5 yoga techniques to manage your stress in 5 minutes: Part 1
Do you have endless deadlines to meet? Are you in debt? Do you feel overwhelmed with work and family commitments?
As breathing and living beings, it is normal to feel stress.
Animals in the wild feel it and animals in captivity feel it. Our ancestors, the early human also feel it.
Before we get to learn to manage stress, we have to understand what is stress.
Stress is an evolution mechanism to ensure survival in the wild.
Our ancestors have to run away from monstrous animals like saber-tooth cats, snakes and killer kangaroos. As so, their bodies have evolved to release adrenaline that speed up the heart, increase blood flow to muscles and decreased functioning of immune system.
Basically, the body is now focusing on preparation of getting out of danger through a fight or flight response.
In those days, it works well.
There is a known short-term stress inducer and the symptoms will wear off when the threat is avoided or removed.
However, in our modern world, our threats are always there: the next meeting, taxes, anniversary, being late and so on. Although the stress trigger point of modern day living is very different, our response to stress physiologically remains.
Nowadays, our body is constantly in a fight or flight response mode.
This has a negative effect on the body, because its focus is shifted away from our immune and digestive systems, producing a weakened immune system and digestive problems, and overworking the heart.
Some of the symptoms of stress have became so serious that some of us have to pop pills to control it. However, we can avoid stress-induced diseases if we look into our lifestyle. Yoga as a holistic practice have many techniques to help us to manage stress. Today, we are going to discuss on the 5 techniques that will make you feel better in 5 minutes.
1. Lift your chest and feel the expansion in your body
Our physical health is closely linked to our mental health. Stress do ultimately manifest on our body as disease. Luckily, it is a two ways street: whatever happens to the mind will affect the body, and whatever happens to the body will affect the mind. A fake smile can boost your mood.¹
Take some time to observe your body postures when you are feeling happy and upset. When you are happy, you will feel relaxed and lifted. When you are upset, you will feel like closing in dropping your head. Change your mood by adapting a “happy” posture.
Stand in mountain pose, feet hips width apart, shoulders by the side of your body.
Take a moment to ground through your feet. Lift your spine. Check that your neck is in neutral position and your chin is not jutted out or tucked in.
Inhale, lift your hands either by the side or by the front of your body, to reach above your head.
Make sure you are not shrugging your shoulder. We are aiming for a feeling of openness in the body. Rotate your elbow outwards without compressing the shoulder blades at the back. I call this a ballerina posture because it gives you a feeling of lightness and openness.
On the next inhale, move into a slight backbend by lengthening your lower back and lifting your chest while maintaining the alignment of the neck with the spine.
We are not crunching our lower back. Rather, we are engaging our core muscles and expanding our frontal part of our body. Throughout this movement, you should feel lifted and supported.
Exhale, move back to mountain position and drop your hands the side of the body.
It doesn’t have to be a very deep backbend. This is especially so if you are doing this after you are working on your desk for hours. You want to be gentle here and focus more on stimulating the positivity in your body.
2. Downward facing dog or any forward bend
Inhalation and exhalation induces a different response in our body. Think about your breathing when you are shock and when you are relieved. When you are shock, your first reaction, is to inhale deeply and sharply, and often, you will have a tendency to hold your breath. When you are relieved, you tend to exhale and hence the term, “heave a sigh of relief”. As such, relaxation is promoted when we move into asanas that are exhale based: the forward bends and twist. For our purpose of stress relieving, I find forward bend better. You can do any gentle forward bend, but for the point of illustration, I will use downward facing dog.
Position yourself in a cat position.
You are on all fours, knees are hips width apart, aligned below your hips. Your wrists are shoulders width apart, aligned below your shoulders. Neck is in a neutral position, aligned with your spine. Your spine is in a neutral position, there is no arching or rounding of the back.
Exhale, move to downward facing dog.
Create space around your neck and shoulder region. You can either maintain a neutral position in the neck or you can slightly tuck your neck. Feel your spine and hamstring lengthening towards the sky.
Bend your knees and lift your ankles if you need to. Over here, we are focusing on cultivating the sense of peace and stillness, which will not work if you are constantly commanding your body to stretch pass its limit.
Next week we will go through another 3 methods to manage stress in our modern daily life.
¹ Cari Scribner. 7 August 2013. Even a Fake Smile Can Boost Your Mood. ctpost.
Susan Seliger. 9 February 2007. Yoga for Stress Management. WebMD.
1 April 2009. Yoga for anxiety and depression. Harvard Health Publications.