Updated: Nov 14
April is National Stress Awareness Month to raise awareness of the negative impact of stress, but also and maybe more importantly to encourage you to find out how to cope better with stress.
You might be surprised to read that there is no single, commonly agreed definition of the word stress. The World Health Organisation defines it as “a state of worry or mental tension caused by a difficult situation.” The Charity Mind says that “stress is how we react when we feel under pressure or threatened.” And the NHS states that “stress is the body's reaction to feeling threatened or under pressure. These different definitions highlight that there are different elements of stress: A cause or trigger, a physical stress response, and resulting feelings, emotions and behaviours.
Keep in mind though that not all stress is bad: Some short-term stress can be stimulating and empowering. Long-term stress on the other hand can have a detrimental effect on your physical and mental health.
Yoga is particularly useful for managing the physical symptoms of stress. In addition, yoga can also help you detect the symptoms of stress more easily and create a positive and resilient frame of mind.
On my my website you can find several resources for managing stress with yoga:
· Free YouTube Videos specifically for stress management
· A free Yoga for Beginners Course
· Individual 1:1 sessions for personalised stress coaching (via Zoom)
· A comprehensive Yoga for Stress Foundation Course.
Why yoga for stress relief?
Just in case you didn't know: Yoga is a system that combines physical exercise, conscious breathing, relaxation, and meditation. Each of these elements can help you manage stress. Studies have also shown that yoga can help reduce levels of anxiety, lower blood pressure, and improve sleep.
When practicing yoga, your body moves from a state of high alert (fight-or-flight response) to a state of ease (relaxation response). I am a fan of short, focussed daily yoga practices because they offer that precious Me-Time where I can just let go of the daily hassles, release tensions in my body and find some inner peace and quiet.
Body, mind, and breath
The areas of the body that tend to carry the most stress are the neck, shoulders, back, and jaws. Yoga poses can help loosen up these tense muscles in your body. More dynamic yoga styles will help improve your cardio-vascular fitness and "work out" that stress.
While doing poses, your mind will be concentrating on what you are doing and is less likely to wander off to your do-lists, worries and pre-occupations. I asked one of my clients about the difference between yoga and other forms of exercise and the answer was "yoga is totally absorbing. I have no time to think about my stress at work and completely relax."
Whenever something challenging comes along, try to focus on your breathing for about a minute or two until you feel calmer. You may be surprised how much better you now can deal with the situation. There is a range of yoga breathing techniques that can help you feel calmer or to energise when feeling fatigued.
The best part about yoga is its underlying ethos of self-acceptance, self-compassion, and self-responsibility. Yoga can help you feel more at peace with yourself. You may not feel these benefits instantly, however: As with all things, the positive effects of yoga will build up over time.
There is a lot yoga has to offer when it comes to managing stress. To delve into this interesting topic, join the Yoga for Stress Foundation Course. Based on a combination of daily yoga practices, reflections, and a comprehensive course guide, you will get a thorough grounding in stress management tools and techniques.
“Within you, there is a stillness and a sanctuary to which you can retreat any time and be yourself.” (Hermann Hesse)