away without going away:
Yoga and stress management
Feel short on time? “To do’s” building up? When will you ever
get your personal projects done? When did the kids grow up,
anyway? Time bound consciousness is a common state of mind.
Don’t worry. Yoga and meditation can help. Stress reduction
is a result of stress management. Learning to live with stress
and learning to reduce stress are both related to how we think.
How we think determines how we act, or react.
are three factors in our lives that contribute to who we are
in this world. They are heredity, environment, and lifestyle.
Heredity cannot change. What we are given is what we have. Environment
is difficult to overcome also. Lifestyle, however, we can change.
In our daily habits lies the potential for lifestyle changes.
How we eat, exercise,
and deal with stress can be modified. The situations we put
ourselves in and our attitudes about life circumstances can
also be altered.
PRACTICAL TECHNIQUES FOR EVERYDAY STRESS
the practical ways that yoga can help us solve day-to-day problems
in life that can cause stress? On a physical level, yoga goes
beyond just toning and strengthening muscles. Standing postures
correct structural alignment and strengthen the spine. Twists
massage the internal organs. Forward bends lower blood pressure
and relax the nervous system. Inverted postures purify the lymphatic
system. Yoga postures and breathing strengthen and balance the
immune, hormonal, digestive and nervous systems.
improves our mental state, increases concentration, builds self-esteem,
and helps us to deal with stress in a positive way. Mental and
emotional improvements include clarity of mind, greater awareness,
increased concentration and focus, a more positive attitude,
less mood swings, improved self esteem, "groundedness",
and stress reduction.
body and mind are synchronized, a spiritual dimension comes
forth: improved intuition, a deeper "knowing" inside, an openness
of heart, a feeling of greater love and compassion for oneself
and for others, a connection to the divine, to God, in whatever
way that expresses for each individual.
YOGA FOR THE OFFICE
can you take care of your body and mind while sitting at a desk
or computer for hours on end? When I worked on Wall Street,
I used to stretch while in my chair. Pretend to look at someone
behind you, grab one side or back of the chair and twist first
to one side, then to the other. While seated, you can arch the back opening the
chest and then round the back releasing. Do this several times.
Stretch your arms overhead and interlace the fingers. Or just
stand up and stretch your arms overhead for a moment. Lift the
shoulders into a shrug and then release them (and the tension)
suddenly. Moving the head up and down then side to side gives
a good neck stretch.
A DEEP BREATH
a deep breathing break in the non-smoker’s lounge. Get fresh
air in good weather at lunchtime. Mental anxiety caused by thinking
or worrying too much, creates tension in the shoulders, the
“should-ers” Notice when you feel tension in the shoulders.
It is usually a result of too many “should’s” you put on yourself.
What should be is projection or expectation. What is, however,
is reality. Facing reality with a deep breath brings us into
the present, and provides clarity.
is a simple breathing exercise that oxygenates the blood, increases
lung capacity and cleanses toxins and allergens out of your
system. It also takes the mind away from mental worry by focusing
on breathing. It can be done seated or lying down.
three parts of the torso: belly, lower lungs, and upper lungs.
You may place a hand on one part moving it to another, until
you get familiar with the technique. Do not force the breath.
Do not hold the breath at the top of the inhalation nor at the
bottom of the exhalation. Let it be a circular breath with smooth
and even transitions. Breathe into the belly gently filling
it, then move the breath into filling the lower lungs, then
all the way up under the collarbones into the upper lungs. Exhale
slowly with one long breath. Repeat 6 times. Then breathe regularly.
may use this as the only practice and repeat it over and over,
or add on the following two steps. Breathe into the entire torso
with one full breath. Exhale slowly in three parts from the
upper lungs, to the lower lungs to the belly. Repeat 6 times.
Then breathe regularly. Breathe into the belly, the lower lungs,
then the upper lungs in one long smooth three part deep breath.
Then exhale slowly from the upper lungs, lower lungs, and belly.
It is like a glass of water filling in from the bottom to top
and pouring out from the top to the bottom. Repeat 6 times.
Then breathe regularly.
you keep your eyes open, no one will ever notice you are doing
this while seated in your chair. What a stress buster! It is
great to use in heated discussions as it improves your ability
to listen because you are better able to remain calm.
is stressful. Stay focused on what you are doing in the moment
and don’t worry about how it was yesterday, or how it will be
in the future. Keep your eye on the goal, but be open to whatever
results actually happen. An attitude of acceptance is key stress
is a vital part of stress management. At the end of the posture
practice or any exercise work out, lying down in relaxation
pose brings the final integration of body and mind. The quiet
allows for awareness of our inner self. Given time to reflect,
we can discover the spiritual side of our nature. We awaken
refreshed, rejuvenated, and renewed.
If you have
your own office, ask not to be disturbed for 20 minutes and
close the door. Lie down on the floor with your feet slightly
apart and your arms at your sides with palms facing upwards. You may do the three part breathing,
a tension and release exercise, or a body scan. You may combine
them together as well.
AND RELEASE EXERCISE:
your fists, arms and shrug your shoulders up towards the ears,
lifting only one inch off the ground. Then release suddenly.
Repeat twice more. Tighten your buttocks and legs and flex the
feet, lifting only one inch off the ground. Then release suddenly.
Repeat twice more. Tighten your face and squinch your
eyes. Release. Repeat two more times. Relax into the ground and practice
the same three part breathing described above to continue to
the calm the mind.
body relaxed now, begin the body scan. Without moving, focus
the mind on the soles of the feet, then the ankles, calves and
knees, thighs and hips and the belly. Keep scanning up your
body into the lower back, the upper back, the shoulders and
neck. Relax your arms, your hands and feel the tension just
wash away from your face and head.
itself will bring relaxation. Breathe normally and evenly. Each
breath in brings in fresh energy, each breath out rids the body
of tensions and toxins. Breathe in rejuvenation and exhale into
deeper relaxation. Feel the body melt into the ground, but keep
the mind alert yet relaxed. As a beginner, you may fall asleep!
That’s quite all right. As you practice you will be able to
go into a deep state of relaxation without falling asleep.
while working on Wall Street how much my meditation practice
helped me with the stressful lifestyle in New York City. I would
search at lunchtime for a quiet concrete bench outside between
the skyscrapers so that I could do my meditation practice.
is a great stress reliever. Just sitting still and closing your
eyes, will begin to calm the mind. Meditation is Awareness of
what is in the moment. Nothing more. Nothing less. Just what
It is just
being aware of what is already happening in the moment. It is
called “witness consciousness”. Just like watching a movie go
by. Thoughts will come and thoughts will go. Do not try to capture
a thought and create a story from it. Do not force unpleasant
thoughts to go away. Just
let them come and go.
On a physical
level, meditation lowers the blood pressure, and expands the
breath capacity. Meditation changes the chemicals in the brain. On a mental level, the mind goes
into a state of calm but not to sleep. When the mind dips into the realms
of calm, we connect to a source greater than our individual
there is a marked clarity and focus, and peacefulness. With
practice, intuitive abilities increase. The effects cumulate
and continue to affect us throughout the day.
it is sometimes difficult to sit still. Try some stretching
beforehand so you will not be stiff and uncomfortable while
sitting. You can try a walking meditation, if you like, before
sitting down. Sit
up straight so that you can breathe fully and not fall asleep.
You may sit in a chair without crossing your legs or arms. Do
not lean back and keep your feet flat on the ground. Or you
may sit on the floor with crossed legs or kneeling sitting on
It can be
difficult to just begin to meditate without focusing the busy
mind first. There are many focusing techniques: 1) listening
to the breath, 2) noticing sensations like temperature changes,
tingling, and tension 3) focusing on a candle or picture of
a loved one or religious figure that inspires you, with eyes
half closed 4) repeating or listening to a mantra phrase 5)
listening to relaxing music that does not have words or a melody
to follow 6) visualizing a white healing light surrounding you
or increasing within you. This is good for pain management. Twenty minutes of meditation or
the deep relaxation is equivalent to two hours of sleep….a real
conclusion, consider what you eat, how you breathe, and how
you deal with stress. The ways you take care of your body and
mind are directly responsible for your overall health.
Russell, is CEO/Director of Bhumi’s
Yoga and Wellness Center in Westlake. For information on
lectures and corporate stress management seminars, call (440)
Bhumi's Inc and Harriet Russell, 2002. All rights reserved.