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Use Ancient Yoga to Relieve Your Modern Stress

May 1, 2008
You're under stress, but you have to be in control all day long. Over time, that can lead to poor eating habits, the production of stress hormones and cardiac risk factors. The good news is you can reverse these risk factors non-pharmacologically and develop some habits for a lifetime that complement conventional diet and exercise. Yoga helps you to relearn that natural state that your body and mind want to be in: relaxation.

Yoga is one of the most prominent forms of meditative exercise within the growing mind-body health movement. Other forms include qigong, tai chi, and other exercise techniques that include meditation. Mind-body fitness comes from Eastern philosophies and religions. These practices improve both your emotional and physical well being.

The overall benefits of mind-body exercise are documented in an increasing number of scientific studies. They include everything from reducing cardiac risk factors to enhancing mood.

Yoga's kind, gentle movements are easy on the joints and yet still improves strength and flexibility, as well as muscle tone. In fact, it can make you more youthful than the sometimes jarring effects of aerobics, weight lifting, or running.

The practice of yoga should integrate every aspect of human existence. While many modern Western practitioners focus on the physical asanas, for others, yoga is an all-encompassing way of life and a path to bliss.

Considering yoga's lofty goals, it's delightfully simple and can be done anywhere, anytime. Taken to its extreme, yoga encompasses everything from a moral code and dietary practices to deep meditation. Most commonly, though, it's a combination of asanas, meditation and pranayama (breathing exercises).

Entire books have been written on yoga breathing. Deep breathing is both calming and energizing. The energy you feel from a few minutes of careful breathing is not nervous or hyper, but that calm, steady energy we all need.

Try this 5-minute Breath Break to release your stress and pump up your energy. (Read through the instructions several times before you try the practice.)

1. With your spine as straight as possible, sit in a chair or on the floor. If you sit in a chair, your feet should be flat on the floor with knees directly over the center of your feet. If your feet don't rest comfortably on the floor, put a book or cushion under your feet so that your knees are perpendicular to your hips. Your hands should be on the tops of your legs, palms down, open and relaxed.

2. Close your eyes gently and let them rest behind closed lids.

3. Think about your ribs, at the front, back, and at the sides of your body. Your lungs are behind those ribs.

4. Feel your lungs filling up, your ribs expanding out and up. Feel your lungs emptying, your ribs coming back down and in. Don't push the breath.

5. The first few times you do this, do it for 2 to 3 minutes, then do it for up to 5 to 10 minutes. At first, set aside a time at least once a day to do this. When you learn how good it makes you feel, you'll want to do it at other times as well.
About the Author
Kim Archer writes about women's wellness. She is publisher of The Internet Spa, where you'll find up-to-date information to rejuvenate your mind, body and spirit.
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