It has been argued that Yoga is the most comprehensive approach to fighting stress ever invented because many yoga practices lead to mental relaxation and help digestion, absorption and healing take place.
Stress is a normal part of life, but the complexity of modern life, especially when faced with massive unknowns and surrounded by panic and worry, can overload the system. This can lower the immune system and also trigger over-thinking and anxiety. Stress can also make us more inclined to indulge in bad habits such as smoking, drinking alcohol, poor diet and doing less exercise.
Some of the most beneficial yoga practices to combat stress include asana (postures), pranayama (breath work), yoga nidra and meditation.
Yoga for stress
Swami Shivananda Rada explains that practising asana helps students become aware of stress in their body, and the increased mindfulness brought about by regular yoga practice can help people discover their problems.
He said: “Changes can then be made in life by a conscious decision on the basis of self-awareness. The inability to deal with stress and the helplessness many people feel can be counteracted by recognising the options and applying the power of choice.”
Pranayama is particularly good for calming an agitated mind. Meditation can reduce the build-up of stress by teaching us to stop and consciously clear the mind and emotions of negative attitudes the moment we become aware of them.
Manduka Stiles explains: “Practicing yoga helps us overcome obstacles within ourselves that may be preventing us from fully enjoying life and responding in beneficial ways to a variety of situations… practicing yoga with concentration and devotion can bring noticeable changes in our circumstances almost immediately.”
Asanas to combat stress
These asanas can help with stress and could be incorporated into a daily practice:
Garudasana (eagle pose): This active and empowering pose can help ward off stress by improving concentration and balance. Alternatively all balancing postures require complete concentration on the pose and thus a stilling of the mind.
Marjaryasana (cat pose): This pose is great for stress relief and helps improve overall health.