I’m going to be blunt here. Stress is a bitch.
Work stress, love stress, health stress, family stress…they’re all bitches. Even “good stress” – like landing your dream job or finally purchasing your dream house – is still stress. And not much is worse for your body than stress.
Stress triggers your sympathetic nervous system, and when that happens, your body is flooded with hormones like cortisol and norepinephrine, which heighten the senses, increase heart rate and blood pressure, and focus your brain’s activity. Side effects of stress include overeating, under-eating, and sleep disorders, just to name a few.
Luckily, humans are an enlightened bunch and are learning that stress is something that can be mitigated, even when it cannot be entirely avoided. Engaging in a regular yoga practice is a great tool to fighting stress. Here are a few simple things you can embrace to lower your stress levels.
The importance of proper breathing cannot be overstated. Physiological effects of stress include a heightened heart rate and short, quick breaths. Taking long, focused breaths can really help you lower your heart rate, and bring a sense of calm to your being. In yoga proper breathing is called Pranayama.
Next time you’re feeling stressed, try this Pranayama exercise:
- Take a long, deep breath, and let it out.
- On your next inhalation, imagine your body is a vessel. Fill your body with your breath starting with your abdomen, then your chest, then your throat.
- Exhale by emptying your vessel from the top. Empty your throat, chest, and then finally your abdomen.
- Continue for 10 breaths.
If you cannot yet control your breath in this manner, don’t worry. Practice visualizing. Over time, you’ll build up awareness.
Hit The Mat
If you’re like me, you put your stress in your shoulders and back. My husband can tell how I’m feeling based on how tense my shoulders are. Studies show even 15 minutes of yoga can reduce your stress levels. When your mind is relaxed, it’s easier for your muscles to relax. When your muscles are relaxed, it’s easier for your mind to relax.
Yoga triggers the relaxation response in your parasympathetic nervous system, and numerous studies indicate that after embracing a regular yoga practice, you’ll have a lower resting heart rate, and lower anxiety.
Try these stress reducing poses:
Just Go With It
“Going with it” may seem like a counter-intuitive way of dealing with stress, but if you stress about the fact you’re stressed, you’ll be…well, more stressed. Are you feeling impatient? Sad? Frustrated? Acknowledge these emotions, and let them go. Acknowledge the stress is there, but don’t dwell on it. Accept you are stressed at this moment in time, and engage in some pranayama or some yoga. Acknowledging the issue and releasing it is one of the best things you can do to reduce your stress levels.