The year 2020 started for all of us without a clue about what we will be expecting in a couple of months. And here we are now with so much uncertainty, anxiety, stress and the fear of the unknown, Fear of this super tiny enemy which is just one-millionth of a millimeter in diameter has tied 7.8 Billion people on earth. So, how do we get rid of the stress?
We still don’t know where we are heading and what will be our lifestyle in the coming months or years. This uncertainty prevails at a subconscious level within all of us resulting in stress-induced anxiety. This stress is inevitable, we can’t do anything about it, but what we can do is manage our response to this stress. We can come out of this anxiety and mindfully deal with this stress. Yoga plays an important role in managing anxiety and paves the way to get rid of stress.
Let us understand the stress mechanism in this video and let us see five important yogic practices and its principle behind how yoga helps you get rid of stress.
Stress Mechanism – How it all happens
First, let’s understand the stress mechanism. Though Stress looks like an invisible thing, it manifests in the body in the form of some chemicals generated by our glands under certain conditions. We need these chemicals to get some job done in our system, but when it is produced over the limit, then it is a problem.
Let us take three scenarios that cause Stress…
Alone in a forest, encountering a wild animal
Imagine you are in a forest, walking in the dark all alone, suddenly you encounter a wild animal… What will you do…? What will be your state of mind? And what happens to your body?
Your heartbeat increases, Your mind is racing with possible choices…Your body is shaking…If you have an option to run, you will choose that automatically, but if you have been cornered in a place, then you have to fight with the animal. [We have heard the news about situations when a woman was able to lift a vehicle, to save her kid in a situation where the kid is trapped.]
When the body detects threat, it produces adrenaline in the body, which is F or F response, which gives us enormous energy to either run away from the situation or fight that problem. Basically, the chemicals generated are capable of manifesting into a physical reaction where you act in such a way, which is not humanly possible otherwise.
Upcoming deadline / Exams / Event in Family
Say, for example, you have 10 days to finish a job, You start on day 1, finish it on Day 10….
If you start on Day 7 somehow we manage to finish it on Day 10… How? The stress has induced so much energy that makes you do that in 3 days. This stress has directed all your energy to your brain to work effectively in 3 days what otherwise would take 10 days.
…. But other systems receive less importance and goes for a toss. That is why most of us, perform very efficiently when there is a deadline. Because there is an enormous amount of energy directed towards one function of the body. The rest of the functional systems are compromised.
Once in a while, you can use this extra energy, but if your life is constantly on a timeline, always running after deadlines, then imagine, the damage the body goes through….
Stress due to prevailing pandemic COVID19
The third scenario is the present situation… Think about it, the kind of stress we are exposed to, we can neither run away from it nor able to fight with it. There are other conditions similar to this stress. Say when you are forced to do certain things that are unacceptable for you… maybe work-related, relationships, loss in business, and so on. We can’t do anything about it.
So what happens to the chemicals that are triggered due to such stress. It stays back in your system. This stress is not manifested in a physical form. This is not directed to your brain as mental energy…
It is there sitting on your system… It will start attacking your own body, your internal organs… Unless we channelize and direct this energy to something productive.
Story from Ramayana
I will tell you a story from the Indian epic Ramayana, Rama faces a situation where he has to fight and win a monkey king Vali. Vali is a great king of so much strength and Valour. He has this power, Whenever he encounters an enemy in the battle, he gets half of the enemy’s power and strength, so nobody was able to beat him up. Rama came to know about this and decides to kill him hiding behind a tree.
Our situation is very similar to this… This Coronavirus is lifeless on its own, But it takes our energy, our DNA from our cells and start reproducing and then start attacking us. We have to face this, like how Rama faced Vali attacking from behind a tree. We have to attack this enemy of ours by distancing ourselves like hiding behind a tree.
- The tool we are going to use is the one that will direct our energy towards attacking this deadly virus.
- The tool we are going to use is the one that manages our response to this stressful condition.
Get Rid of Stress: How it Manifests?
Stress manifests in the body at the Physical level, Physiological level, and Mental level…. Same as Yoga which counters the effect of stress on Physical, Physiological, Mental, and two other levels emotional and the level of bliss. If you take a pill for stress, yes, it works on balancing the chemical imbalance that has been caused due to stress or anxiety. But Yoga takes care of all the other levels that stress manifests.
So there is no doubt that Yoga is the best way to tackle the effects of stress. The stress could be of any reason…. Work, family, relationships, or fear of the unknown. Even though there are a lot of practices in yoga for stress relief, we are going to see 5 important yogic practices, that will bring down the stress level.
Let us now see, 5 important yogic practices to get rid stress.
Fear is an important affliction of the mind. Yoga Sutra talks about 5 afflictions of the mind called ‘Kleshas’ one of which is “Abhinivesha’ which is the fear that underlies every human being, either very prevalent or dormant. It could be fear of losing someone, could be fear of failing your exams or failing in business, fear of losing relationships…. Anything….
Right now we are clouded with the fear of catching an infection or the fear of what is yet to come, fear of what will be our children’s future in the coming up years. This fear causes anxiety in our system.
The anxiety manifests at the physiological level, Increases the stress hormones cortisol in the body. Prolonged-release of cortisol affects a lot of body functions, reduces immunity. When the immunity goes down, we are more susceptible to infection, which causes further feat of catching the infection.
This is like a Vicious circle… We have to interfere with this cycle at some point to cut this down.
Let us now see 5 concepts and practices in Yoga that will manage your stress.
Pratipakshabhavanam – YOGA SUTRA 2 :33
– Develop an attitude opposing the negative feeling
In yoga there is a concept called Prathipaksha Bhavanam’ which means developing an attitude, opposing the negative feeling we have. For example, when there is enmity towards a person, develop friendliness towards that person, When there is greed, develop a habit of yielding, When there is Hatred, replacing it with Love, also when there is Fear, replace it with Courage.
Our mind is constantly influenced by our Senses. From what we see, from what hear, the mind is full of thoughts. If the mind is constantly fed by negative inputs, then our response to those negative feelings results in stress. An undesirable mental habit can be changed only by replacing it with another mental habit of the opposite in nature. The fear with courage etc.
It is easy to say this, than to practice. I agree… Think about it…. Introspect yourself, Analyze what is bothering you when you feel you are stressed out, and try to develop an opposite emotion to it.
How to clear the mind?
But how can you fill a jar which is already full? You have to first empty the undesirable content from the mind … How do we do that?
During School days, There was this silly joke …. A Silly question
How do you put an elephant into a fridge… We come up with a lot of answers, you need a jumbo fridge, u need to minimize the elephant- all sorts of answers…
Then the answer will come…. “You put the elephant with great difficulty” – How silly
Immediately the next question comes, How do you put a giraffe inside the fridge… Then we come up with the same answer… With great difficulty. But the answer comes back to us
“You have to take the elephant out of the fridge, then stuff the giraffe inside.
Likewise, we have to clear the mental thoughts from our body. We have to purify the mind…
How do we do that?
Yoga suggests the 6 Cleansing process before a practitioner gets into any of the yogic practices. These are called Kriyas. One of the six kriyas which work on purifying both at the body level and mental level is called Trataka.
When the mind is cluttered with impurities and unwanted thoughts, one of the best ways Is to cleanse the mind and redirect the mind. Most of the time, the way we redirect the mind results in more thoughts and activities in the mind. For example, we watch a movie, which results in further activities of the mind…. If you have to fill in with good thoughts, we need some space… You cannot pour coffee into a cup that is already filled with turbid.
Trataka at the physical level, benefits the eyes, at the mental level, it is very therapeutic. It balances the mind from oscillation. Helps to manage stress and anxiety, Helps to recover from insomnia, Helps to improve concentration.
Trataka is a practice where you sit and gaze at the flame of the lamp or a candle. In this practice, the practitioner has to sit 3 feet away from the lamp that should have been placed at the eye level. One has to make sure, the flame doesn’t flicker, and the room is dark.
Asanas in yoga form an important part of relieving stress. It not only works on the physical level but reaches way beyond. Yogic asanas have the capability of altering the internal chemistry of your system. It is capable of generating the hormones that can fight or oppose the stress hormones.
The world is a stage and we keep getting information through our senses all the time. If there is an input which is an unpleasant experience or a thought, there happen two things in the mind. One is the bad impression that arises out of the experience and the other is learning, We should learn to assimilate the learning and clear the unwanted impression.
This is done by two pranas inside our body called Samana Vayu and Apana Vayu. One retains the learning, and the other deleted the unwanted impression. This vayu not only work at the physical level but also works at the mental level.
If you want to learn more about the five pranas that work on our system, there is a separate video for that. I have given the link here in the description.
So we need to practice Asanas that generate Samana Vayu and Apana Vayu, to clears the mind from unwanted thoughts. All the asanas that give compression your abdomen, all the asanas that twist your lower abdomen, results in samana and apana vayu which clears your mind.
Awareness to breath
Awareness to breath is a beautiful concept in Yoga, where you take your ATTENTION away from the unwanted activities of your mind TO A RHYTHMIC CALM STATE.
Yoga sutra in the first chapter gives 7 techniques to stabilize and calm the mind. One of the 7 techniques is awareness to breath.
Prachardhana vidharanabhyam va pranasya YS 1-31
Awareness to the inhalation, exhalation and small pause between the inhalation and exhalation.
So how do you bring the awareness to the breath… Some might feel mind gets drifted away while you are observing your breath, Some might feel it is boring,
We will do a small experiment.. Close your eyes and observe your breath…
Now I want u to observe yourself, and see what are the points in your body where you can feel that u r breathing….
U can pause this video and observe your breath for a minute or so…
So now tell me what are the places u felt the breath….
Yes, the first point of focus is the nostrils… where the air enters and exists… This is the point of entry… We can never miss this…Then we have the throat region when the air enters the windpipe, You can feel it in your chest – r and fall….. – Abdomen
One more focus which will help you to bring the awareness completely to the breath…. which is a small pause between IN and EX
Here in this practice, we take the awareness to five points in your body where breath can be felt.
When the mind focuses on any one object, it goes to a state of one-pointedness called Ekagrata. This is the first stage before going into meditation. Here in this technique, we are taking a breath as the object of focus. Whenever you are stressed out take a few minutes off and sit and observe your breath. You can sit on your chair or any place where you can keep your back straight.
This practice starts from observing the breath at the nostrils, bringing the awareness to the force that draws the air inside at the point of entry and the force with which the air exits the nostrils.
Breathe effortlessly to your capacity without any strain. The focus has to be shifted to the throat where you can feel the air reflecting on your inner throat, then slowly towards your chest. The fourth point of focus is on the abdomen. Here gently the exhalation is elongated twice that of your inhalation. The fifth point of focus is the small pause that happens between the breaths. This is an important part of this technique. We did all of the above focus to seamlessly reach this state.
There is a separate video with guided instructions exclusively for this practice. I have attached the link here in the description box. Try that and let me know, I am eager to hear from you, if this five point focus technique had an impact on your mind.
Yoga Nidra: A great Way to Get Rid of Stress
It is a popular technique for stress relief among the yogic techniques which does wonders in your system. Yoga Nidra is a practice where you put your body to a sleep state with the mind awake. Yoga Sutras of Patanjali analyze our mind and its parameters to a great extent. In that, it talks about 5 important activities of the mind. One of the activities is sleep.
Yoga considers sleep as one of the mind’s activity. Because our mind doesn’t go to a resting state even during sleep. It is constantly processing information, It is constantly solving our life problems and puzzles. That is why sleep is not just a remedy to put your thoughts away. You just forget about it briefly, but the problem is sitting there in your mind constantly analyzing and processing. That is why, sometimes we get up with a solution to a problem when we wake up from sleep… Because the mind is constantly processing. But Yoga nidra is a meditative practice, where one can clear the mind with conscious effort.
The tension and stress in the mind manifest in the body and we keep the tension in every muscle of the body. So in Yoga nidra, we relax the body muscles to a great extent so that the mind is relaxed. This is a guided practice with auto-suggestions to relax your body. There is a separate video on this practice which you can try it out.
During YN, we are very close to the subconscious level. There is this thin line between being awake and being asleep. We are trying to…
The mind is not our boss…
Mind is our servant. Most of the time, Mind that is drawn by 5 senses takes us for a ride. We should never let our mind take over us, rather we should have control over our mind. The very definition of Yoga states “ Chitta Vrtti nirodhah” Chitta means the mind, Vrtti means the activities of the mind, Nirodha means restraint. So one who can restrain the activities of the mind is said to be in a state of yoga. If one is in a state of Yoga, you are free from any mind afflictions.
Long exhalations not only purify your system but also activates your parasympathetic nervous system.
What is the parasympathetic nervous system?
Some of our body functions are controlled voluntarily, some are controlled involuntarily. All the functions of our internal organs are controlled by our autonomic nervous system. There are two types in this autonomic nervous system… One is the sympathetic n s, and the other is PSN system. The S – acts upon when there is a threat, the production of stress hormones comes under this category. The PSNS calms the mind and also helps in the proper functioning of our internal organs. Most of the yoga postures generate this PSNS…. That is why we feel, calm, and we can relax after a yoga practice.
Hope you will try out every yogic technique listed in this video to achieve calmness and
tranquility free from stress and anxiety.