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.

 

I – I’m OK, You’re OK

The expression ‘I’m ok, you’re ok’ was first used in a book of the same title, which was written by Thomas Anthony Harris MD, an american psychiatrist and author (born April 18, 1910, died May 4, 1995 in Sacramento, California). The book was a bestseller and its name became a cliché during the 1970s. ‘I’m ok you’re ok’ relates to the area of psychiatry/psychology/psychotherapy called ‘Transactional Analysis’ which integrates the theory of all three approaches in the examination of how we, as individuals, relate to each other. It is described as integrative because it has elements of psychoanalytic, humanist and cognitive approaches. Transactional analysis was first developed by Canadian born US psychiatrist Eric Berne (born May 10, 1910, died July 15, 1970), who wrote a famous book on the subject entitled ‘Games People Play’.

Transactional analysis sets out how people are psychologically structured by using a model known as the ego-state. The ego-state model mainains that we are always in one of three basic modes: Parent (a position of authority, not necessarily a parental relationship), Adult (a position of assertiveness, not necessarily a condition of age) and Child (a position of powerlessness – not necessarily a condition of age).  When we communicate with others, we will be in one of these modes (to a larger or lesser extent).  For example:

Parent to child: “You still haven’t cleaned your room!”

Parent to parent: “Children should keep their rooms tidy.”

Parent to adult: “My child keeps her room tidy.”

Child to parent: “Why do you always hassle me?”

Child to adult: “Alright, I’ll get it done now.”

Child to child: “God my parents get on my nerves!”

Adult to child: “Let’s get your room cleaned and then we can go out.”

Adult to parent: “I’ll get it done now.”

Adult to adult: “Let’s get this done so we can go out.”

By examining these differing states of interaction, we can see that the way in which we speak to others is very powerful in determining the sort of response we will get back.

To return to the statement ‘I’m ok, you’re ok’, there are four life positions that a person can hold, and our life will depend enormously on our own position.  These positions are:

  1. I’m OK and you are OK. This is the healthiest position about life and it means that I feel good about myself and that I feel good about others as, on the whole, I believe human nature, life in general and particularly my own situation, to be good.
  2. I’m OK and you are not OK. This is not usually a healthy position to take since I feel good about myself but I see others as damaged, impaired or inferior to me.
  3. I’m not OK and you are OK. In this position I see myself as inferior to others and will be the weak partner in relationships. If I hold this position I will unconsciously accept abuse as being OK.
  4. I’m not OK and you are not OK. This is the worst position to be in as it means that I believe that I am in a terrible state and the rest of the world is as bad. Consequently I will feel that there can be no hope at all.

The position that we hold in our life may sometimes have been carried with us into adulthood from childhood.  If, for example, we always felt powerless as a child, and were never encouraged to be assertive, then we may well remain in our child position of feeling powerless.  There are many complex ways in which we can be stuck in one or other of these positions, however the majority of healthy individuals will move from one position to another many times every day, depending upon who we are talking to. When we examine our most usual position(s) we can find out a lot about how we fit into our world and relate to it.

From a Transactional Analysis (and therefore CBT) perspective:

  • All people are OK, in that every person has validity, importance and deserves respect.
  • Positive reinforcement increases feelings of being ‘OK’
  • All people have a basic lovable core and a desire for positive growth (however well that may be hidden).
  • Everyone (with only few exceptions, such as the severely brain-damaged) has the capacity to think.
  • All of the many facets of an individual have a positive value for them in some way.
  • People decide their story and destiny, therefore these decisions can be changed.
  • All emotional difficulties are curable.

The aim of change, under Transactional Analysis, is to move towards: freedom from issues held on to from childhood, spontaneity, intimacy and problem solving, as opposed to avoiding or passively remaining in an unwanted situation. This is all done with a view to progressing and moving into a new, healthier position of ‘I’m ok, you’re ok.’

Further reading:  Eric Berne: Games People Play.

                              Thomas Harris: I’m OK, You’re OK’.

H – Happiness

How do we define happiness? Is it getting just what we want out of life? Having lots of satisfying and supporting close relationships? Peace of mind? Not having to worry? Or maybe it is a combination of all these things?

According to Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1772-1834), an English poet, literary critic and philosopher – “The happiness of life … is made up of minute fractions – the little, soon-forgotten charities of a kiss, a smile, a kind look, a heartfelt compliment.” If that sounds too easy to be true then think about it for a moment:

Do you spend your time thinking about all the things you don’t have that you would like; all the people around you who annoy you; all the things you have to do that frustrate you? If you do, then I expect you’re feeling pretty fed up. If, however, you fill your day thinking about all the things you have that you can be grateful for (particularly the little things as suggested by Mr Coleridge); all the people around you who care; and all the choices in life that you have, then chances are, when you look back over your day, it will have been a good one (or at least not bad!).

Happiness and gratitude work hand in hand, so why not try spending an entire day being grateful: For the opportunities you are given – to hug somebody you love; the choices you have – cheese or tuna (at least I know I won’t go hungry); the actions you take – saying thank you, paying a compliment, making a difficult decision and trusting yourself that it will be ok.

Most importantly, be aware of your thoughts. If you notice a negative thought creeping in, then try to replace it with a neutral or positive one. For example: “I bet it’s going to rain again today” could become “It might rain today so I’ll take my brolly just in case” or even “who cares if it rains today, I’ll have my brolly!”

 

Think about what makes you happy and inject some happiness into your life everyday: 

  • Spend more time building positive, supportive relationships. 
  • Invest time and energy doing something that brings you happiness.
  • Take time out to be alone and be with yourself, just being you. 
  • Look after yourself: eat well, sleep well, exercise well, live well. 
  • Be in the here and now – make the most of every moment and see if you can enjoy it for what it is.

Free your thoughts, live your life

… and be happy!

 

Workshop This Saturday – 18th May

Just to remind anybody who may have been planning to come along to my next workshop: It’s this Saturday, from 10:am to 3:00pm, and we will be exploring the subtle energies of the body.

Have you ever wondered why you automatically like some people and not others?  Or how we are so good at detecting other people’s emotions?  Why do we always sense somebody when they are standing very close to us?  If you would like to know more then why not come along and find out.

This is also an ideal opportunity to give yourself some important ‘me time’ in  a relaxed and friendly environment … What more could you ask for!

The cost of the workshop is £25.00, drinks and light snacks and a workbook/journal are included.  To book, or for more information email me at freetothinkmail@aol.com or call me on: 07817623330.

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.

G – Generosity

 

Throughout our day we will experience a whole gamut of emotions and feelings:  some negative: maybe frustration, displeasure, disappointment or sadness; others positive, for example happiness, gratitude, satisfaction or laughter.  When you look back over your day, what is it that makes you smile, or feel gratitude or pleasure?  In the normal routine of our daily lives, it is usually the small things that count because it is the small things that make up our general perspective of our lives.  Yes, holidays are fantastic experiences, yes salary increases are important financially and yes, good health is of extreme value to us.  However, it is the minutae of life that are equally important because they all add up.

The genuine smile from a stranger; the kindness of the person who let you into the traffic flow when you were running late for work; the thoughtful words of a friend when you need a caring ear; the compliment from a colleague when you’re feeling low; sharing a hug with a loved one … All of these things are important to us because they demonstrate a generosity of spirit. They are all given freely and authentically, with no expectation of anything in return. 

They are given for no other reason than because we can.

Cultivating a generosity of spirit is essentially good for all of us.  Isn’t it nice to smile at a stranger and have your smile reciprocated?  Or to listen to a friend’s problems, knowing that they are equally there for you when you need them. Being considerate to others helps us to feel integrated, it encourages acceptance and usually produces consideration in return.  When we are feeling good about life, it is easy to share those feelings around.  We whistle as we go through our day, we are a little ray of sunshine and everybody gets to bathe in the warmth of our happiness.  However when we are feeling down, we may distance ourselves and it can seem very difficult to raise even the most tentative smile. It is when we are feeling low, that generosity of spirit is most important.  If we turn our thoughts to others, and take the time to extend some consideration to our family, colleagues, peers, in fact anybody, we will reap positive benefits in return and that will help to lift our spirits and find a better perspective.

Some might call it Karma, some coincidence or luck, but whatever you want to call it, try it, it really works!

 

 

F – Focusing

When you don’t understand why you feel or behave the way you do, what do you do? Do you talk to somebody about your feelings and ask them? Do you try a little research on the web? Or read a book? Have you ever considered asking your inner self?

Asking your inner self is sometimes described as focusing. Focusing is a gentle, powerful skill that allows you to tap into the body’s own wisdom in order to make positive changes to the ways in which you think and feel. This method of self-discovery is both empowering and enlightening.

By accessing your body’s stored knowledge you can very often find the rationale behind feelings and thoughts that make no sense on a conscious level. According to Ann Weiser Cornell (May, 2005) in her book: The Radical Acceptance of Everything. Calluna Press. p. 13:

Focusing is a psychotherapeutic process developed by psychotherapist Eugene Gendlin. It can be successfully used in any kind of therapeutic situation, including peer-to-peer sessions. It involves holding a kind of open, non-judging attention to an internal knowing which is directly experienced but is not yet in words. Focusing can, among other things, be used to become clear on what one feels or wants, to obtain new insights about one’s situation, and to stimulate change or healing of the situation. Focusing is set apart from other methods of inner awareness by three qualities: something called the “felt sense”, a quality of engaged accepting attention, and a researched-based technique that facilitates change

If you would like more information about Focusing then please do not hesitate to contact me using the contact page.

F – Feelings

 

Feelings are powerful. They dictate our actions, behaviours and beliefs – fact. They are so powerful that we have no control over them – not fact.  When we exercise power over our feelings we are choosing, to a much greater extent, how we feel. Our feelings are largely influenced by our thoughts and our thoughts are the result of our previous experiences, influences and beliefs in any situation. Therefore if you have learned to feel guilty if somebody around you is upset, you will most likely feel guilty. If your first reaction to perceived aggression is to retaliate in anger then you will become angry. 

So how can we go about reacting differently?  The simplest way is to change our thoughts.  And that’s where things become interesting.  We have ultimate control over our thoughts.  Nobody else has any power at all over them, unless we we give them that power.  We can choose to perceive any situation, person or event in our own inimitable way.  In order to change our thoughts we have to know that we are capable of doing so.  If you believe a particular person will annoy you because he “always gets on my nerves” then chances are he is going to annoy you.  If you tell yourself that he isn’t going to affect you anymore, you have a very strong chance that he won’t. 

Give it a try. Next time you feel angry, sad, low, guilty, frustrated, envious, upset or offended, don’t react, pause for thought.  Literally.  Be aware of what is going around your head, and then consider changing those thoughts.  You can control your day to great effect if you get into the habit of re-thinking before re-acting.

I would love to hear your comments about this or any other of my blogs.  Please feel free to use the contact page.

E – Effort

 

As you read this, how much effort are you putting into it? Are you relaxed?  Or tense and conscious of the time it is taking you?  Are you reading it slowly because you are interested?  Or scanning through because you have a to-do list as long as your arm and you should really be getting on with something else?    

How much effort do you put into the following areas of your life?:

  1. Work/business/career/running a home?
  2. Your partner/children?
  3. Your friends and wider family?
  4. Your hobbies and interests?
  5. Your self and your own personal development?

Would I be right in saying that the majority of your efforts go into the first three categories?  Have you ever stopped to consider why this is?  Is it because you believe it is “selfish” to put your interests and your self before others?  Is it because you “don’t have the time” to think about your self, let alone actually have hobbies and interests? 

If you have just read the above and agreed with even some of it, then just stop for a moment and think (yes, you can spare a moment).  Whose life are you living?  Your bosses? Your clients? Your childrens? Husbands? Parents? … or Yours?  Who is the only person who can ever really know exactly what it is that ensures your happiness, peace of mind, contentment? And who is the only person who should really be expected to put in the time and commitment to ensure that happiness, peace of mind and contentment?

Putting a little effort into You will help to build your resilience, improve your self-esteem, your mood, your health and your relationships, it will have a dramatic effect on the whole of your life.

Food for thought … it just takes a little effort.  Every now and then take the above five categories and turn them upside down … It will do you good!