Yoga for Stress Management
In today's era of globalization where there is a lot of competition, innovation and change, executives in all organizations cannot avoid tension, stress and anxiety in their day-to-day work. Only hardworking, disciplined, punctual and mentally alert executives can survive the work pressures and strike a balance between work life and personal life. They are exposed to stress and tension for long periods which may manifest in the form of many ailments like hypertension, high/low blood pressure, insomnia, depression, backaches, migraine, spondylitis, etc. This in turn results in overall decrease in the executive’s efficiency and productivity; consequently, there is a deterioration of human capital in the organization. Yoga is the answer for healing stress among working men and women. This all-in-one formula acts as a soothing agent for the burned-out Indian corporate and is fast growing on the popularity charts. It serves as reviver of mind, body and soul. The techniques of yoga comprise of physical postures (asanas), breath expansion and enhancement (pranayama), relaxation and meditation techniques (dhyaan), coupled with philosophy of simple and natural lifestyle management. It enhances energy of the person and develops a positive attitude. It has been attested by many as a complete all-in-one holistic formula for stress management.
When we are in a constant state of stress, our minds are tense, our bodies are tense and our sympathetic nervous system is heightened. Specific yoga poses can induce the relaxation response in the body. Calming and restorative poses along with controlled breathing activate the parasympathetic nervous system, bringing the mind and body to a calm and relaxed state.
Some Asanas that help in stress management:
Tadasana (Mountain Pose):
It helps you improve your concentration levels by increasing your focus level.
Stand straight with your feet flat on the mat with the heels slightly spaced out and big toes touching each other. Keep your spine straight while hands straight on either side, with palms facing the thighs.
Slowly stretch your hands and bring your palms together.
Inhale deeply and stretch your spine while taking the folded hands up above your head. Stretch as much as possible.
Slowly lift your ankle and stand on your toes, with eyes facing the ceiling.
Hold the position for a minimum of 30 seconds, while breathing normally.
Slowly relax your body and bring your feet back to the floor.
Balasana (Child Pose):
This helps you to relax completely, like a child. In this pose, you curl up like a foetus.
Sit on your knees with your palms facing the floor on either side of the body.
As you inhale, bring your whole body forward in such a way that only the forehead touches the floor.
Stay in the position for a minimum of 30 seconds, while breathing normally. The longer you stay, the more relaxed you will feel.
Slowly lift your forehead and stretch your body back to Vajrasana (Diamond pose).
People suffering from knee injuries are advised not to try this pose.
Padmasana (Lotus Pose):
This pose is commonly used during meditation and helps to increase the self-awareness levels. The pose helps you to calm down and soothes your mind.
Sit cross legged. The left feet should be on right thigh and vice versa, while the soles face up.
Keep the spine erect.
Keep the hands in Gyan mudra.
Close your eyes and while inhaling and exhaling deeply, maintain the pose for a minimum of 30 seconds.
People suffering from knee injuries are advised not to try this pose.
Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose):
This is one of the 12 phases of Surya Namaskar (Sun Salutation). Along with energizing the body and offering relief from indigestion problems, the pose is known to relax your body. Thus, it is an ideal asana for obtaining relief from stress.
Stand straight with your feet flat on the mat. Keep your spine straight while hands straight on either side, with palms facing the thighs.
While breathing normally, bend forward, and place the palms in front of you on the mat. The head should face down.
Slowly stretch your legs backwards, one at a time, while maintaining the balance, in such a way that the feet and hands are in line with each other.
Make sure that the elbows are straight and fingers are spread out.
Inhale deeply and tuck in your stomach completely.
Hold the position, while breathing normally, with tummy tucked in for about 30 seconds to 60 seconds.
Exhaling slowly, come back to the standing pose.
Repeat three to five times.
Savasana (Corpse Pose):
Relax yourself completely with this pose. If you do not have time for any other yoga asanas, you can practice this. It brings your breathing to normal levels, and thus, helps to soothe down stress levels.
Lie down in supine position.
Close your eyes.
Slump your body in such a way that it looks lifeless.
Let go of everything and experience the serenity as your body weight shifts away from you completely.
Maintain the position until you feel light and relaxed.
This pose helps you do away with fatigue and fills your mind with an amazingly intense calmness.
With our busy life schedules, we often ignore our breathing. It tends to be fast and shallow. We use only a little of our lung power while inhaling and exhaling. This shallow breathing leads to less oxygen supply and the negative emotions get stuck inside the body. Due to the lack of prana (oxygenated breath) we suffer restlessness, stress, anxiety, etc. This leads to different complications like sleep disorders, fatigue, etc.
Pranayama encourages slow and rhythmic breathing practices that help us take sufficient amount of oxygen that re-energizes our body. In the process, we tend to let go of our negative emotions, thus, making ourselves free from negative emotions.
Yoga offers a number of breathing techniques for stress relief. These breathing techniques are called pranayama. Pranayama comprises of various ways of inhaling, exhaling and breath retention. This breath is inter-linked with consciousness, both at the cosmic and individual levels. Pranayama creates a synergy between the self-energizing life force and individual mind-body-spirit by scientific regulation of prana.
Perhaps the simplest form of pranayama is Anuloma-Viloma or Nadi Shodhana (Alternate Nostril Breathing). Nadis are subtle nerve channels through which prana, ‘life-force’ flows. In addition, Dirga Pranayama, Ujjayi and Brahmari also help reduce stress.
Some Pranayamas that help in stress management :
Anulom Vilom Pranayama
To practice the Anuloma viloma pranayama just follow these simple steps:
Sit in a position, close the eyes and settle down.
With the right thumb close the right nostril.
Inhale slowly through the left nostril until the maximum capacity.
Hold your breath (Not for beginners, hypertension and asthma people).
With the right hand’s middle and ring fingers close the left nostril.
Release the right thumb and exhale slowly.
Now inhale through right nostril.
Hold the breath.
Exhale through left nostril.
It induces calmness of mind by regulating the flow of prana in the body.
The whole body is nourished with an extra supply of pure oxygen, and the carbon dioxide is more efficiently eliminated.
This pranayama purifies the whole blood system and is helpful to increase the overall health of the body.
Very good to increase the resistance power of the body.
Very useful for all respiratory disorders like asthma and bronchitis.
Good to increase concentration, to get sound sleep.
Due to its overall benefit, this pranayama is considered as fundamental pranayama, so one has to do this regularly for maintaining good physical and mental health.
Sheetali Pranayama (cooling breath)
To practice Sheetali Pranayama just follow these simple steps:
Sit in any comfortable meditation posture.
Close the eyes and relax the whole body.
Extend the tongue outside the mouth as far as possible without strain. Roll the sides of the tongue up so that it forms a tube. Practise a long, smooth and controlled inhalation through the rolled tongue.
At the end of inhalation, draw the tongue in, close the mouth and exhale through the nose.
Practise yogic breathing throughout.
The breath should produce a sucking sound.
A feeling of icy coldness will be experienced on the tongue and the roof of the mouth. This is one round.
This practice cools the body and affects the important brain centres associated with biological drives and temperature regulation. It cools and reduces mental and emotional excitation, and encourages the free flow of prana throughout the body. It induces muscular relaxation, mental tranquillity and may be used as a tranquillizer before sleep. It gives control over hunger and thirst, and generates a feeling of satisfaction.
Bhramari Pranayama (humming bee breath)
To practice the Bhramari Pranayama just follow these simple steps:
Sit in a comfortable meditation asana, preferably padmasana or siddha/siddha yoni asana with hands resting on the knees in joana or chin mudra.
Close the eyes and relax the whole body.
The lips should remain gently closed with the teeth slightly separated throughout the practice. This allows the sound vibration to be heard and felt more distinctly.
Raise the arms sideways and bend the elbows, bringing the hands to the ears. Use the index or middle finger to plug the ears or the flaps of the ears may be pressed without inserting the fingers.
Bring awareness to the centre of the head, where ajna chakra is located, and keep the body absolutely still. Inhale through the nose.
Exhale slowly and in a controlled manner while making a deep, steady humming sound like that of the black bee. The humming should be smooth, even and continuous for the duration of the exhalation. The sound should be soft and mellow, making the front of the skull reverberate. At the end of exhalation, the hands can be kept steady or returned to the knee and then raised again for the next round.
The inhalation and exhalation should be smooth and controlled. This is one round.
Bhramari relieves stress and cerebral tension, so helps in alleviating anger, anxiety and insomnia, increasing the healing capacity of the body. It strengthens and improves the voice. Bhramari induces a meditative state by harmonizing the mind and directing the awareness inward. The vibration of the humming sound creates a soothing effect on the mind and nervous system
Meditation has proven extremely beneficial in reducing stress and anxiety, lowering blood pressure, improving concentration and creativity besides bringing relief from stress-induced ailments. In the modern age, various meditation techniques are increasingly being used for relaxation as well as therapeutic benefits. Among them are Mantra Japa, Vipassana, Transcendental Meditation made popular during the 1970s by Maharshi Mahesh Yogi, Sudarshan Kriya of Sri Sri Ravi Shankar and many more.
All these practised together are bound to give you tremendous results in combating stress at all levels, physical, mental and emotional.
Practicing postures with steady relaxed breathing can alleviate the physical effects of stress and accumulated tension as well. Some quick, but effective yoga exercises that can be practiced are neck movements and shoulder socket rotation which relax the neck and upper back. Several stretches including palm and feet, double angle, and triangle stretch can improve your circulation. Having good circulation is extremely important because our life fluids are blood and oxygen. By encouraging a good supply of both, it revitalizes the body and allows you to be more focused and concentrate clearly.
Other factors that also cause stress are suppressing emotions and worrying needlessly. Instead of suppressing your feelings, try to gain a better understanding of them, by meditating and focusing on your breath. It is also very crucial to understand that worrying about the future does not produce a favourable outcome and in fact detracts from your performance. Worrying causes shortness of breath, creating stress and tension which are both harmful to your mind as well as body. It is important to focus on the present moment, utilizing it to plan the future and to do what you can, to the best of your ability.
Stress and tension impact our entire being; our body, mind, and spirit. However, we can overcome the effects of stress and manage them by utilizing the beneficial breathing techniques and postures that yoga provides. These techniques can not only alleviate the problems we encounter daily, but can revitalize and nourish the mind, body, and spirit over a prolonged period of time, enabling all of us to have long and healthy lives.