Yoga for Stress Relief

In the competitive and fast-paced world we live today, it is inevitable for us to experience stress. However, regardless of whether the stress we feel is related to work, family or unknown and unexpected situations, it is important for us to manage stress. Personally, I’m terrible at managing stress and I tend to just let my anxiety get the better of me when I feel like I don’t know what to do. However, after practising yoga, I found myself beginning to be a little more composed and stable whenever I encounter problems that cause me stress.

It’s hard to directly explain the link between practising yoga and relieving stress, but I will attempt to do so by sharing certain aspects of yoga that have definitely contributed to my ability to cope with stress. I have narrowed it down to mainly pranayama and the commitment to practise asanas.

Pranayama refers to a practice of controlling our breath, which is also the source of our prana (also known as the vital life force). Although breathing is something we do unconsciously, controlling our breath is the opposite. Focusing and slowing our breath down calms our sympathetic nervous system (the system that directs our body’s rapid involuntary response to stressful situations) and stimulates our parasympathetic nervous system (the system responsible for our rest and digestion response when we are relaxed). Before YTT, I never paid much attention to pranayama. But now, I have begun to slowly appreciate practising pranayama as I do truly feel more relaxed after practising mindful breathing.

The commitment to practise asanas is also something that has helped me with stress management. Asanas refer to yoga poses. After practising certain yoga poses, I was able to focus on my breath at the start and slowly realise that I could cope with the amount of stress I felt. Below are some yoga poses that have helped me relieve stress:

1. Sukhasana (Easy Pose) with forward bend: With the forward fold, this increase the exhale which can lead to the relaxation response
2. Marjaryasana (Cat Pose): This pose stretches and soothes our lower back, allowing us to have our body, especially our muscles cool down
3. Bitilasana (Cow Pose): It warms our spine up and also helps to create an emotional balance by massaging our organs
4. Setu Bandhasana (Bridge Pose): This pose has a therapeutic impact for those with high blood pressure. It gently stretches our back and legs

I believe yoga has a part to play in relieving stress and we should appreciate the practice by being more thankful for the benefits we enjoy because of yoga. This is especially so for pranayama, since it is more conscious and very advantageous. However, I would personally not expect to relieve myself of all the stress I experience immediately after practising yoga. It takes time and yoga is a process which I wish to carry on with for as long as I can! 😊