Yoga by You: Stress relief

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In this edition of “Yoga by You” from Yoga by Degrees, Colleen Taylor examines how you can use yoga to balance your everyday stress levels. Read more:

Do you use stress management techniques? Or does stress manage you? Yoga can help you manage your reactions to stress and help you control your health and well-being. Whether you feel pressure from work, family, relationships, busy schedules, you may experience a good deal of stress or anxiety. Most likely the things that put pressure on you are important to your life so dealing with the stress is a better alternative to deleting one of those valued assets. Your stress reaction may be energizing — you feel your heart beat quicken and your face flush. On the other hand, your stress reaction may be exhausting — you feel drained and shut down. Stress is always a constant guarantee in life so the trick is to manage your reaction to it. You have the power to dictate exactly how you feel in any situation.

You can navigate through stress by finding the balance between the fiery reaction and the exhausting one. Let the voice in your head that pushes you be as strong as the voice that nurtures you. Respond to anxiety with a blend of inner fire and inner calm. Yoga can be a training ground for lengthening the time between your emotional reaction and a stressor. You can train with a fiery practice of putting challenging asana into your body but having enough discipline to feel calm and still from within. When the demanding physical practice is met with mindfulness, breath control and calm you are able to find that balance.

Studies suggest that yoga conditions our nervous system to bring us into that state of balance. For some we need more fire and others need more calm. The first step is discovering your reflex to stress through self-study. There’s no need to activate your fight or flight response to handle most of the day to day challenges. The fight or flight response kicks your autonomic nervous system into high gear. Your body will pump hormones like cortisol and norepinephrine which will increase your heart rate, blood pressure and heighten your senses. This would be great if you were being chased by a lion so you are primed with energy and focus. However, when you are experiencing it in the form of road rage, the fight or flight response brings on anger, anxiety and aggression. On the other hand, you may be able to relax but only if you disengage from your stress. The trick is to find enough fire to meet the challenge rather than letting it overwhelm you. Sometimes you have to acknowledge the stress rather than remove yourself from it.

Yoga isn’t about burning your way through stress or escaping from it. It goes deeper so your mind and body transform the way you approach and react to stress. This process takes practice and patience.  Retrain your thought patterns and teach your nervous system new ways of coping and navigating through challenging poses both on and off the mat.

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