By Dr. Paul Jerard, E-RYT 500
Extreme stress-related health problems are so prevalent in our society, that the United States Public Health Service has actually set a goal to see that changes are made. While some stress can be motivating, no one benefits from long-term anxiety, extreme stress, and chronic worry.
Individual reactions are partially influenced by sensitive sympathetic nervous systems – the fight or flight response that speeds up the pulse rate, tightens muscles, and disrupts the endocrine system. Even significant events, such as death or illness, are made more or less stressful, by the way they are perceived.
If the brain has a store of negative memories that it relates to new stressors, the conscious mind perceives them as a threat. The subconscious mind then reacts, by generating physical and emotional responses, that fit accordingly. Eventually, the conscious mind becomes overwhelmed and filters information less effectively, by firing off negative alarms to the subconscious. The subconscious responds by sending adrenaline to the body, and a cycle develops.
Learning to avoid thoughts and actions, that perpetuate stressful reactions in their early stages, addresses the problem at its root level. Practicing the following Yoga relaxation techniques lowers stress levels and clears the mind.
• Yoga Postures and Yoga Nidra
Practicing Yoga, especially during restorative posture practice, relaxes the body and prepares it for meditation. Yoga Nidra, or Yogic sleep, is an ancient form of relaxation and rejuvenation.
Close your eyes, and picture in your mind, a comfortable, serene place. Imagine you are there. Add the five senses; for example, see a beautiful beach, hear the ocean roar, smell the fragrance, feel the sand and the warm sunlight, and taste the salty air. Take slow, deep breaths. For performance anxiety, you might visualize yourself acing a test or doing a perfect headstand.
• Progressive Relaxation
Sit in a chair, or lie on your back, in a quiet, comfortable place. Take three deep breaths, and begin by tensing and relaxing the muscles in your feet. Move upward, slowly breathing, squeezing each muscle group, and then releasing. When you reach your head, rest as long as you like, then open your eyes, while feeling relaxed and calm. This technique may be used alone or before meditation.
Sit quietly, and comfortably, while doing one of the following meditations: focusing on an object or sound, counting your breaths, or listening to a guided meditation. Soothing music may also be helpful.
• Abdominal Breathing
Lie on a comfortable surface in a quiet place. Close your eyes, and put your right hand on your diaphragm, and your left hand on your chest. Breathe smoothly from the diaphragm, feeling the hands rhythmically rise and fall with each breath. Continue for as long as you wish. Then relax and open your eyes.
These Yogic methods may be used alone, or combined, for more powerful results to cope with extreme stress. They may also be used with biofeedback or self-hypnosis. Managing stress, on a daily basis, strengthens the immune system and helps to prevent burn-out.
© Copyright – Aura Wellness Center – Publications Division
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