How Yoga Can Help us to Evaluate and Manage Stress

One of the most frequently heard expressions today is “I’m stressed”. Stress is an inevitable part of modern-day living, however, most stress can be reduced considerably and even eliminated.  Here are some considerations when contemplating stress in your life, and suggestions for reducing it:

(1)     What causes me to become stressed? Commonly shared examples of stressors are: Time-keeping, negative relationships, and money …  However, stress is very personal.  What may stress one person, will not stress another.
(2)    What can I do to reduce my stressors?  Take, for example, being unpunctual.  If being late stresses you, then allow more time for your journey, plan for the unexpected, and add extra time if necessary. Give yourself more time than you are likely to need so that you can relax and  enjoy the journey, rather than rushing and arriving stressed and on edge.
(3)    What can I not change? If you cannot change it, then try to make it acceptable by viewing it from a different perspective.  Annoying relatives perhaps will seem less annoying if you can understand and accept your differences.
(4)    Invest some time on your mat in quiet contemplation.  Ask yourself “why am I stressed, and what can I do about it right now?” Allow the question to settle, and quietly watch your breath. Trust in your vijnanamaya kosha, the wise part of us that holds the answers, and wait for inspiration to come. It may not come as quickly as you like, and it may not always been the answer you were hoping for, however it will be the right answer for you.
(5)     Contemplate the Serenity Prayer, and let it’s wisdom inspire you to trust in the guidance you receive:
“God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
Courage to change the things I can,
And the wisdom to know the difference.”
(6)    Be active and expunge negative energy.  Use the adrenalin that your body is supplying: Run, walk fast or choose a more energetic yoga practice … whatever works for you.
(7)    Breathe consciously – slowly and deeply, comfortably and with control.  Focus on the body as you breathe.  Notice the rise and fall of the front of the body with each breath-round.  Notice the lungs expanding with the in-breath and the body softening with the out-breath.  Allow the breath to ease the mind and the body into a state of tranquillity.  Remind yourself that it is impossible to breathe slowly and calmly and be stressed or anxious at the same time.  So now you have a choice to be calm or stressed.  Although stress starts in our mind, we can  erase it through the way we use our thoughts, our breath or our body.  And a combination of all three is powerful … it is what we call yoga!
Om Shanti (Peace to Everyone)
If you would like to know more about yoga, stress and anxiety management, mindfulness or relaxation techniques please contact Sarah, email me at: freetothinkmail@aol.com, find me on Facebook under Free To Think, or text or telephone me on: 07817623330

On Becoming A Yoga Therapist

 

Well, as my fellow yoga therapy students and I press on towards the end of our (rather gruelling) 2+ year Yoga Therapy Diploma Course, I am beginning to reflect on why I first decided to become a Yoga Therapist, and how that has changed and developed over the past 18 months.

Restorative poses are prescribed for their ability to relax and heal on a deep therapeutic level.

Restorative poses are prescribed for their ability to relax and heal on a deeply therapeutic level.

My initial aim was, of course, to “help” people.  An important part of yoga philosophy is that of being of service to others (Karma Yoga) and a Yoga Therapist holds a unique position which enables him or her to combine modern Western knowledge and science with traditional Eastern yogic techniques to cultivate methods of healing. When I first applied for a place on the course, I passionately wanted to be able to ease suffering and encourage empowerment and ownership of did-ease and other disruptions to wellbeing. Of course, I still feel the same way, however, I now understand that these disruptions exist on many different levels within the person, and that, in order for true healing to take place, every level has to be addressed and healed.

A secondary aim was to continue to spread the benefits of yoga as widely as I could. Yoga is purely experiential. Any student knows that we can talk about (and understand) the many physical, psychological, emotional and spiritual benefits of yoga, however the value is in actually spending regular time on our mat experiencing yoga. When we are in that most peaceful of places: at home in our body, experiencing the breath, that is when we truly feel the power of yoga.

Now imagine harnessing all that energy and focusing it precisely where it is needed to improve a particular aspect (or aspects) of wellbeing, then, you have Yoga Therapy.

If you would like to know more about Yoga Therapy, go to my Yoga Therapy page at: Yoga Therapy, or contact me at: Contact Sarah.

 

H – Holistic

H  – Holistic

Traditionally, one of the biggest differences between the eastern and the western approach to healing, was that here in the west, illness and disease were treated in isolation, whereas in the east, a holistic approach was taken.   My 35 years-old Pocket Oxford Dictionary doesn’t even contain the word holistic!  However, the concept is more popular now, so what does it actually mean?

The definition of holistic (according to the current Cambridge Dictionary) is “dealing with or treating the whole of something or someone and not just a part”.  When we talk of a holistic approach then, we mean that we are looking at, not just the physical whole of the individual but, the emotional, psychological, social and spiritual aspects as well. 

When a client or patient is treated using this approach, all parts of the individual are considered and takenHolistic Health into account.  When, for example, we are anxious, there is a distinct inter-play between the body and the mind: the body may be sweating, the heart will be beating faster than usual, the throat may close up and breathing becomes more shallow and speeds up. At the same time, our thoughts become more confused and begin to spiral out of control, leading to an emotional reaction, as feelings of panic, disorientation, lack of control, etc all combine with the physical symptoms causing feelings of being ‘out of sync’ and general distress.  So anxiety is neither just a physical condition, nor is it just psychological either.

It is now generally recognised that no part of the mind or body is separate from the Whole and so every aspect of an individual must be taken into account and treated accordingly.  When western medical practice is partnered with an eastern approach, it is felt that the individual is given the best possible treatment and the outcome is considered to be a great deal more favourable.

D – Depression – Part Two

  

Avoiding Depression

Ok so what can we do to avoid depression?  The best approach to managing your mental health is to take a holistic view by encouraging good physical, mental and spiritual health.  Simply looking after your physical health in isolation from your mental and emotion health will not guarantee protection against depression, anxiety or stress. Having a spiritual view of life, one that gives you a purpose and a sense of meaning to life is also very important for good mental health.  Here are five top tips:

(1)  Cultivate a good support system of family and friends – who can be there for you when life gets difficult or throws a challenge your way.  We all need support from time to time and we should all trust ourselves enough to ask for support in times of difficulty.

(2)  Eat healthily – a healthy diet doesn’t just help to keep your weight manageable, it also helps to prevent against a number of diseases, including heart disease, hypertension, diabetes, osteoporosis and a number of diet-related cancers such as: colon, breast, cervix, gall bladder, ovary, thyroid, kidney, prostate and esophagus.  The added benefit of ensuring that you are eating a nutritional diet is that your body will function at its optimal best which means that you will naturally feel better too.

(3)  Exercise – encourage those feel good endorphins by being active: Brisk walking, swimming, running, cycling, playing sports, going to the gym, running around with your children – even mowing the lawn or cutting the hedge count. Research shows that exercise results in: up to a 35% lower risk of coronary heart disease and stroke; up to a 50% lower risk of type 2 diabetes; up to a 50% lower risk of colon cancer; up to a 20% lower risk of breast cancer; a 30% lower risk of early death and, a 30% lower risk of depression.

(4)  Go with the flow – people are at their happiest when they are fully engaged in a task that is interesting, challenging, and intrinsically rewarding to them. This is the experience of “losing yourself in the moment” or, as sports players say, “being in the zone.” Pitch the task correctly by choosing something that is challenging but achievable and then lose yourself in it. Immersing yourself in this way allows you to “switch off” from all your everyday concerns and experience a greater enjoyment of life.

(5)  Practice mindfulness, yoga and/or meditation – All or any of these practices will promote a deeper self-understanding which results in your being better able to appreciate and look after your Self.  When we are more self aware we are naturally better able to make choices that are good for us deep down without being so affected by external influences. Self-awareness builds trust in our own judgement and facilitates a happier level of being.

 Look after yourself and your Self will look after you!

 If you would like more information or some informal advice about depression or any other concern relating to thoughts, behaviours or feelings, please feel free to use the Contact Sarah page and I will get back to you.

A – Anxiety

Do you constantly feel out of control?  That everything seems worse than it actually is? These feelings are distressing and are common symptoms of anxiety.  Other clues to anxiety are:

  •  Feeling you are about to lose control and completely ‘lose it’;
  • Wanting to “stop the world and get off”;
  • Being continuously on edge and sensitive to everything;
  • Having a general, all-pervading fear or feeling generally apprehensive, but not knowing why;
  • Worrying constantly about everything, thoughts swirling round your head;
  • “Nervous tummy”, sweating, palpitations, shortness of breath, rapid heart beat.

From time to time we may all experience some of the above symptoms, and whilst they can be very unpleasant, for most of us they are just a temporary, less enjoyable aspect of the normal ups and downs of life.  However, if you find that these feelings won’t go away and that you don’t know how to deal with them, it could mean that you are suffering from anxiety. Anxiety is a cycle of fear and worry which is very stressful and often results in a desperate longing to run away from everything.

Take heart, anxiety can be overcome. By finding the root cause(s) and then challenging and changing the associated thoughts, beliefs and perceptions that surround the cause(s) peace of mind can be regained. 

Reducing Levels of Anxiety

  • Don’t try to push the anxiety away – it will only make it worse.  Acknowledge the feeling and look at ways of dealing with it.
  • Try to connect with what it is that is making you anxious. Give yourself the time and space to do this without any interruptions and just let the thoughts come. You will be surprised at how much you already know unconsciously.  By allowing yourself this time and space, you are allowing thoughts, feelings, concerns and beliefs to come into the conscious mind, where you can deal with them on a conscious level.
  • Talk to somebody you can trust – a friend, family member, work colleague or maybe a spiritual leader. It doesn’t matter who it is as long as you can trust them to listen and offer support. Talking helps us to consciously process things better because as we say it, we hear it and feel it on different levels.  This often shines a different light on the situation.
  • Build anti-anxiety coping methods into your life by learning yoga, mindfulness and/or breathing techniques, all of which are excellent ways of reducing and eliminating the condition.
  • If neither of the above work for you then it is recommended that you seek professional help and advice. Persistent feelings of anxiety can sometimes lead to more debilitating conditions such as depression, low self-esteem and OCD and so it is important that the thoughts feelings and beliefs that are causing the anxiety are confronted and managed as quickly as possible.

A – Affirmations

                                                                                Affirmations             

CBT is about challenging negative thoughts, seeking to change them into neutral ones and allowing positive thoughts to follow.  Affirmations are a very powerful tool that can be used to help achieve those changes with a great number of challenging issues such as: Anxiety, Depression, Low Self-Esteem, Phobias and OCD.  Affirmations are often under-valued and this is probably due to a lack of understanding about how they work and how they can be used to greatest effect.  Firstly let’s take a look at how they work.

 How Affirmations Work

Consider, for example, somebody who has a lack of self-confidence.  He will have, running around his head, all his NATs (negative automatic thoughts) relating to his low levels of self-confidence.  The sole purpose of these NATs is to constantly remind, re-affirm and reinforce the feelings surrounding his lack of confidence. This internal voice repeats negative statements to the self, such as “I am no good at talking to people”, “I’m rubbish at learning new skills”, “I can’t get anything right”, etc are all examples of NATs.  These subconscious thoughts are very good at consistently reminding the desperately under-confident individual just how useless he is in the confidence stakes, and what is really important is he believes them! 

Now let’s take a look at somebody who has successfully used affirmations to help him overcome his lack of confidence.  He has chosen several positive affirmations that he uses frequently to habitually remind himself that he can realise whatever he wants to achieve by telling himself: “I know that I can master anything I want to” and he has built up faith in himself by replacing negative statements with positive statements such as “today I am willing to fail in order to succeed tomorrow” and “I have complete trust in myself”.  Our newly Mr Confident is happy in his thoughts because he has consciously replaced his subconscious NATs with positive thoughts.  Sounds easy right? It is as long as you stick at it and have faith in it.

 Rules For Effective Affirmations

  1. Choose affirmations that resonate with you.  They must ‘ring true’ in order that you can believe them of yourself.  In other words be authentic with yourself by not trying to tell yourself something you don’t mean.  If it doesn’t ‘feel’ right, don’t use it.
  2. Repeat them when they matter.  If your affirmation relates to confidence, then remind yourself before encountering a situation that will require confidence, for example before an important meeting:  “I have all the tools I need to succeed”.
  3. Remember that affirmations are most effective when you are feeling relaxed and your ‘guard’ is down, as the more relaxed we are, the more receptive and accepting we are to new thoughts, feelings and ideas.    
  4. Try to record them and play them to yourself so that you can listen to them – a good time to listen is before sleep and while you are asleep as your subconscious will still hear them and again, be more receptive.

Affirm your belief in affirmations and start using them today! 

If you would like a free mp3 downloaded affirmation, please leave a comment and by clicking on the speech bubble above and then going to the resources page.