoga styles
If you find it hard to sleep, the scent of lavender and chamomile has a calming effect and ideal . Sandalwood oil is well known to soothe the mind.
Sit comfortably near a table, stack palms one on top of the other on the table, rest your forehead on the palm, relax your shoulders. Become aware of the center of the forehead touching your palms. Exhale longer than you inhale. Continue for 3 minutes. Eventually, this will help you access your Vagus Nerve that will activate your PNS.
Downward Facing Dog or Adho Mukha Svanasan
Contraindications : High Blood Pressure, Spinal Injuries, Carpel Tunnel, Hamstring tear etc.
Get down on your fours. Hands are shoulder distance and knees are hip width distance apart. Palms are spread wide with middle fingers of each palm placed parallel to each other. Toes are tucked under.
As you exhale lift your knees away from the mat and lengthen the tail bone, lifting your hips up. Try to straighten the legs till you look like an inverted V.
Do not put the entire weight on your hands, ground from your feet well.
Hold from five breaths to three minutes. End in child pose.
Prior to starting any physical practice, check with a medical practitioner or a trained yoga instructor
In conclusion, Yoga and mindfulness practices can prove to useful for Stress Management.
Authors : Nuthan Manohar, Jaya Arya
About the author : Nuthan Manohar, Founder of Me Met Me is an international trainer, primary researcher and TEDx speaker on wellbeing.
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