Yoga and Meditation to Relieve Stress

Yoga and Meditation to Relieve Stress
Yoga and Meditation to Relieve Stress

Feeling frazzled? Rather than sulking in despair or reaching for another handful of your “comfort” food of choice, feed yourself with research-backed coping methods of yoga and meditation. Calming breathing techniques and relaxing yoga poses can ease stress immediately, here’s how:

Your thought process does not define you- live above the ego, and find a place of calm and ease- yoga and meditation can absolutely help get you there.

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Yoga fosters a deeper level of mindfulness and acceptance, both internal and external. The practice teaches us to live our lives with purpose and integrity, to be patient and compassionate, aware and able to adjust to the ups and downs of this beautiful life. Listening to your own body and connecting with your own heart has an uplifting, authenticity that is hard to beat and easy to access.

Many yoga practices include calming breathing techniques to activate the parasympathetic nervous system, which reduce blood pressure and slows the heart and breathing rates. A well-rounded yoga practice encourages you to pay attention to the sensations in your body and your reactions to those sensations. Yoga, therefore, can allow you to be aware of and respond differently to stress-inducing thoughts and experiences.

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The practice is about coming “home” to yourself in your own, lovely body.

Meditation Practice to Relieve Stress

A simple moment of centering can tame the mind, decreasing stress and anxiety. The most compelling part of meditation? All you need is a quiet space and an open mind.

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Begin by sitting comfortably, whether in an office desk or on the floor (yoga mat is a plus!), feel the grounding effect of connecting your sitz bones (ischial tuberosity, to be more anatomical) to the floor. Let awareness flow upward through your body, lengthening the spine, ultimately creating a comfortable upright position for you to begin your “inner work.” Already, you may feel more confident, due to better posture and increase of mind-body awareness. The eyes may close if you feel comfortable; this simple tactic allows for an easier inward transition. As a Kripalu Instructor once mentioned, “gently close the outer eyes, and allow the inner eyes to awaken to your senses.” Yoga is essentially a personal quest towards inner exploration- the act of being present and finding calm in yourself, aka meditating, is a great way to diminish stress and boost self acceptance.

Become grounded through the center of your core, and then allow awareness to float upward to the crown of your head. If thoughts appear, let them to pass like a cloud floating in the sky. Take a few long, deep breaths to release tension from the body; you are beginning to open channels of energy that may have been blocked due to stressful, negative thinking. Let go of any sense of holding, every subtle tension; relax the face muscles, the jaw- feel a sense of ease throughout your being. Thoughts naturally jump to the surface of our mind; during this meditation, keep returning to the rhythm of your breath. If you feel yourself becoming distracted by the incessant chatter of your to-do list, focus on your heart, rest your palm above your heart in the middle of your chest; you are feeling the energy center of compassion within you, “the little sun.” Notice what you feel. Allow sensations to occur, remain present and nonjudgmental to anything that arises. To release, slowly open the eyes and take a moment to connect to your natural breath, you may feel more alive, radiant, with a feeling of gratitude for taking time to connect your unique self.

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Yoga Poses to Combat Stress

The ultimate yoga pose for instant stress release: Legs-up-the-wall pose!

How to: Scoot hips against any wall surface, legs are vertical, up and down. Settle in, close the eyes, and breathe in and out through the nose. This asana creates a blood flow reverse, which is therapeutic for the mind and body. Stay for as long as you would like, if you are pushed for time, one minute of this pose will restore your clarity and release pressure and anxiety. To release, bend knees, let knees fall to one side, slowly press until comfortable seated position.

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Standing forward fold stretches the hamstrings, thighs, hips, and is thought to relieve stress, fatigue, and mild depression. The reversal of typical blood flow and simply folding the body inward gives-Standing Forward Fold a gold star in the “letting go” pose category, especially after sitting for an extended period of time.

How to: Stand in Mountain pose, feet hip width apart, body in an upright, confident position. On an inhale, rise arms overhead- a nice stretch for the arms and shoulders. On exhale, hinge at the hips, heart leading the way, as you begin to bend forward, with a slight bend to the knees to release the low back. Remain in this position for a few cleansing breaths. To release, one vertebra at a time- mindfully make your way back to Mountain pose.

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Now that you have a centering practice and a few soothing poses under your belt, please use these techniques whenever you feel called to come back to your body. You are so much more than the stressful thoughts swimming in your mind. Your thought process does not define you- live above the ego, and find a place of calm and ease- yoga and meditation can absolutely help get you there.

 

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