Beating Stress with Yoga

Stress is everywhere. Stress is part and parcel of our daily life. But what is stress?
Webster define stress as mental or physical tension or strain. Pressure, urgency causing one to feel exhausted, depressed, tense or disappointed.

Everyone knows stress in the negative aspect, however, there are 2 type of stress. The good and the bad. Eustress and Distress. Eustress is beneficial stress or “good stress”, a positive form with a positive effect on us in terms of strength, growth, motivation and emotional well-being. Distress on the other hand has a negative effect on us involving overload, weakness and vulnerability. And the commonly talked about one on a daily basis.

Stress isn’t something we can avoid. Prolonged stress can take its toll on our physical body; emotionally straining and mentally disturbed. To beat stress Awareness is 90% of the solution.

Yoga has been gaining popularity over the years. To some people, Yoga is just a physical practice. Following the latest trend to keep fit. But this is not the truth.

Yoga is a mind-body practice that combines asana (yoga)poses, pranayama (controlled breathing), and meditation or relaxation. It’s not just about sweating out to lose weight or exercising to keep fit. Yoga has shown to have a calming effect. It works to relieve tension and reduce stress both physically and mentally.

Asana such as Trikonsana (extended triangle pose), Balasana (child’s pose) and Savasana (corpse pose) are some yoga poses for stress relief. These poses helps to calm the mind and eases stress. Extended triangle pose is an excellent stress relieving pose and it stretches the full body and improve digestive system. Restorative and Yin yoga are also great styles for practicing the art of letting go of your stress.

Pranayama (Breathing) deeply and more effectively are another way to relieve stress. Pranayama techniques, particularly Brahmari (humming bee breath) and Nadi Shodhana (alternate nostril) are simple technique and instant option to de-stress. And it can be practised anywhere – at home or at work. The Brahmari resembles the typical humming sound of the bee. The humming sound vibration calms and soothes the nerves around the brain and forehead, thus having a natural calming effect. Nadi Shodhana in sankrit means channel or flow purification. This technique primarily aimed at purifying the mind and body. It calms and rejuvenate the nervous system, reduces stress, anxiety and fosters mental clarity.

Meditation is an incredible tool for relaxing and slowing down our mind. It helps to maintain the balance and connect our mind and body creating a greater sense of harmony and peace.

With proper and disciplined practice of Yoga, we can all manage our stress. By acknowledging stress and being aware of it is the first step to take before stress starts creeping into your life.

 

Patsy Kaye Ang, YTT200 Weekend Warrior – March 2018

Drishti – Your Focus, Now Where is the Mind

Focusing on a Drishti
A drishti (view or gaze) is a specific focal point that is employed during meditation or while holding a yoga posture. The ancient yogis discovered that where our gaze is directed our attention naturally follows, and that the quality of our gazing is directly reflected in the quality of our mental thoughts. When the gaze is fixed on a single point the mind is diminished from being stimulated by all other external objects. And when the gaze is fixed on a single point within the body, our awareness draws inwards and the mind remains undisturbed by external stimuli. Thus, the use of a drishti allows the mind to focus and move into a deep state of concentration. And the constant application of drishti develops ekagraha, single-pointed focus, an essential yogic technique used to still the mind.
A drishti is commonly used in meditation to focus and concentrate the mind. The most useful drishti points used are the breath and the third eye center. External focal points can also be used, such as the tip of the nose, a candle or mandala.
In yoga postures, a drishti is used to deepen the primary movement of the pose, as well as to keep the mind engaged and focused. To use a drishti while in a yoga pose, simply select the point where your gaze is naturally directed by the alignment of the posture. The use of drishtis in yoga postures is to be developed slowly over time. First one must develop and focus on the alignment of pose, then the breath, and then finally the drishti. Using a drishti is especially helpful if you are holding a posture for an extended period of time, and will be enormously helpful while practicing balancing poses.
In Ashtanga yoga, eight specific drishtis are used and described: Nasagrai Drishti, gaze at the tip of the nose, as used in upward facing dog and standing forward fold poses. Angusta Ma Dyai Drishti, gaze at the thumbs, as used in warrior I. Nabi Chakra Drishti, gaze at the navel, as used in downward facing dog. Pahayoragrai Drishti, gaze at the toes, as used in hand to toe pose and most seated forward bends. Hastagrai Drishti, gaze at the hands, as used in triangle and warrior II. Parsva Drishti, gaze to the side, as used in seated spinal twists. Urdhva Drishti, gaze upwards, as used in warrior angle, balancing half moon, and prayer twist. Naitrayohmadya or Broomadhya Drishti, gaze at the third eye or forehead, as used in fish, upward forward fold, and reverse warrior II.
When using a drishti, do not strain the eyes. The muscles around the eyes should be relaxed and the gaze should be soft. Generally, it is recommended to use bahya (external) gazing for externally oriented yoga practices and antara (internal) gazing for contemplative and meditative practices. But there is also value to having the eyes closed and using antara drishti during yoga postures, as this creates a deep state of meditation and inward focus while holding the pose.
In bhakti yoga, drishti is used in a slightly different way: a constant loving and longing gaze is turned toward the concept, name or image of God. Drishti can also be thought of in a broader context, of having the proper view or perspective of one’s life. By developing the ability to adapt one’s perspective to accommodate the continuous change in the world, we can avoid the unnecessary attachments that cause us suffering.