By Sanjeev Patel, CYT 500
Many students ask, “What are the two best Yoga poses for stress?” It’s hard to boil the answer down to two or ten techniques, but we will look at two poses. Below, I will also explain my favorites and much more. Anxiety and stress are the root cause of many life threatening conditions, such as: cancer, heart disease, and high blood pressure. The following Yoga poses are easy to practice and help students to release stored negative energy. Unfortunately, the body holds anxiety and tension, which can create ailments or worse.
Yoga poses for stress has been proven, time and again, to be one of the best ways to cope with anxiety. However, what about when we find ourselves in situations where we need to be instantly calm and focused? If you can’t get out of your head and into your body, or if you need a change from the slow focus that yoga encourages, then try these few exercises to take care of yourself.
Half Spinal Twist (Ardha Matsyendrasana)
This posture is sometimes called “Half Lord of the Fishes pose.” The name can be traced to Sage Matsyendra. Ardha Matsyendrasana can be confusing to some, but it releases physical tension within the entire body. Physical tension stored at a desk, in a car, and on the couch is a recipe for stress overload.
Sitting, bend the right knee and place the right foot with the heel against the left buttock. The sole of the left foot belongs on the floor on the outside of the right knee. Bend the left arm behind the back and look out over the left shoulder. The right arm presses on outside of the left thigh and knee, the right hand grasping the inside of the left foot. The twist begins in the sacrum and climbs gradually up the spine to the head. Butt stays firm on the ground, feet stay flat on the floor, toes spread. Spine is straight. Then, alternate sides.
This twisting posture prevents backache and keeps the spine flexible and young. It massages the internal organs, aiding in digestion and detoxification. Like all twisting postures, it has the mental benefit of reminding us that we have the power to unravel ourselves in all kinds of unhealthy situations.
Lion Pose (Simhasana)
Sometimes this asana is called, “Roaring Lion Pose.” For many people, the Lion is a favorite among Yoga poses for stress. You can perform it silently, but I like to be loud and roar. Sitting with spine straight in Thunderbolt Posture, hands on knees, come slightly forward, roaring and exhaling the lungs completely, while opening the eyes wide (rolled back) and opening the mouth as wide as possible, protruding the tongue out and down as far as it will go.
More About Lion Pose
Hold this position on the exhale for as long as possible (6 seconds) keeping the body tense the whole time. Relax and return to the upright thunderbolt position; breathe normally. Repeat. This exercise tones the muscles of the throat and face, bringing fresh blood and new vigor to those areas. In addition, the psychological effect of this pose cannot be underestimated. Lion Pose is playful, bringing lightness to the mind when overburdened. It is intense, which leads to better relaxation upon release. Lion Pose is loud and therefore self-expressive, discouraging shyness.
There’s Something About Yoga
Now that we have covered two Yoga poses for stress, some of you will want to stop reading. Yet, some readers will want much more. So, let’s look deeper if you wish. Asanas (poses) are a form of exercise that many people enjoy for many benefits. Instead of running on a treadmill or lifting weights, you spend an hour consciously stretching your body. Why do people enjoy Yoga poses for stress? Asana helps train the body to get into better shape and maintain strong healthy muscles. It also allows the body to heal in a completely different way than other forms of exercise. As a result of asana practice, the mind feels relaxed and inner calm continues after the session is over.
Tension Be Gone
During asana practice we twist, bend, and flex our muscles, which basically stretches and trains the entire body. This flexibility during movement helps us release tension and feel refreshed in ways other forms of exercise just aren’t able to do. Furthermore, Yoga is a complete mind/body practice. Stretching affects the body on a cellular level, but it also calms the mind. With consistent practice we develop a peaceful mindset that guides us through challenging situations throughout our days.
My first exposure to this idea was in an outdoor Kundalini class. We would move the upper body while walking. It made me wonder why people didn’t move the upper body, while walking. Then I went for a walk with Dr. Paul and Marie Jerard many years later. They do a complete mix of upper movements while walking. Their mix is an organized combination of eastern and western movements. Now, I’ve mentioned my best Yoga poses for stress, but walking while practicing Yoga is a great experience. The feeling of combining asana and walking is a state of euphoria.
Benefits of Walking Yoga
Walking and Yoga can help decrease anxiety, reduce depression, improve focus, increases balance, and may even increase self-esteem. Just 10 minutes will give your body benefits like muscle health, endurance, and stamina. I also feel walking and Yoga would be excellent for many of the ailments that people suffer from today. Additionally, you can walk and meditate, which is always good for the second half of your walking time.
The Complete Experience
In some cases, depression and anxiety relieve themselves as a result of participation in asana practice. In other cases, asanas alone are not enough to compensate for stress triggers, which also cause muscle tension. When this happens, I recommend emphasizing proper breathing techniques and meditation to counteract the stressful thoughts. When muscles tighten, this pulls the body in many different areas into a kind of freeze-mode. Breathing techniques are meant to trigger the relaxation response within the nervous system. Meditation is vital for a trained mind and causes states of relaxation.
Interestingly, during asana practice, in some individuals, a state of calm can be achieved. Therefore, Yoga poses naturally result in a focus of attention on the present moment. The experience of actual tranquility and inner peace can provide a serious disruption to the underlying stress response system. In the beginning, clients may relate that meditation can cause emotional release, confusion and discomfort. This is normal in the beginning stages of engagement in meditation. The more clients meditate, the easier the transition from asana to a meditative state. With practice, the actual calmness increases during and after Yoga sessions.
Approaches to Meditation
Physical changes seen in meditation are not permanent. However, steady practice produces positive results. To provide stimulation, it is best to try different approaches to meditation. Within the family of mindfulness meditation are many varieties that enable practitioners to cope with daily stress. This is likely due to a state of “passive” meditation that involves letting chattering thoughts pass through the mind. All of the humanistic and spiritual approaches to meditation strive toward an altered state that occurs naturally over time.
Back to Asana
Yoga poses for stress are a sound method for someone feeling anxiety or struggle to make themselves feel confident and grounded. Positive change begins within. Yogic methods teach us to change our focus from the outside world. Instead, we focus internally, which cultivates character, creates gratitude and develops a happy lifestyle. In fact, Yoga posturing is an effective method to increase mindfulness. Practitioners constantly mention less stress, anxiety, and joint problems. Many people believe that anxiety, stress, and depression are not treatable or do not deserve the duration of therapy required. However, these states of mind can range from mild unpleasant feelings to full blown debilitating panic attacks. Indeed, severe depression, anxiety, and stress are life threatening.
Move through your Yoga routine the way you want the story to unfold. People find that when they journal, it can affect how they work with themselves during a session. Yoga practice is also a method to help maintain a sense of sanity in this crazy world we live in. The key is to begin and maintain a steady practice. Journaling helps you measure your progress. It’s nice to look back and see how far you’ve come.
© Copyright – Aura Wellness Center – Publications Division
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