Stress and Yoga   
by: Vasanthi Bhat (

Yoga is renowned for its numerous benefits, but one of the most significant is the role it plays in stress management and reduction. When we are confronted with stressful situations, our mind shifts towards the situation and away from the body´s natural balanced state. Breathing becomes rapid and short, while normal breathing is overlooked. This causes a deficiency of oxygen which is needed to maintain general health, as well as to balance our emotional and mental states. This results in muscular tension, causing increased irritability and anxiousness.

Breathing is something we all do, but practicing it correctly and consciously is entirely another matter. Practicing controlled yogic breathing, or pranayama is a very valuable technique that will lead to a better and healthier lifestyle. There are other several breathing (alternate nostril breathing, and complete breathing) techniques that can be utilized to relax your body and mind.

Simple breathing is a great technique to start out with because it is the base of all the other breathing techniques. In simple breathing, you take the time to observe your natural breathing because this allows you to become more aware or conscious of your breath. Increased awareness of your breathing leads to your peace of mind and purifies all the breathing channels. It also allows you to be more alert and relaxed in stressful situations. Doing just one to two minutes of this simple breathing will make you more relaxed and will alleviate some of the stress you encounter in a day. Alternate nostril breathing can be utilized to attain tranquillity and to have a balanced peace of mind. After practicing a couple of rounds of this, your breathing will naturally get deeper and smoother, thereby improving the quality of blood circulating to all areas of the body.

Practicing postures with steady relaxed breathing can alleviate the physical effects of stress and accumulated tension as well. Some quick, but effective yoga exercises that can be practiced are neck movements and shoulder socket rotation which relax the neck and upper back. Several stretches including palm and feet, double angle, and triangle stretch can improve your circulation. Having good circulation is extremely important because our life fluids are blood and oxygen. By encouraging a good supply of both, it revitalizes the body and allows you to be more focused and concentrate clearly.

Other factors that can also cause stress are suppressing your emotions and worrying needlessly. Instead of suppressing your feelings, try to gain a better understanding of them, by meditating and focusing on your breath. It is also very crucial to understand that worrying about the future does not produce a favorable outcome and in fact detracts from your performance. Worrying causes a shortness of breath, creating stress and tension which are both harmful to your mind as well as body. It is important to focus on the present moment, utilizing it to plan the future and to do what you can, to the best of your ability.

Stress and tension impact our entire being; our body, mind, and spirit. However, we can overcome the effects of stress and manage them by utilizing the beneficial breathing techniques and postures that yoga provides. These techniques cannot only alleviate the problems we encounter daily, but can revitalize and nourish the mind, body, and spirit over a prolonged period of time, enabling all of us to have long and healthy lives.