Updated: Nov 14
You probably have heard and experienced that yoga reduces your levels of stress. We simply can't help feeling good after doing yoga! Yet, when we go through stressful times, the odd yoga class here and there is not enough. Consider making your yoga practice part of a bigger strategy to overcome challenges and feel better.
1. Let go of judgement - treat yourself kindly Stress is a very personal experience. What is stressful for one person may be enjoyable for someone else (for example a long distance flight). Different people react differently to the same event, and even the same person may react differently to the same situation at different times. It's complicated.
Therefore, when dealing with stress, you need to fully understand and accept yourself just the way your are. Trust yourself. Listen to your inner wisdom. Self-study (svadhyaya) provides the foundation for everything else, whether that is progressing to advanced postures or progress in managing stress. Without this foundation of self-awareness and self-acceptance, you might judge yourself harshly thus making things worse.
2. Carve out some me-time
Creating a bit of time for yourself when you are needed everywhere by everyone for everything can be hard, but it is essential. You need a bit of time and space to just breathe, let go and enjoy yourself. A 20 minute yoga practice can work wonders. As can a short brisk walk, being creative or playing music. Do whatever gives you pleasure and allows you to switch off from whatever else is going on in your life. You need to care for yourself if you want to be able to meet the challenges ahead. For gemtle, stress-releasing yoga practices you can do daily, at home, head over to my YouTube Channel.
3. Ask for help
Some problems have a practical solution, some get better by themselves, some become less troublesome through a change of perspective. Often though, when feeling overwhelmed by stressful events, we may not be able to see the wood for the trees. Reaching out and speaking to others can help us see a way out. Make a list of of people, you could turn to: a trusted friend or relative, your doctor, a priest, a colleague. Asking for help is not a weakness but a mature response.
4. Relieve the symptoms
Stress is our body's reaction to demands, pressures and threat. It flushes our system with stress hormones, which enable us to summon our utmost strength to fight danger or run away from it. Once the danger is gone, our relaxation response kicks in and we return to our natural way of balance. When this fight-or-flight response becomes too strong or doesn't find a release, we can become overwrought. As a result, anxiety can creep in, our thoughts are racing, we have difficulty concentrating, sleep badly, get a headache or have heart palpitations. Yoga offers a variety of proven tools and techniques to help you release the symptoms of stress and regain your inner balance.
5. Make a plan and stick to It
One of the characteristics of stress is that we feel out of control. Making a plan on how to start dealing with the situation can help us take back control. Make sure your plan is realistic and achievable, and that you have included the all-important me-time of step 2. Try to stick to the plan, eliminating what doesn't work and enforcing what does). We don't have to overhaul our entire life to move forward, little steps done consistently can have a big effect and will move us forward eventually.
Yoga from a stress management perspective
Recent research has shown that certain techniques help reduce levels of stress and anxiety. These include exercise, conscious breathing, relaxation techniques, and meditation. All of these are part of the yoga system. Often overlooked is the 'yoga of the mind', helpful philosophical concepts and lifestyle advice that can be found in ancient texts. For example, in the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali written at about 400 AD, you will find ideas such as santosha (contentment through acceptance), tapas (self-discipline), swadhyaya (self-study), ahimsa (non-harming), and brahmacharya (prudent use of energy).
To delve deeper into this topic, and to learn how to move from overwhelmed to calm and in control again, check out my Yoga for Stress Foundation Course.
“Yoga allows you to find an inner peace that is not ruffled and riled by the endless stresses and struggles of life.” (B.K.S. Iyengar)