Stress Free with Yoga

Hi everyone, last week Wes introduced us to our health focus for the month- ‘Banishing Stress’ with a great blog on the different ways in which we might both express or supress our symptoms of stress.

I loved the way Wes talked about this as I believe that getting to know yourself well is one of the most important ingredients in learning to manage your health and wellbeing effectively by taking full responsibility for yourself.

As a Yoga teacher I’m slightly biased, but believe that Yoga is a powerful tool for learning about yourself on the physical, emotional and soul levels. Yoga also offers many practices and techniques that you can use to bring you back from the edge of stress or the full blown consequences of it if you pass your tipping point and find yourself in a health crises that requires extended care.

Below I’ve outlined three simple techniques that come from Yoga that you can apply if you’re feeling like the wave of stress is cresting, that might help prevent you from wiping out once again! There’s one that’s suited to each of the ‘stress types’ Wes mentioned last week but I encourage you to explore and experiment with which one works best for you!

Meditation for the ‘Stoic’ on the go – Make space to help listen to your intuition.

Live a busy lifestyle? Does your world revolve around helping others or being the ‘responsible’ one?  Meditation is probably the last thing on your busy mind but incorporating even just five minutes a day could reap you profound benefits in your ability to manage and recover from stress.

Simple, short meditation practices are a wonderful way to create space in your body, mind and day. One of the easiest ways to start a home meditation practice is to set your alarm 5 minutes early each morning and sit quietly for those five minutes in simple observation of your breath.

Yogis believe that cultivating the ability to concentrate is the first ingredient in moving towards meditation and eventually enlightenment. That’s why we give the mind the job of holding focus on one simple thing at a time - to develop our ability to resist distractions - and the breath is a great place to start given it’s always right there with us!

To Practice:

•    Find a quiet place and sit comfortably. It can be a chair with back support or a cushion on the floor – just try not to lie down as you might just fall asleep again!

•    Set a timer so you know how long you’ll be there for and can relax into the experience. Try a soft gentle tone to rouse you – not something that will shock your nervous system!

•    Breathe deeply and use your power of visualisation to connect with the path of breath in and out of your body, eventually imagining it can travel all the way to your toes.

•    Observe if these few minutes of space at the start of your day help you manage all of your tasks in a more effective and calm way.

Pranayama for the ‘Dramatiser’ – Let breath be your conduit to inner calm.

Does your mind move a million miles and hour trying to keep up with all the things you’re overcommitted but unable to say no to for fear of letting anyone else down? Are you stuck in a cycle of negative talk and thoughts about your current life circumstances?  Stop! Take a deep breath. And another one. How do you feel now?

It’s no secret that our bodies and minds are connected. When we have a thought it influences our bodies in hormonal, emotional and physical ways. Luckily for us humans, we also have the power to rewire our brains by using our physical bodies to bring our consciousness back into balance if we’re feeling the signals or symptoms of stress.

Different types of breathing alter our physical and psychological state.  Generally deeper breathing patterns encourage our bodies away from the fight/flight/fright response of adrenaline-fuelled stress and towards a calmer body-mind state of relaxation (rest/digest). It’s a simple circuit breaker you can use when you notice you’re feeling anxious or a regular practice you can incorporate into your day repeated times to help you maintain a sense of calm serenity in the sea of drama queens out there!

To Practice:

•    As I mentioned above…Take a deep breath! Repeat.  As many time as required to reconnect to your body and your sense of internal peace.

•    Generally focusing on breathing deep into your low abdomen, almost puffing out your belly with each inhale can help bring your stress levels back down to earth.

•    Allow the muscles around your jaw to slacken as you breathe out through your mouth. This will help relax tension around your shoulders as well.

•    The beauty of breath is that you can do it anywhere and no one needs to know you’re doing a self-management technique!

•    Observe if these few moments of breath give you some emotional space between your runaway thought train or some clarity on what’s within your power to change, and what’s not.

Somatics for the ‘Secret Stress-head’ – Let your body tell you how you feel.

Got a secret buried so deep even you’ve forgotten what is was? Got a myriad of health challenges but can’t quite pinpoint why or where they come from?

Welcome to the secret society of the masters of internal suppression! It’s a global club way bigger than you’d imagine and you walk through society quietly ‘saving face’ not knowing who else might be one of your secret club members.

As Wes mentioned last week exercise is your friend. But probably not the kind of exercise that you’re used to. Often certified members of secret club stress use exercise to punish themselves or to suppress any feelings that come up, because feelings are too scary/unfamiliar/overwhelming/inconvenient to ‘deal’ with. Life must go on, so you do what you do best and suppress – in any way possible.  

Beginning a relationship with your feelings is tricky, sometimes scary stuff. A lot of us aren’t well versed in the language of emotions but our bodies store up all of our feelings in our tissues until we’re able to express them. Suppressed emotions manifest as physical symptoms.

Beginning a Yoga asana practice that’s kind to your body and mind is a way to unlock and explore some of the emotions that are stored up within you in a gentle way. Restorative Yoga is also a great way to calm a very stressed out nervous system.  

To Practice:

•    You can do your own practice at home or outdoors, take in a local Restorative Yoga class or make an appointment with me at Live Well for a private session and take-home program.

•    If you’re practicing at home, keep any movements you do no faster than one full breath per movement to really help slow you down.

•    Investigate what it’s like to hold poses for longer periods of 10 breaths or more and notice what kinds of feelings arise for you through this challenge.

•    The more you can soften and surrender into the longer held poses, the more your mind and nervous system will relax and you’ll eventually be able to cultivate a sense of connection and calm with your emotions.

•    Make sure you don’t hold anything back. Give yourself permission to feel. Ask questions and notice what answers bubble up from your body and deeper levels of consciousness. This is how you begin to tap in to your intuition!

Overall be patient with yourself. Yoga is not a practice of cultivating perfection, it’s a process of being nice to yourself while you learn new ways of looking after yourself and interacting with the world.

If you can make a commitment to incorporating just one of these practices into your days, weeks and eventually life, you’ll notice the benefits flowing off your mat or meditation cushion and into your daily life in the way you more consciously and kindly act and interact with others.

Have fun exploring your stress-free yoga journey and please feel free to book in for a session with me if you have any questions!

Namaste!