I was asked in year 2016, by a participant at the International Yoga day, organized by International Yoga Festival & Expo Foundation and sponsored by ICSEA as well as the Indian consulate, about stress.
How does yoga reduce stress?
I have taught many corporations and individuals in different countries on stress management, self mastery and aligning with the highest. I see that many times they perceive asanas and pranayama to be like a pill. Many want three postures to heal blood pressure, one pranayama or a breathing technique for weight loss , some other combination for increasing creativity or one secret manthra or chant for enlightenment. Though all are possible, more than just the tools, the approach to the tool, right attitude as well as lifestyle and paradigm changes are very important. So in a series of articles I will explain how stress can be alleviated by approaching yoga in a holistic manner. We will also see the depth, expansiveness and beauty of the yogic system. It is a system which goes to the root imbalance rather than just getting rid of the symptom and addresses every aspect of the individual. The physical, emotional, mental and spiritual are aligned.
The right approach to yoga will help us deal with stress more efficiently
When I see what is happening to Yoga these days it reminds me of those using an airplane only on the runway. Even worse they are looking at competing with a race car on the runway. The aim of yoga is not an adrenaline high but the journey of building inner stability. So when we actually fly, despite the turbulence we are able to re-stabilise. Despite the high speed of our evolution we do not have the speeding thrill of the race car.
However when we are ignorant, we continue to use yoga only on the runway and even undervalue it because it is not able go faster than a race car or give the same thrills. Or feel proud we have bent yoga to suit our needs for an adrenaline high. The whole purpose of yoga is to change the whole paradigm of where and how the race happens and if at all a race is needed. This discernment and tapping into a higher intelligence is what yoga gives us.
Self reflection and taking responsibility is a necessary step in stress management
That is why in the Arkaya Mindfulness and Healing Teacher Training programs I take only those who have the courage to see themselves clearly and want to shift their underlying physical, emotional and mental patterns and programming. Not just learn some asanas, some pranayama , some chanting, quotes and concepts from the scriptures and prance around looking like teachers. It takes a lot of effort to step away from the busyness and keep time for contemplative time as well as see and release suppressed emotions. However this contemplation and capacity for emotional honesty is not usually valued in a productivity oriented society. It can seem challenging to take responsibility for your well being in the beginning and one might find a lot of resistance. However with practice one can see the messages and insights that come even out of the worst times and darkness. We are so used to giving away responsibility to doctors, therapists and temples that it seems scary to reclaim this power. It does not mean we do not consult them but also work on prevention. Fear is what leads to stress, so let us align with the wisdom to release this fear and empower ourselves.
Wisdom Principle One for Stress management
- Start with the simple and start step by step
This means that apart from the tools that you learn , the rhythm of the yoga class you go to is extremely important. Do not go to a class where you are pushing yourself to the point of exhaustion. Yes you will become a great gymnast and if that is what you want then good, however you will still be a stressed and emotionally needy gymnast.
You are again overworking your adrenals and the whole point of rebalancing the adrenal glands is lost. The adrenals are in charge of the stress response and secrete adrenaline or cortisol in high stress situations when you are being attacked or your survival is under threat. When we do high intensity training as well, this stress response is triggered and you are overworking the adrenal glands. So mindful, simple practice with slow deep breathing is better to rebalance the adrenals.
The yoga class is a structure for life, so your approach in class will translate as your approach in life. If your class is paced well , in life also you will learn to pace yourself rather than kill yourself in the rat race.
Also though we are aware of other addictions like alcohol and drug addictions we rarel speak of adrenaline addiction. Many have adrenaline addiction and that is one of the main reasons for this perpetuating cycle of increased stress.
In the next series of articles we will go more into adrenaline addiction and see more principles and tools on how to address stress.
Till then simplify, be mindful of how you sit, stand and lie down. Are you sitting with back straight yet relaxed, shoulders relaxed yet pushed back and neck in line with shoulders rather than jutting it forward. Have a gentle smile on your face and remember to tap into lightness and play. This awareness and mindfulness in day to day situations is important. Breathe deep and slow and trust you are well and all is well.
It is interesting how a Hindi movie beautifully used this yogic concept of “all is well” and popularised it 🙂
Yogacharini Maitreyi is a practical mystic. She trains Arkaya yoga teachers& healers and creates conscious community around the world. She also runs a foundation for children living in slums in Chennai E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org; www.arkaya.net
Dates for Arkaya Mindfulness & Healing Teacher Training in Vancouver, 2017 will be announced soon. It starts in July.
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