The reduction of stress in our busy lives is one of the most sought out benefits of practicing yoga. We encounter stress, anxiety and anger in many forms throughout life. Financial burdens, emotional upheavals and the speed at which life proceeds in our modern society, all increase our stress levels. These factors tax the body and nervous system, adversely affecting the mind, which can cause unhappiness and even illness.
How we deal with stress can affect our physical and mental health. Through the yoga postures (asanas) and breath work (pranayama) the body opens and the mind learns to focus and let go of tension. The yoga practitioner develops skills to cope with stress that minimizes the impact of the stressors.
At 25, I was diagnosed with a genetic spinal defect. I needed to change my lifestyle in order to manage the pain in my back. I had some physical therapy and started wearing flat shoes. It wasn’t enough. I desired a more complete change in my body and posture. I wondered how I would handle the stress of daily pain without the use of medication. Then I found yoga -specifically, Iyengar yoga. With the use of props (walls, chairs, blankets, blocks and straps) the postures were modified to accommodate my body and level of ability. I have learned how to stand and sit with correct alignment so that my joints and spine bear the weight of my body evenly.
Yoga has brought many good things into my life. My level of back pain and stress are reduced every time I practice the asanas and pranayama. I also practice yoga off the mat. When I encounter a stressful situation in life, I take a deep breath, relax my shoulders and face whatever comes with a calm mind.
A restorative yoga practice helps relieve the effects of chronic stress. Deep relaxation leaves the body and spirit feeling refreshed and rejuvenated. By moving away from the distractions of the outside world and moving the awareness and intelligence into the body, the practitioner cultivates an inward focus. Yogah citta vrtti nirodah; this yoga aphorism states that yoga is the cessation of movements in consciousness. This is our aim with the practice of yoga. We strive to reach a state of complete calm. Here is a sampling of poses that can bring the mind towards that state of inner serenity.
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