Stress is an inevitability of modern life. Busy commutes, the ‘always on’ nature of flexible working and even chatting with friends can at times all get too much to handle, with each phone ping feeling like a tsunami! When stress strikes, choosing to skip time on our mat to crack on with that looming deadline can be the opposite of what you need. At these times our yoga practice can be exactly the tool to help you work through the drama and keep connected to what’s important. So here are a few top tips for how to use your practice to help you keep your cool, and prevent the burnout that awaits when we stop listening to our inner yogi.
Consistent Practice is Key
As busy as things may be… consistency is key in your practice. Giving yourself a little time for you can help to focus your mind, make your day more productive, and also help you feel in control around the chaos. The practice in all its forms really does offer something for whatever you need; fire, challenge, rest, recuperation, it’s all available to you. Keeping your practice as a priority will both help to release the physical effects of stress from the body and also the mental pressure. Helping you to keep perspective, and allowing you to be the awesome person you are whilst tackling whatever life throws at you.
Yes – 5 Minutes is Enough
When you’re stressed do you skip brushing your teeth before you leave for work? Of course not! So there is always enough time to find 5 mins for yourself and yes 5 mins really can be enough to turn your day around. Finding 5 mins to sit in meditation, or to do one pose before you head out for your day can change your mind-set as well as create more freedom in your body. So next time you say “I don’t have time” put on your timer, sit for 5 mins in silence with no distractions and see how much of a difference it can make for yourself!
Do What You Feel
Your body is the best teacher you will ever have. So, when you step onto your mat take a seat, close your eyes and tune in. Notice your breath. Notice your energy levels and any areas of tension. And then start to move into these areas and just let your body make some shapes and move!
To get you started, here are my 5 top poses for stress relief:
Extended Childs Pose (Balasana)
Kneeling, take your knees as wide is as comfortable for you and allow the hips to drop back towards the heels. Drop your chest over your knees and extend the arms forwards. Hold here feeling the body softening into the ground, and maybe taking a gentle sway of the hips and the head side to side. Hold for as long is as comfortable and focus on the breath and the feeling of this pose in the body.
Seated Forward Fold (Paschimottanasana)
Seated with your legs out in front of you, if this is challenging raise the hips onto a cushion. Hinging from the hips lean the chest forwards and loosely stretch the arms forwards but keep them soft. Hold here softening into the earth, supporting the head with a bolster or cushion for comfort if needed.
Cat & Cow Pose (Marjaryasana & Bitilasana)
On your hands and knees, check hands are shoulder width and under your shoulders, and knees are hip width and under the hips. Keeping a gentle lift of belly into spine start to roll the chest forwards lifting your gaze and stick your bottom out behind you. Then start to roll the other way rounding the spine and pressing into the earth. Move through this with your breath a few times pausing in any spots of tension and tightness.
Reclined Bound Angle Pose (Supta Baddha Konasana)
Laying on your back, bend the knees and draw the soles of the feet together knees dropping out to the sides. Allow the hands to rest on the belly or alongside the body and close the eyes. Hold here and feel the body soften and get heavy into the earth. If needed you can use cushions or blankets to support the legs.
Legs up the wall (Viparita Karani)
Laying on your back, lift the legs feet over hips. Legs up a wall can offer more support or lifting the hips onto a block or cushions can also offer a little more release. Relax here feeling the lightness in the legs and close the eyes.
And finally…. DON’T SKIP SAVASANA!!
When things are busy, giving yourself time to sit and be with yourself becomes even more important. Allowing yourself time to slow down, tune in and feel what’s going on. It can be easy to forget but this pose is what it’s all about! So if anything at times of stress prioritise Savasana in your practice and if anything spend longer here to help your body rest and unwind.
by Robyn Barritt, Instructor at MoreYoga Lewisham