Stress, especially over a prolonged period of time, can lead to premature wear and tear on the body, much like running a machine continuously could cause it to malfunction. Continued stress contributes to increased sympathetic nervous system functions and raises the blood pressure which eventually causes too much load on the heart. Also, someone exposed to high levels of the stress hormone cortisol might become vulnerable to infection or disease because of weakened immune system functioning. The most common stress-induced disorders are hypertension, hyper cholesterol, diabetes, obesity, cancers, IBS, peptic ulcers, migraine etc.
Fortunately, lifestyle changes can make a big difference, with the regular practice of yoga— a mind-body practice that combines physical poses with controlled breathing and meditation—being extremely beneficial. Here are some yoga practices that help one to reduce stress.
Eka pada pranamasana
This pose improves concentration, balances the body and mind thus providing a calming effect on the overall systems. The yogic tree pose has a direct influence on the third eye (Ajna Chakra) which is also responsible for the pituitary and pineal glands thus helping to balance out the hormonal system in the body.
- Stand erect; keep the feet together.
- Fold the right leg and place the foot on left inner thigh and the toes of right leg should point downwards.
- Extend your arms above your head or at chest level. Inhale and try to make Namaskar mudra with your palms.
- Balance the pose as long as you can— balancing is of utmost important in the tree pose.
- Keep your spine as straight as possible and feel the stretching from the toes to the fingers.
- Exhaling deeply, bring your arms and leg down.
- Repeat the same process with the left leg. It completes one round.
It relieves stress on the spinal nerves, relieving physical stresses. It helps to make the spine strong and flexible. Also helps normalise blood-glucose levels and stimulates the internal organs.
- Begin by lying on your back, with your legs and arms extended.
- As you exhale, draw both of your knees to your chest. Clasp your hands around your knees.
- While holding only your right knee, release your left leg and extend it along the floor. Hold this pose for 30 seconds to 1 minute.
- Draw your left knee back in towards your chest and clasp your hands around both knees again.
- While holding only your left knee, release your right leg and extend it along the floor. Hold this pose for the same amount of time.
- Finally, draw both knees to your chest.
This asana gives a good stretch to the chest, neck and spine. It calms the brain, reducing anxiety, stress and depression.
- Sit on the bridge prop and place you're both heels on edge for support of your heels.
- Slightly flex your knees and hold the wooden edge side of your hip by your hands.
- Use your elbows for support and while inhale lie on the wooden bridge slowly.
- Once you are comfortable, release your hand support and stretch both your hands above head.
- Gently close your eyes, keep normal breathing and feel the stretch on your back.
- Hold the posture as long as comfortable then place the hands on the side of waist on the wood.
- Flex your neck forward and then release in a reverse manner.
- Do a forward bend as a counter pose with knee straight.
Nadi Shuddhi Pranayama
Breathing is a vital process which starts at the time of birth and stops at the death. All the metabolic processes require oxygen. Oxygen is life, a vital force. This vital energy is called prana. The process of controlling the prana is called pranayama. So pranayama is the science related to vital force supplying energy and controlling the body mind complex
Nadi shuddhi pranayama produces optimum function to both sides of the brain. The left side of the brain is responsible for logical thinking and the right side is responsible for creative thinking. This practice balances the sympathetic and para sympathetic nervous system.
- Sit comfortably with your spine erect and shoulders relaxed. Keep a gentle smile on your face.
- Place your left hand on the left knee, palms open to the sky or in chin mudra (thumb and index finger gently touching at the tips).
- Place the ring finger and little finger on the left nostril, and the thumb on the right nostril. We will use the ring finger and little finger to open or close the left nostril and thumb for the right nostril.
- Press your thumb down on the right nostril and breathe out gently through the left nostril.
- Now breathe in from the left nostril and then press the left nostril gently with the ring finger and little finger. Removing the right thumb from the right nostril, breathe out from the right.
- Breathe in from the right nostril and exhale from the left. You have now completed one round of nadi shuddhi pranayama.
- Complete 9 such rounds by alternately breathing through both the nostrils.
Brahmari is effective in instantly calming down the mind. It is one of the best breathing exercises to free the mind of agitation, frustration and anxiety. It also helps alleviate anger. A simple technique, it can be practiced anywhere—at work or home—and is an instant option to de-stress yourself.
It calms and soothes the nerves, especially around the brain and forehead. The humming sound vibrations have a natural calming effect.
- Sit up straight with your eyes closed. Keep a gentle smile on your face
- Observe the sensations in the body and the quietness within and place your index fingers on the cartilage between the cheek and the ear such that it closes the ears
- Take a deep breath in and as you breathe out make loud humming sound like a bee
- You can also make a low-pitched sound but it is a good idea to make a high-pitched one for better results
- Breathe in again and continue the same pattern 3-4 times.