08 Oct Yoga for Stress
Which of us can say we are never stressed these days? Our fast paced society, with so many forms of communication (with their inherent demands!), juggling roles, trying to fit in exercise (which can feel like a luxury when we’re caring for others or working), is leading to an epidemic in stress and it’s even more scary cousin, anxiety, to the extent that it’s almost become normal to feel stressed. In the meantime, these demands have led us to strip away so much of what is good and healing for us; being in nature, having moments of quiet and stillness, being together with other people without having to do or say much and relaxing.
Our bodies and minds evolved for a slower paced, communal existence, with moments of stress, but with a great deal of quiet ‘down time’ as we can still see in ‘Hunter Gatherer’ societies now. The high levels of consistent, chronic stress are leading our bodies and minds to become overwhelmed, leading to physical symptoms such as neck and back issues, reduced immunity and chronic illnesses, and psychological issues such as anxiety (and the associated physical symptoms), anger and irritability, sleep problems and depression.
It is not a luxury that we find ways to reintroduce calmness, to our busy lives, it is a necessity if we are to stay centered and well enough to manage our busy lives.
And that’s where …. you guessed it…. Yoga comes in.
In yoga we move our bodies in ways that counteract the hunching and tightening, heart protecting ways we hold our bodies when we are stressed. We focus on breathing techniques to calm down and re-balance our mind and bodies, and drop out of ‘fight or flight’ mode, stretching and releasing the muscles involved with this stress/ survival response system. We might use vigorous movement (as the fight or flight system is designed to have us do when under stress), releasing tension so that we can find a sense of calm (as in Vinyasa Flow classes), or we might encourage our bodies to be still so that we can draw our attention inwards and give our selves and our bodies some much needed TLC (as in Yin classes). And we do this in a calm, serene setting with other lovely people which, over time, can give us that sense of community.
Of course, these benefits might not seem apparent in the first few classes (although I know at least one of our lovely regulars who would disagree with this!), when we’re beginning something new and different (after all, downward dogs and moving slowly with each breath is not what we tend to do in general life, without receiving odd looks!). But that’s the other thing about yoga that’s such a relief in our stressful lives – you soon realise, it matters not what you look like, or what you imagine someone else might think of what you’re doing or how you’re doing it, only how it feels. And after a few classes you’ll find out for yourself, it starts to feel gooooood!
It doesn’t matter where you do yoga – it can be at home, doing one or two poses a day, with some slow breathing, to a regular practice at a studio. But wherever and however you do it, I can really recommend you try it!
For an interesting article on yoga for stress, check out this article in ‘Yoga Journal’
Blog by Kirstie Missenden, Sutherland Yoga