As many of you already know, I began yoga for two primary reasons many moons ago. One was to try and alleviate chronic pain in my back due to Scoliosis, the other, to manage stress levels which were off the richter scales.
Stress is hands down NASTY! No one wants stress in their lives. Plus, it’s a really unhealthy way of living. With adrenals working over time it’s no wonder people suffer all sorts of hormone imbalances, digestive problems, troubles with sleep…. The list of problems associated with stress is endless. BUT, although we can sometimes feel like stress levels are spiraling out of control, and therefore our lives, there is hope yet. I promise you. Speaking from experience, yoga has taught me how to bring my stress under control. Don’t get me wrong, some days are tougher than others (I’m still human remember) but yoga has given me tools to try and bring everything back in balance.
So how can you begin to bring this beast under your control and start living a happier and healthier life?
One: BREATHE! Have you ever gotten to the end of your day and realised you forgot to take even one deep breath that day? With such a fast paced world, this is common. But this is wreaking havoc in your body. Not only do deep breaths still the mind, they bring oxygen to the body, to the development of new and healthy cells. If we forget to breathe deeply we are robbing ourselves of health. In yogic philosophy there is a saying that we only have so many breathes in one lifetime, so in order to live a long life we need to extend the length of our breath. So, for easy numbers sake, if we only have 100 breaths in one lifetime, then I know I would want to draw them out for as long as possible!
When practicing asanas, always breathe deeply through each of them. You will not only go deeper into your practice, but the relaxation you will experience afterward in body, breath and mind, will be tremendous.
Two: Sit on your mat. Some of the best advice I received from a teacher (who has inspired me over the years) was to always sit on my mat. Even when there were days I didn’t feel like practicing (which was absolutely ok), she recommended I just take a moment to sit on my mat.
Being on your mat will ground you. It will bring stillness to your mind. Even if you're in the middle of a crowded place, there is a sacred space we all create when we’re on our mats, and by just being there, with eyes gently closed, our breath and heart rates will begin to slow. You never know, it may also encourage you to start stretching out too!
Three: Legs up! That’s right, get those legs up the wall!! Lay against the skirting of a wall and slowly take your legs up the wall whilst bringing your back flat to the floor. One of the best ways to calm the whole body. The benefits of laying like this for a few minutes each day are too many to note, but to name a few; the heart is rested as it’s not having to pump so hard to bring the blood back up from the legs, blood which has pooled in the legs is now being flushed out and will be replenished with fresh blood, it gives relieves menstrual problems, is amazing for healing respiratory problems like asthma, alleviates migraines or tension headaches… Seriously an endless list. This simple practice can heal so much in the body if practiced consistently. Just doing this before bed each night will bring you into deep relaxation and ready for a rested night which is crucial when trying to get on top of those stress levels.
Our bodies are far more sensitive than we give them credit for, and they put up with ALOT of external and internal stressors. If we remember to be gentle with ourselves, our bodies will be forever grateful. The number of breathes we shall have in our lives will be extended and we can step into our happier and healthier selves.
Whilst we see experienced practitioners doing all sorts of amazing asanas, at the end of the day, we don’t need to reach that level of flexibility or strength in order to attain the benefits of the practice. Like most things in life, often it’s the simplest things which are the most effective.
So - stepping into your new stress-free life, consciously choose to take back control, to manage stress rather than be managed by it, and watch the amazing transformations in self unfold.