Yoga for Stress Relief

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How can you reduce your stress load? Is your body and brain sending you obvious signals that it wants you to relax and de-stress? Your working days can be hectic and overwhelming – the challenge is to find contentment amidst all the agitation-inducing activity, and hold that peacefulness within your heart throughout the hussle and bussle of city living. During the day we can take in an avalanche of information, reducing our oxygen intake air and stuffing our brains with toxic info-overload.

The best way to release (let go) of your day is to fully exhale, to empty your body of all thought-patterns and emotional triggers you are holding onto inside of yourself.  By doing a few yoga moves as part of this breathing exercise, you’ll feel rejuvenated and re-focused, and thereby enabling you to embrace the present moment with a chilled and relaxed heart. As we know (but often find difficult to embody), each moment we live in (and draw breath from) is a moment to be cherished and appreciated.

You can complete the following as a sequence in numerical order. Notice how you feel before and after your yoga session. Throughout the sequence, be fully aware of your movements, and always breathe and move at the same time.

 

GET IT OUT

Wood Chopping pose (Kashtha Takshanasana)

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This pose works wonders to release any tension held from a full day of running around.

Stand with your feet one leg distant apart, toes in slightly, legs active and knees bent. Make a fist with your hands. As you inhale, raise your arms up over your head, reaching high; as you swing your arms down through your legs, make a large ‘arrrrrrrrrrrrr’ sound on your exhale, like you’re chopping wood. It’s a deep release.

Repeat a few times, and add a few more if your day has been really stressful.

 

LET IT FALL AWAY 

Forward Bend pose (Uttanasana)

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Hanging forward into forward bends lengthen your spine, as well as soothe and allow you to turn inwardly. Stand with your feet hip distant apart. From your hips, tilt forward with knees bent to protect your lower back. Hang off your hips, letting your neck, face and eyes be soft. Just let your arms hang down, placing one hand onto each elbow. Press your feet firmly into the floor to stabilise and keep you grounded. Breathe deeply for about a minute. To come up to standing, roll up slowly with knees soft.

 

SHAKE IT AWAY 

Easy pose (Sukhasana)

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Sometimes we’re holding onto some emotional trigger or regret-filled memory, whether we realise it or not. To really make sure your day has been left in the past where it belongs, shake it’s effects away! Sit in a cross-legged, easy posture (‘sukhasana’), and use a cushion and/or the wall, if that’s more comfortable. This provides a firm and stable base for the body, as well as keeping your energy centered. Raise your arms up over your head. Keep your spine long and upright. Start shaking your arms, head and shoulders – kindly and fairly steadily – to release the energy from your day. Try this for 10 full breaths or more.

 

BALANCE YOURSELF 

Alternate nostril breathing (Nadi Shodhana Pranayama)

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This is a beautiful breathing technique that helps keep the mind calm, happy and peaceful. A few minutes of Nadi Shodhana Pranayama per day is the best way to de-stress the mind and release accumulated tension and fatigue.

Sit comfortably with your spine erect and shoulders relaxed. Keep a gentle smile on your face. Place your left hand on the left knee, palms open to the sky or in Chin Mudra (thumb and index finger gently touching at the tips). Place the tip of the index finger and middle finger of the right hand in between the eyebrows, the ring finger and little finger on the left nostril, and the thumb on the right nostril. We will use the ring finger and little finger to open or close the left nostril and thumb to do likewise for the right nostril. Press your thumb down on the right nostril and breathe out gently through the left nostril. Now breathe in from the left nostril and then press the left nostril gently with the ring finger and little finger. Removing the right thumb from the right nostril, breathe out from the right. Breathe in from the right nostril and exhale from the left. You have now completed one round of Nadi Shodhan pranayama. Continue inhaling and exhaling from alternate nostrils. Complete 9 such rounds by alternately breathing through both the nostrils. After every exhalation, remember to breathe in from the same nostril from which you exhaled. Keep your eyes closed throughout and continue taking long, deep, smooth breaths without any force or effort. This breathing technique helps to establish a calm demeanor while centering the mind.

 

S-Q-U-E-E-Z-E

Lying Leg Hug pose – (Pavanamuktasana)

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When was the last time you actually thanked yourself for being you? By just giving yourself a hug, even for a few moments, you’ll increase the appreciation you have for yourself, knowing that you can only do the best that you can do.

Lie down on your back, folding your legs at the knee. Next, hug your knees to the abdomen as closely as you possibly can without allowing your hips to rise up off the ground. Feel free to hold this position as long as possible and repeat it five times. Close your eyes and give yourself a squeeze of gratitude.

 

RELAXATION

Corpse pose (Savasana)

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For most of us, completely stopping from all activity and being totally still is probably the hardest thing in the world to accomplish. This corpse pose (savasana) is one of the most important poses in a yoga practice – it’s a pose for complete relaxation, keeping your mind solely on the breath. If your mind wanders, just keep drawing it back to your breathing. Lie flat on your back with your arms and legs apart and eyes closed. Roll your shoulders away from your ears, head to the centre; toes are falling out to the sides, legs straight and relaxed, with palms facing upward in order to receive all that you need to bring in. Let every breath deepen as your mind rests on the rhythm of your breathing.

Lay in savasana for 5-10 mins before rolling out to the right hand side and coming back up into a cross-legged sit. Give yourself a few quiet moments to appreciate your life with an aura of grace and gratitude.

Always remember that one of the best remedies for a healthier lifestyle is merely a yoga mat away! Namaste.


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