It’s a paradox: In contrast to the life of our grandparents, our everyday life has become a lot easier, supported by modern technology that simplifies and accelerates many processes. However, this acceleration has also somehow taken on a life of its own – at least that’s how it feels for many of us. While it used to be perfectly normal not to get an immediate response to a request, today we have the pressure to respond to emails as quickly as possible. Even in our private lives, we often get a half-worried, half-annoyed “are you okay?” when WhatsApp messages aren’t answered within a certain period of time.
It is not least this constant accessibility, this expectation that everything has to happen very quickly, that illnesses such as burnout are spreading. Stress seems to have become a widespread disease, and stress-related symptoms such as tension are almost normal.
But even if some people proudly display their stress in order to appear particularly productive and important: stress is not glamorous. In the long run, it can even make you sick.
Yoga is a wonderful way to relieve stress. After a hectic day, it’s a great way to unwind and find yourself again a little more.
Here are my three favorite yogic methods against stress.
Do you know that feeling: an important meeting or presentation is coming up, you are under time and performance pressure, you feel nervous – and suddenly you notice how shallow your breathing has become? The fact that our breathing speeds up in stressful situations is quite normal, but it is not a one-way street. Just as our sensation can influence our breath, so can our breath influence our sensation. If we consciously breathe slowly and deeply in a hectic situation, we signal to our brain: Everything is under control. No need to worry. You are safe.
Taking a few moments to breathe deeply in and out, paying attention to the movements of the abdominal wall and chest, can already help well. If you want to go a little further, you can practice yogic alternate nostril breathing.
- Find a relaxed but upright position
- Rest your left hand on your left thigh. Bring the tips of the index and ring fingers of your right hand to the base of your right thumb.
- Close the right nostril with the thumb of your right hand. Inhale on the left for four seconds.
- Then close the left nostril with the ring finger as well. Hold the breath for sixteen seconds.
- Open the right nostril, keeping the left one closed. Exhale through the right nostril for eight seconds.
- Then breathe in again on the right for four seconds.
- Close the right nostril so that both nostrils are closed again, and hold the air for sixteen seconds.
- Open the right nostril, keep the left one closed. Breathe out through the right nostril for eight seconds.
- Then inhale again on the right for four seconds.
- Close the right nostril so that both nostrils are closed again, and hold the breath for sixteen seconds.
- Open the left nostril, keeping the right one closed. Exhale through the left nostril for eight seconds.
- This completes one round. Begin a new cycle by breathing in through the left nostril. Repeat as many times as you like, ending the exercise with the exhalation through the left nostril. Then reflect for a moment.
Our brain means well with us. It warns us when we are potentially in danger to keep us safe. In the past, this was necessary for survival to escape saber-toothed tigers. Nowadays, “threats” tend to come in the form of demanding bosses, interpersonal conflicts, or difficult situations. Sometimes we can’t really distinguish whether our situation is really that bad at the moment.
By means of meditation you “train” your brain. Practiced regularly, it gives us the ability to recognize when our thought carousel is getting out of control again and also the ability to collect ourselves better in such a situation.
If you are particularly stressed, you will probably find it rather difficult to sit quietly and meditate for several minutes. Therefore, make meditation a habit when you’re feeling well so that you’re prepared for emergencies.
Relaxing yoga exercises
Whether your stress manifests itself in fatigue or restlessness, there are yoga asanas that will help either way!
Forward Folds: The seated forward fold in particular has a calming effect on our autonomic nervous system. If your hamstrings are so shortened that you can’t hold the forward fold comfortably, make a yin posture out of it by building a small tower out of pillows or a bolster in front of you to rest your head or upper body on. It doesn’t matter how deep you can sink into the asana.
Sun Salutations: actually, sun salutations are meant to get us going rather than bring us down when we are stressed. However, if you feel a strong inner turmoil, it can be very helpful to move in tune with your breath, especially if you do it consciously and slowly. So connect the poses of Sun Salutation with your breath. Make sure your breath is deep and try not to get out of breath. Feel free to insert an intermediate breath once in a while, for example in downward looking dog.
Child’s pose: Take up this yoga pose when you feel like everything is getting too much for you and you’re in over your head. If it doesn’t feel good for you to rest your head on the mat, let your upper body and one temple rest on a bolster or large pillow.
Folding forward and child’s pose are also good poses for sleeping peacefully afterwards – an important factor in preventing and reducing stress. Feel free to combine all methods in whatever way feels best for you.