There are lots of ways to manage stress but it is important for the individual to recognize that stress is an issue first of all and this means taking a long hard look at how they live and then determine to make important changes so that stress becomes more manageable. Unfortunately, many people feel that they thrive on stress especially in the work-place, using the pressure to help them work harder, faster and to achieve more. By the time that they accept that they have taken on too much and that their health is becoming impacted, the damage is often done.
Yoga however, can offer a lifeline to those who are feeling tense, irritable and generally under pressure, it can be practiced by all and with a history dating back over 5000 years; it’s potentially one of the oldest methods of developing the mind, body and soul. Because it is such a gentle and personal method, many people overlook yoga in the first instance but gradually more and more are becoming aware of the many benefits and turning to yoga to help them become physically fitter, more supple and to be able to cope with life’s daily demands through controlled breathing, mental imagery and meditation.
Yoga means ‘union’ and it unites the body, mind and spirit in an adaptive way that is perfect for the person who is practicing any one of the many styles.
So how can yoga help to combat stress?
For many people, increased stress means heightened tension, headaches, irritability, palpitations and less sleep. It is not uncommon for those who are under severe pressure to lie awake for hours worrying about their future and feeling vulnerable and frustrated with their lot. By the time that morning comes, they feel exhausted and stressed about the day’s events before it even starts. Yoga can provide a way of managing the mind, helping the individual to deal with stressors as and when they happen but in a calm and methodical way.
For anyone who has suffered from the ravages of stress, they will be the first to admit that they could not see their way out of certain situations and that their problems seemed to escalate and materialise from all sides. Yoga affords clarity of mind to those who study and the ability to be ‘mindful’ which means living in the here and now and not succumbing to the confusion of a cluttered mind.
It doesn’t matter how supple someone is, yoga is non-competitive and can be practiced in a class under the guidance of a qualified yoga teacher or can be practiced at home with special care being given to the exact alignment of the body so that the full benefits can be achieved. By focussing on the rhythms of the breath and learning how to release tension on the exhalation, it is an easy step to be able to visualize tension, negativity and worrying thoughts leaving the body in a colored mist for easier clarity or to visualize tension as a tight flower bud, releasing and opening up again as breath is exhaled and tension starts to diminish.
Yoga can bring the nervous system back into balance by utilising the relaxation response quickly and easily. The physical aspects of yoga are only one small part of the benefits that can be achieved through studying any of the styles. Clarity of mind, inner peace and an ability to ‘simply accept’ all that life has to offer will help the practitioner to be free from the negative aspects of stress and to simply cope with pressure whilst enjoying all that life has to offer.