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April 28, 2011
Pranayama Exercises to Relieve Holiday Stress
As much fun as the holiday season can be, it can also be very stressful and bring up a lot of unresolved emotions and disappointments. Holiday stress may come in the form of the drain on your time, money and energy as you rush from one event to the next. You may also be struggling to find the right gifts for your spouse, children or friends. These gifts may tax you financially and cause added stress. On a more serious note, if you have lost a loved one recently or are estranged from important people in your life, the emotional stress of these difficulties may weigh heavily on you at this time of the year.
Stress often comes in the form of anxiety. This anxiety could stem from emotional reasons, financial difficulties or time constraints. Regardless of the cause, anxiety raises cortisol levels in the blood and keeps our bodies on high alert. This high level of alertness is beneficial for accomplishing a difficult task or navigating a dangerous situation in the short run, but it is highly detrimental to good physical and mental health in the long run. Pranayama exercises that stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system will soothe and calm you as well as lower high levels of cortisol in the blood.
Dirga Pranayama is a simple and effective pranayama exercise that will leave you feeling both energized and calm. A regular practice of Yoga poses and pranayama exercises is invaluable in its ability to lift stress, tension and heaviness off of your shoulders. It will also energize you, boost your immune system and help you sleep better at night. The simple act of putting time aside for yourself each day to do your Yoga practice will help to create a sanctuary of time and space for you to slow down and take care of your own needs during the holiday season.
To practice Dirga Pranayama, come to a comfortable seated position on your Yoga mat or on a chair. Dirga Pranayama is a three part breath that helps to elongate and deepen your breath as it soothes your nervous system. Start by inhaling one third of the air capacity of your lungs and hold the inhale briefly just below your navel. Next, inhale one third more of your lung capacity and briefly hold the inhale at the bottom of your rib cage. Now, fill your lungs to their capacity and hold your inhale for a moment or two at the top of your sternum just below your throat. Exhale smoothly and completely. Repeat this breath three to eight times.
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