August 2007 Yoga Teacher Training Newsletter
Yogic Stress Management Therapy
By Dr. Paul Jerard, E-RYT 500
Once in a while, a new student comes through the door, seeking asylum from stress. He or she may have arrived due to a medical, psychological, or friend’s referral, but the biggest step was walking through the door. Our Yoga studio is seen as a haven from the pace of life outside the walls.
In fact, stress is so automatic in our society, that people can be consumed in it, while going to any new place. Even when visiting my Yoga center in Attleboro, for the first time. Once a student is made comfortable, we can then discuss the causes and solutions to his or her stress and anxiety attacks.
People often wonder why Yoga became so popular worldwide. There are many reasons for Yoga’s popularity, but the world needs solutions and Yoga has them. People are caught up in the global epidemic of stress and anxiety.
“Finding yourself,” “chilling out,” self-realization, transformation, and living a quality life, are catchy phrases, but these are a handful of the many benefits of Yoga practice. What surprises the public most is that there are many styles of Yoga, and many different approaches to health problems.
Yoga is a science of life, which takes the full view of mind, body, soul, and emotion. Yoga, and its sister science, Ayurveda, find holistic solutions for the entire being without side effects or a precision attack on part of the body.
The combination of breath, exercise, meditation, relaxation, diet, and many more Yogic methods, develop an awareness of what is important in life. Being part of the “rat race” is not for everyone.
So, where is all this stress coming from? Why have divorce rates sky rocketed? Why are families falling apart? Why is “burn out” from over work, and having a mental breakdown, so common?
There are many causes, which have resulted in this global stress epidemic. The pursuit of material wealth has always been on mankind’s list of priorities. This does not seem to be going away any time soon.
Therefore, you may consider some of the following methods to detoxify your body. In comparison to the many changes you could make, increasing your intake of pure water is fairly harmless. Most people do not drink 3 glasses per day. Therefore, an increase to five, eight ounce glasses, per day, is moderate and healthy.
While we know that water is good for your skin, and will flush out your digestive system, the results of the Adventist Health Study indicate that men and women, who drink just five glasses of water per day, can greatly reduce the risk of a fatal heart attack. “Men drinking five or more glasses of water a day can reduce their risk of a fatal heart attack by 50 percent. That’s as much as stopping smoking,” stated Jacqueline Chan, a researcher of the Adventist Health Study.
It may be decades before all of the benefits from drinking pure water are common knowledge, but flushing out your digestive and elimination systems is important. The last thing we need is a blockage.
Eating fresh vegetables, fruit, and whole grains, is also a good change to institute. You do not have to do it all at once, but filling up on fresh and natural food first will help you avoid being tempted by processed foods.
One aspect of Yoga, which amazes most new students, is the newfound ability to become aware of everything, which was already around them in the first place. This includes feelings of, and opportunities for, happiness.
Remember Bob Marley’s song. “Don’t worry, be Happy?” Have you ever been offended when a friend said, “Take it easy.” Why? A simple solution to your “big problem,” seems like an insult to your intelligence. Can it be that easy?
Is the answer as simple as, “Just learn to relax?” Yes, learning to relax is the answer. Yet, learning to relax is anything, but simple. For example: New Yoga students are sometimes uncomfortable while practicing stage-by-stage relaxation or Yogic body-scan relaxation techniques. How can this be?
Relaxation techniques are usually much easier to learn than meditation. The most common reason for a Yoga student to be uncomfortable with sitting, or lying down, is an underlying fear of getting to know him or herself.
When you make the time to get to know yourself, this is time well spent, but many people, who do not practice relaxation or meditation methods, consider them a waste of time. So, what is the true value in sitting or lying down relaxing?
Firstly, everyone needs to relax during the day or risk “burn out.” The same goes for laughing, joking, and smiling – You must give yourself a break. Relaxation is simply “break time.”
In fact, you should only focus on relaxing when practicing your stage-by-stage relaxation or Yogic body-scan relaxation techniques. You will have plenty of time for self-realization during the day or when practicing meditation.
Now let’s look at practicing Yoga “off the mat,” in order to establish control of our thoughts. Anxiety is a strong feeling of apprehension, which needs constant supervision by you. At the same time, anxiety is, most often, not reality.
Our feelings and fears cannot be allowed to take charge of our minds. Since anxiety stems from within the mind, Yoga is a valuable practice for centering ourselves. Allowing anxiety to take control will leave us paralyzed by the negative powers within our imaginations.
How do we establish control of the “monkey mind” during a “wave” of anxiety? When anxious thoughts begin to exaggerate inherent fears, we have lost control of our minds. The mind is your greatest ally or your worst enemy, but you must choose which path to follow.
During an anxiety attack, some people try to establish control by saying to themselves, “Mustn’t think bad thoughts.” This method can work, but has limited success. Why? If you want to divert your thinking, why not create an inspirational positive thought in the form of mantra, Japa, or affirmation.
Consider these words by French psychologist Emile Coue, “Every day, in every way, I am getting better and better.” In truth, mantra, Japa, or positive affirmations are easier to remember when they are not complex. In the case of the monkey mind running wild, we might just say “My thoughts are under my control.”
If you prefer something in Sanskrit, “Om Namah Shivaya,” or something else, will do, but consult with your Yoga teacher because you should understand what you are saying. In the case of Om Namah Shivaya, this means “God dwells in every heart.” If you wanted to create a slightly different positive affirmation in English, “The Lord lives in my heart,” will do just fine.
© Copyright 2007 – Paul Jerard / Aura Publications