After teaching my Yoga Class this week, I had a lady ask me- “What can I do to reduce my stress?” My first response was- be here as much as you can. Often, during periods of high stress and additional life-demands, our habits that nurture and support us tend to go to the side-lines too. That’s when we need them the most!
So, what is stress and how can we manage our stress through yoga?
WHAT IS STRESS?
The way in which I have experienced stress, I would say it is a build-up of life-tension and your ability to work through it. The medical term for stress as defined by the Would Health Organisation says:
“Stress can be defined as any type of change that causes physical, emotional, or psychological strain. Stress is your body’s response to anything that requires attention or action. Everyone experiences stress to some degree. The way you respond to stress, however, make a big difference to your overall well-being.”
I feel there are a few key areas to note with stress here:
- There are MANY ways you might experience stress in your life.
- Everyone’s responses to the levels and severity of stress are completely different.
- Stress is a valid feeling, regardless of what is causing it.
PHYSICAL RESPONSES TO STRESS
When we experience a stressful situation, there are many ways in which we respond. Often, the culture of our lives demands us to “suck it up” and continue to push beyond it, but next time you experience stress, I challenge you to enquire about how you feel stress, particularly in your body.
Our bodies are incredible systems that often warn us when our stress levels are running high and our sympathetic nervous system is in overdrive. These warnings provide us with the information that we need to take some time to relieve stress and these early stages are when we turn to our Yoga practice, our meditation practice or anyways that allow you to repair and return to balance.
When we are stressed, a chemical called Cortisol is released in our bodies that creates a range of effects. Increased heart rate, increased muscle tension and increased perspiration are some of them. These are all signs our Sympathetic nervous system is activated and we’re in a fight or flight response. Those sweaty palms are telling you that adrenaline has been released in your body and something needs to happen to relieve it.
As we travel through our lives, when we don’t tend to the release of stress, we end up on the fast track to exhaustion, and eventually burn-out. Eventually, the build up will continue to rise our emotional state to a place where we’ll have no choice but to slow down and restore.
ENERGETICS OF STRESS
Energetically, where you hold your stress in your body also says something. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, there is a belief there’s a psycho-emotional element to any physical pain. What that means is- your body is holding onto your stuck emotions and is sending you signs.
- Lower Back is usually related to feelings of being unsupported.
- Knee pain is linked to a feeling of loss in direction
- Tightness across the shoulders is often concerned with carrying the weight of responsibilities- either yours, or others.
TIP: If you’re really interested in learning more about this, I’d highly recommend Inna Segal’s book- “The Secret Language of the Body”. It’s amazing. You can pick it up from Big W. It has an easy-to-follow display of all the muscles in the body, some illnesses and what the emotional element may be that’s linked.
If we consider that stress often shows up in the physical body, and there’s an energetic link to that holding of tension, Yoga is then a fantastic practice to relieve this.
YOGA FOR STRESS RELIEF
When you consider a Yoga practice, the movement eases away the tension physically, but more importantly, the power of having a whole hour to yourself is absolutely healing. When you step into a yoga studio, or roll out your mat for a YouTube yoga, you know that’s your time!! You have this incredibly welcoming space, dedicated time to declutter through the thoughts of the day and movement connected with breath to refresh everything that is happened and to see it from a more relaxed perspective.
The reality of life is that we will always experience stress. The severity will always fluctuate. There’ll be moments when it feels like you’re being hit wave after wave. Other moments when life feels like you’re in flow.
Yoga expands our capacity to work through these stressors. It’s not to say that because you do yoga, you’ll never be stressed again. But rather you’ll have the tools to work through it all- whatever life throws at you.
FINAL NOTE: IS STRESS GOOD OR BAD FOR US?
It may sound a little strange, but stress is GOOD for us.
We need stress in our lives!!
Imagine if we didn’t have the pressure of work deadlines, meetings, family expectations and even bigger dreams that feel so overwhelming. We would never achieve anything because we wouldn’t have the desire too. Stress provides us that little bit of butterflies in the belly that says, “can I get through this.” The power comes when you DO!! What you show to yourself when you do overcome a stress thrown at you, is incredible! You strengthen your stress muscle and your ability to overcome anything that life throws at you and that’s powerful!!
Stress is also relative to every single person. What 1 person finds “stressful”, someone else might not be as affected by it. This is all determined by our previous life experiences, the tools we’ve already gathered through our lives, the state in which we’re in when the stressor happens and so much more. It all comes down to how you perceive that stressful situation.
Our goal should be to listen to our own needs and desires more and honour the messages it’s telling you. Bit by bit, we will all eventually get good at listening to the stress rising in our bodies first and take the time out that’s needed. Action towards clearing out the stress has a huge impact on the day-to-day life and a frequent yoga practice allows you to work through the build up so that it stays manageable.
My Go-To supplements to support stress:
I honestly LIVE by these 2 supplements. The first one is an Ashwaganda Complex which is a herb beneficial to relieving stress. It also comes as a day and night remedy, which I use the night one when I have trouble sleeping and it works wonders!
The second one is a low-THC Hemp Oil that is a miracle wonder for stress relief and also many ailments within the body.
Click on the photo for more details on each.