How to tackle stress with yoga and mindfulness
The year 2020 hasn’t been kind to the human race. A global pandemic has pulled the rug out of our feet and has halted life as we knew it. However, due to our resilience, we have managed to find new ways to keep our civilization running. Millions of people are now working from home and businesses have either switched or planning to switch to online models (among others).
The transition hasn’t been easy though. We have had to make significant changes to our daily routines. People who are working from home, housewives, and kids have all discovered new challenges of remaining indoors day in and day out. Some of the most glaring ones are as follows:
- Increased stress and anxiety due to rising uncertainties. People don’t know how long this situation will last and how bad the outcome will be.
- Many people have lost their jobs and businesses due to the outbreak and this has caused them a great deal of stress.
- Lack of physical movement is another one. Even simple trips to the nearby shops are less frequent now. This has resulted in or could result in a number of health issues.
- People are feeling lonelier than ever as they don’t get to see their friends and colleagues that often. As humans, it’s natural to want to be social, and not being able to do so has its own psychological impacts.
- Constant fear and anxiety of catching the virus and its consequences.
There are many other challenges that we’re facing due to our new reality. It’s important that we deal with these challenges in any way we can. Fortunately, certain practices that have been with us since ancient times can help in that regard. Yoga and mindfulness are highly effective methods of tackling the stress and anxiety that people are experiencing. Let’s take a look at how to tackle stress with yoga and mindfulness.
Top Yoga Poses To Tackle Stress
Yoga has given us a lot of tools to cope with stress and anxiety. It helps us relax and find inner peace which is the need of the hour for many. The following are the top yoga poses that anybody can do with ease to de-stress themselves:
Forward Fold (Uttanasana)
This is one of the best postures to make stress leave your body. This can be done while standing or while sitting down, but what you’re essentially doing is bending your upper body and moving towards your feet. As you get closer to your feet, your chest gets closer to your thighs.
Remember to take a deep breath before bending forward. And when you get back to your original pose, breath out. This pose helps stretch your spine, balances the nervous system, and quiets your stressful thoughts.
Child’s Pose (Balasana)
If you sit around all day, a lot of tension can accumulate in your lower back. This pose is perfect to release all of that tension. In this pose, you stretch your hands in front of you and fold your knees so that your heels are touching your sit bones. Your knees can be just under your upper body or slightly stretched outwards. For a better stretch, you can walk your hands in front of you.
When you’re in this pose, just breathe normally and try to relax as much as you can. This pose soothes the adrenals, stretches the lower back, and helps relieve tension from your hips.
Legs Up The Wall (Viparita Karani)
You have probably done this pose as a child. As the name suggests, you lie down on the ground with your legs up the wall (such that they are parallel to the wall). You can also add a pillow under your back for support. You can stay in this position for a few minutes while trying to relax your mind.
This pose provides the perfect relaxation to your low back and hips after a long and hard day of work. It helps stretch the back of your neck which is another area where tension accumulates in your body. It is also said to help reduce stress.
Corpse Pose (Savasana)
This pose might look like you are just lying down on your back like you do when you’re sleeping. But it’s much more than that. Typically done at the end of a yoga session, savasana requires you to bring your attention to each part of your body one by one. This gradually relaxes you and helps calm the mind.
Savasana slows your breathing, lowers your blood pressure, quiets the nervous system, and helps relieve insomnia and fatigue.
Top Mindfulness Techniques For Stress Management
Even though mindfulness as a practice has been in existence since ancient times, people are only now becoming aware of it. The rising trend of physical and mental health issues have forced people to discover this practice. Mindfulness is basically the state of nonjudgmental awareness of your thoughts, emotions, actions, and sensations. For stress management, you can adopt the following mindfulness techniques:
During the lockdown, preparing something to eat can be a great way to spend some quality time with your family. To further enhance it, you can practice mindful eating. In this technique, applying the basic principles of mindfulness, you need to be fully immersed or involved in the act of eating.
So, when you’re eating, notice the texture of your food, its colors, and its smell. Notice how you’re holding the spoon or fork. When you’re chewing and swallowing, do it slowly, with total awareness of what you’re doing in the present moment. This anchors your thoughts and emotions to the present moment and you stop worrying about the uncertainties of the future.
Mindfulness doesn’t require you to practice specific poses or workout intensely. But it requires you to be mindful when you are doing any sort of movement. It could be walking, running, rolling, or anything else. As with mindful eating, here too, you need to be totally aware of the movements you are doing.
This entails noticing how your body moves through space, how your breathing changes with each movement, how your body interacts with the surfaces it touches, and so on. When you are practicing this technique of mindfulness, you learn a lot about your body and your thoughts don’t dwell on the typical stressors.
This is one of the easiest techniques of mindfulness if you know what you’re doing. You could say that this is a type of meditation. To practice this technique, you can sit down in a comfortable posture and just notice your breathing pattern. Simply bring your awareness to how you inhale and how you exhale.
This is such a powerful technique that even 5-10 minutes of doing it is enough to calm your mind and de-stress you. It also does wonders for your focus. Naturally, if you are trying to deal with the stressors of the Coronavirus pandemic, you should make it a part of your daily routine.
Pranayama - An Introduction
To understand what Pranayama is, we need to understand how the very word is formed. It’s made up of two words - “prana” which means universal life force and “ayama” which means to regulate or lengthen. So, basically, Pranayama means to regulate or lengthen the life force. In the context of human beings, it means to regulate the life force within us.
There are many ways this regulation can be done. However, the most direct method is by way of breath. So, Pranayama has come to be understood as an aspect of yoga where we practice certain breathing exercises. Some of the most common of these are Bhastrika, Nadi Shodhana, Kapalabhati, Ujjayi, Bhramari, and so on.
Pranayama breathing exercises are another great way to get rid of your stress and anxiety. In fact, these exercises will help you live a much happier and healthier life. Some of the other great benefits of these exercises are improved focus, stronger immune system, increased energy, positivity, the calmness of mind, and so on. With so many benefits, you should definitely spend at least half an hour daily doing these breathing exercises.
The current situation is stressful for most. We don’t have any prior experience of dealing with a global pandemic and we don’t know when it will come to an end. In an already uncertain human life, the pandemic adds even more uncertainties. Add to this the constant threat of getting infected and it’s understandable that stress levels and depression are through the roof.
This is where we can turn to some timeless wisdom for relief. Yoga and mindfulness have been known to be extremely beneficial for our physical, mental, and emotional health for the longest time. Several scientific studies have shown this too. Following the principles of these practices, we can do away with most of the stress and anxiety that we are all grappling with. Not only that, but we can also start building a solid foundation to deal with a transformed world once the pandemic is over.