yoga for chronic stressBy Dr. Paul Jerard, E-RYT 500

Constant demands on our time – from work, spouses, children, and worrying about the future, can create a subtle background hum of chronic stress. It may seem invisible and inevitable, lurking just beneath the surface like an iceberg. Yet, chronic anxiety wears the body down, curtailing immune function and giving rise to more frequent illnesses, as well as conditions, such as neck and shoulder aches and tension headaches.


A “fight or flight” reaction in the body is triggered by stress, dumping hormones like cortisol and adrenalin into the bloodstream. While adrenaline, for example, is helpful in short bursts as a reaction to allow the person to escape harmful situations, long term, chronic stress acts like any other disease. Breathing techniques and stretching, in Yoga, is one of the most effective ways to combat chronic anxiety without medication.

Yoga techniques for chronic anxiety begin by setting aside time for practice. Though it may seem troublesome, committing to a regular time, and focusing only on Yoga at that time, will help reduce the worried feeling of “too much to do” created by chronic stress. Though some asanas are more helpful than others, any Yoga sequences and mental focus, during a specified period, are beneficial. Yoga techniques for chronic stress include relaxation asanas, stretching asanas, and breathing techniques.

Relaxing Yoga Asanas, include:

Jyeshtikasana or Superior pose

Adhavasana or Reversed Corpse (prone) pose

Savasana or Corpse pose

Matsya Kridasana or Flapping Fish pose

Makarasana or Crocodile pose

Yoga poses can also be practiced with the use of a wall or chair.

Adho Mukha Svansasana, or Downward-Facing Dog pose, can be practiced by reaching out to a chair.

Viparitakarani or Legs Up the Wall pose: This is a gentle inversion that improves circulation in the upper body, where chronic stress seems to leave the most tension.

Trikonasana or Triangle Pose: This asana is truly a treasure and can be practiced with a block, chair, small stool, or while sitting in a chair.


Pranayama for Stress Relief

Yoga breathing (pranayama) during these asanas is important. Stress is best relieved with deep, slow breaths. Start with three to five slow breaths, taking as much time on the exhale as on the inhale. Ultimately, the goal is to reach only one or two deep breaths in a minute, but this takes time to achieve.

At the same time, breath ratio should be one part inhale to two parts exhale (1:2).  However, new Yoga practitioners would be wise to focus on gradually extending the breath, instead of stressing out over the breath ratio.  Therefore, a breath ratio of one part inhale to one part exhale (1:1) is a good start.  Keep in mind that inhaling for five seconds, and exhaling for five seconds, is still a 1:1 ratio.

Cultivate stress-reducing habits “off the mat,” as well. If possible, reduce commute time, which has been shown to be one of the greatest contributors to stress in daily life. Depending on your work environment, try to check Email only once an hour, and do not jump or run to answer the telephone on the first ring. A healthy individual, free of chronic stress, will be far more productive in the long run.

© Copyright – Aura Wellness Center – Publications Division

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