Published: 02/09/2016 - Updated: 03/10/2018
Author: MSc. Miriam Reyes
Hi everyone! Stress is a normal bodily reaction in cases of ‘challenging’ situations, such as in times of danger or when performing new activities, but if it takes hold of us it can be damaging for our health. It is therefore necessary to be alert to the signs given to us by our bodies, since it quite often gives us hints such as trouble sleeping, tiredness, lack of concentration, poor memory and a stiff neck or jaw, amongst others. When any of these symptoms arise, try to take the time to relax every day. Yoga, meditation and breathing techniques are some of the tools that you have at your fingertips.
Asanas for Reducing Stress
Much of the tension produced by stress is located in the neck and shoulders, which can cause headaches, dizziness, tingling in the fingers, etc. If nothing is done to remedy this, you may end up suffering contractures, osteoarthritis or cervical herniated discs, so get to work!
The idea is to work the muscles most affected in these areas (the trapezius and sternocleidomastoid are some of them) to regain their elasticity and strengthen and improve the mechanics of the neck.
Before you start it is advisable to do a few stretches. You can also do them at work, which will help ease tensions throughout your day. Some of the following asanas are recommended: matsyasana or fish pose is perfect to stretch the cervical and dorsal region of the spine; the position of the arms in garudasana or eagle pose to relieve tension in the neck and shoulders; and simply twisting the shoulders from side to side. Positions of rest or relaxation such as balasana or child’s pose, uttanasana or standing forward bend, and shavasana are also recommended.
In addition to these asanas, it is necessary to pay attention to your posture in your day to day life. Good posture is one of the best medicines. Of course, if you have any kind of injury it is advisable to consult your physician before performing any exercise, and if you have never practiced these asanas before, it is better to try it first in a class with the help of a teacher.
Pranayama for Stress
I have already talked about the importance of breathing for our mood, so pranayamas can be our greatest allies in cases of stress and anxiety. Both full breathing techniques such as Nadi sodhana or Brahmari help us relax in times of stress.
As I mentioned in the post about ‘The importance of breathing‘, alternate breathing and “the bee” are perfect techniques to calm our mind when in states of agitation. In addition to the days when stress has overtaken you and the tension has led to headaches, try the Nadi sodhana technique by closing the right nostril and breathing down the left, in a few minutes the pain should subside.
If, someday, you feel anxiety, practice Brahmari and remember that the more you keep exhaling the more relaxed you will become, but if you force yourself you could potentially stress yourself more.
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Stress and Meditation
They say that if the mind does not relax, the body does not relax, which is why breathing exercises and meditation are so important. When it comes time to calm the mind, meditation plays a very important role. There are different ways to meditate, but today I propose a solution based on the ‘body scan’ technique. All you have to do is concentrate on your breathing while you observe the sensations of every part of your body. Start with the toes and gradually work up to the top of your head. You will steadily leave behind all worries, at least for a little while.
Remember that while some stress pushes us to react to the challenges facing us, a lot of stress immobilises us, making us feel physically and emotionally worn out and eventually we become ill, so it is so necessary to know how to spot and manage the early signs of stress.
Have a good start to the week!
Revised by: Dra. Loredana Lunadei on 03/10/2018
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