Yoga for stress

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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:

Uttanasana

Uttanasana or standing forward bend
Uttanasana (standing forward fold): This pose helps in preserving proper functioning of the nervous system by improving blood supply throughout the body.

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.

Balasana

Balasana or child's pose
Balasana (child’s pose): Placing your head (third eye) down on the mat has an instant calming effect on the brain. It also eases stress and anxiety by allowing you to take time out from your everyday life and rest, plus it has a healing and restorative power that helps provide mental and emotional relief.

Marjaryasana (cat pose): This pose is great for stress relief and helps improve overall health.

Setu bandhasana

Setu bandasana or bridge pose
Setu Bandhasana (bridge pose): This is a great pose for stress and anxiety. It helps control high blood pressure and reduces backaches, headaches, sleep disorders and fatigue.

Shirasana

Shirasana or headstand
Shirasana (headstand): Shirasana revitalises the whole body and mind. It relieves anxiety and other psychological disturbances which form the root cause of many disorders… it also helps rectify many nervous disorders says Swami Satyananda Saraswati in Asana Pranyama Mudra Bandha.

Savasana

Savasana or corpse pose
Savasana (corpse pose): According to David Coulter savasana will quiet the system and have a beneficial effect on organs and tissues throughout the body. It also promotes a state of deep rest that slows the breathing and lowers the blood pressure.

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