The Art of Yoga and Movement for Stress Relief
The word “yoga” means many different things to different people. Some think in terms of form and techniques of bodies put in shapes while others think of stretching, meditation and breathing. Some people conjure images of arm balances, hand stands and splits while others think of sweat dripping o their bodies in heated classes. Most folks know of it as a form of exercise and relate it to spirituality, calmness and peace. Others think in terms of chanting, moving, holding and expressing energy while adhering to a way of living that leads one closer to stillness. While yoga offers many different forms to meet you where you’re at, the one thing that we can agree on is that more and more people are seeking yoga for stress relief. According to a study conducted by Yoga Alliance, out of the top five reasons people seek yoga, flexibility and stress relief were the top two.
When we don’t take the time to balance our very active lifestyles of work, responsibilities, deadlines and other overall demands of life with moments of quiet and introspective practices, physical, mental and emotional depletion can easily set in. This causes undue stress on overall health and a frazzled nervous system. By setting aside time (even 10-15 minutes a day) to practice yoga, you are essentially prioritizing time to allow yourself to slow down, tune in to your breath and restore equilibrium.
Deep breathing into the low belly is a way to trigger the parasympathetic nervous system, which can relieve stress and alleviate tension. It’s where your relaxation mode exists and your internal organs get a chance to catch up on their own agenda of digesting, healing and repairing. When you allow yourself to settle into and hold restful yoga poses while focusing on the sensations of deep breaths, you give the mind a break from its pressing matters, busy thoughts, and to-do lists and assign it another job, called “relax.” This chance to rest in stillness and remain in the present moment leaves space for renewal of the body and mind to find your way to stress relief.
Below are five simple restful poses to help alleviate stress when combined with attention to breath.
Child’s Pose (Balasana)
Child’s pose is an introspective resting posture that can be done with knees wide apart or together. Arms can also be placed reaching above your head or placed gently behind, whichever you find more comfort. The pose can also be supported by placing a prop behind the knees to ensure that you are comfortable.
Supported Bridge Pose (Setu Bandha Sarvangasana)
Placing a block underneath the sacrum at the base of the spine is a gentler and more de-stressing way to enjoy this gentle back bend.
Standing Forward Fold (Uttanasana)
Usually practiced as a hamstring stretch, this pose has the ability to alleviate tension in the neck and shoulders by bending the knees deeply so that the upper body rests on the low body. Let the head hang heavy (like a bowling ball on a string) to feel the release of holding the neck.
Legs Up The Wall Pose (Viparita Karani)
Think of how good it feels to kick your feet up at the end of the day! This pose takes it up a notch by placing your legs up a wall. Best if practiced with support under the hips, such as a folded blanket.
Corpse Pose (Savasana)
Typically, Savasana is done at the end of a yoga practice. While this pose puts the body at ease and emphasizes total relaxation, it is meant to be done awake in a state of surrender. It is natural for the mind to resist the calm state of surrender in today’s busy environment, but like all things, it requires effort and practice. The more comfortable you are, the more you can relax. So, feel free to use props (such as a blanket) or place an eye pillow over the eyes.
Angie Fraley is a local yoga instructor in Reno. She is the Yoga Program Director/Partner for Yoga Pod Reno and also teaches out of The Studio Reno. She began teaching yoga in 2009, but has been practicing for more than 15 years. For more information, visit her website at www.om2yoga.com.