Stress is the “wear and tear” our bodies experience as we adjust to our continually changing environment. It has physical and emotional effects on us and can create positive or negative feelings. Positive stress adds anticipation and excitement to life, and we all thrive under a certain amount of stress. Deadlines, competitions, confrontations, and even our frustrations and sorrows add depth and enrichment to our lives. Our goal is not to eliminate stress but to learn how to manage it and how to use it to help us. Yoga can help us do that effectively.
Steps to Change Your Reaction to Stress
Identifying unrelieved stress and being aware of its effect on our lives is not sufficient for reducing its harmful effects. Just as there are many sources of stress, there are many possibilities for its management. However, all need to work towards change — changing the source of stress and/or changing your reaction to it.
1. Become aware of your stressors, and your emotional/physical reactions
- Determine what events distress you.
- Determine how your body responds to the stress.
2. Recognize what you can change
Can you reduce their intensity [manage them over a period of time instead of on a daily or weekly basis]? Can you shorten your exposure to stress [take a break]? Can you devote the time and energy necessary to make a change [goal setting, time management techniques, and delayed gratification strategies may be helpful here]?
3. Reduce the intensity of your emotional reactions to stress
Are you expecting to please everyone? Are you overreacting and viewing things as absolutely critical and urgent? Do you feel that you must always prevail in every situation? Try to visualize stress as something you can cope with rather than something that overpowers you. Do not labor on the negative aspects and the “what if’s.”
4. Learn to moderate your physical reactions to stress
Slow, deep breathing will bring your heart rate and respiration back to normal. Relaxation techniques can reduce muscle tension. Medications, when prescribed by a physician, can have a short-term effect in moderating your physical reactions. However, they are not the only answer.
5. Build your physical reserves.
- Exercise for cardiovascular fitness 3-4 times a week [moderate, prolonged rhythmic exercise is best, such as walking and yoga].
- – Eat well-balanced, nutritious meals and maintain a healthy weight.
- – Avoid nicotine, excessive caffeine, and other stimulants.
- – Mix leisure with work. Take breaks and get away when ever you can.
- – Get enough sleep. Be as consistent with your sleep schedule.
6. Maintain your emotional reserves
Pursue realistic goals which are meaningful to you, rather than goals others have for you that you do not share. Always be kind and gentle with yourself – be your friend.
Simple Yoga Techniques to Counter Stress
Here are a few simple yoga techniques that will help you control and manage stress.
- Sit relaxed, reclining against the wall.
- 2. Properly adjust your legs, feet and hands to a comfortable position.
- 3. Sit motionless and feel the quiet.
- 4. Focus your attention on the source of sound preferably of low intensity rhythm, such as the sound of a time-piece.
- 5. Remain passive and get completely absorbed in the sound. Stay for 10 minutes.
Introspective training of the mind, release of tension, physical and mental relaxation, subjective experience of quietude. This is an ideal technique for cultivating passivity.
Lie on the right side of the body in a state of relaxation. Keep the right arm under the head like you would keep a pillow. Extend the legs fully and place one foot over the other. As a variation, one could also bend the upper leg and keep the lower one straight.
- the ankles
- the knees
- the thighs and fingers together
- the genital area
- the anus
- the abdominal area
Then repeat the same on the other side.
Partial shavasana is recommended for complete relaxation of the body and mind. Lie supine [face up] on the floor. Consciously relax different areas of the body starting with:
- The toes
- The chest region
- The shoulders
- The neck
- The chin
- The mouth
- The tip of the nose
- The space between the eyebrows
- The forehead
- The mind
Sit on the mat with your legs fully stretched out. Bend the right leg at the knee joint slowly, fold it with the aid of the hands and bring the right heel to the root of the left thigh, with the right sole turned fully upward and stretched over the left groin. Now, bend the left thigh, and bring the left heel to touch the root of the right thigh, sole turned upward and stretched over the right groin. The ankles now cross each other.
Keep the knees pressed to the ground. Now, keeping the spine erect, draw the abdomen slightly in and close the eyes. Place the left hand over the two heels, palms spread upward. Place the right hand over the left, with palms upward. If it is not possible to use both the legs, one leg only can be placed on the opposite thigh.
Besides being a meditative posture, this asana improves blood circulation to the abdomino-genital region. This helps in toning the various nerve centres located in the pelvic, coccygeal and sacral areas of the spine.
Lie flat on the back with both feet flat on the floor and pull up the knees. Place one hand on the abdomen at the navel region. Inhale slowly and deeply, moving the abdomen upwards. Do not bloat the abdomen. Exhale in a similar manner. As soon as the exhalation is over, pull in the abdomen inwards to form a sort of cavity. Avoid any movement of the chest. Start with three seconds and go on to a maximum of eight seconds. Keep the inhalation and exhalation counts equal. [Maximum 10 rounds]
It is said that if one studies this region around the navel, then one would come to know the working of the entire body including its various systems, and higher nervous control. In fact, one aspect of Yoga in Hatha Yoga has gone into the details of this psychological aspect of human personality.
So, try these yoga techniques and you will see a gradual change in the way you manage stress.
Tibetan Five Rites: The secret of optimal health
The well-guarded secret of long life and eternal youth of the Lamas of Tibet has been discovered. The Tibetan Lamas live for about 100 years and more but look only 40 or 45 years old. Their secret? The Lamas took hundreds of traditional Indian yogasanas to Tibet, experimented with them on their bodies, and modified some of them to identify five dynamic asanas, which they called the “Five Rites.”
The Lamas practised these Five Rites for centuries but no one knew about them until a retired and ailing British army officer, Col. Bredford, discovered them on his visit to Tibet. He lived with the Lamas in their monastery, learned and practised the Rites for two years during which time his backache and arthritis were cured within months, and he started looking and feeling many years younger. His eyesight, memory and alertness also improved.
When he returned to the West, his friend and writer, Peter Kelder wrote a book “The Ancient Secret of the Fountain of Youth” based on the experiences of Col. Bredford.
How do the Five Rites work?
There are seven chakras or vortexes [energy centres] in our body. When we are young, these vortexes spin very fast, allowing the prana shakti or life energy, to move fast in our body. But, as we age and also due to our irregular lifestyle, these chakras slow down or get blocked, causing faster ageing and sickness.
The easiest and quickest way to regain youth, optimal health and vitality is to get the vortexes spinning fast again and to balance the chakras. This is where the Five Rites come in handy.
— Razia Patel
Razia Patel is trained in Siddha Yoga and is a certified teacher of meditation. Along with her husband, she conducts Tibetan yoga workshops.
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