Why turn to sedatives when a few minutes of yoga is a quick and easy way to banish stress and tension? Sue Fuller explains all
Getting through the festive season without suffering from a shred of stress or tension would be a modern day miracle – but there’s no need to have a nervous breakdown just yet. Yoga can help soothe even the most frazzled of nerves and brings some much-needed peace and harmony into your life. This ancient practice is an amazing stress buster and is suitable in some form for everyone, whether it is just the relaxation techniques, breathing exercises, or you might even prefer to practise in a chair. Even if you’re pushed for time, just 15 minutes will prove hugely beneficial and leave you feeling calm, collected and ready to face anything.
Try the following techniques that can be performed in just a few minutes.
BASIC RELAXATION TECHNIQUE
During this busy period it is important that you make time for yourself. A short relaxation performed prior to bed will help you sleep well and provide you with the time and space to clear the mind and balance your emotions.
- Lay on your back with both hands lightly resting just above the navel and below the breast bone.
- Close your eyes and begin to breathe slowly in and out through your nose.
- Concentrate on the area of your body beneath your hands and then notice that your hands rise as you inhale and fall as you exhale.
- Continue to breathe slowly, focusing on this area. After a few minutes move your hands to your chest with the palms lightly resting on the centre of your breast bone.
- As you breathe slowly, notice the warmth of your hands delivering love and understanding. When you are ready relax your arms alongside your body with your palms facing up and continue to breathe slowly in and out through your nose. Each time you exhale feel your body sink and become heavy.
- Continue to breathe slowly in and out through your nose, working to release tension with each exhalation for as long as you feel necessary.
Combining Moolha Bandha (root lock) with a simple visualisation will help increase confidence in your abilities and can be used as and when required.
- Begin seated with the ankles crossed and a straight spine (you may also perform this whilst seated in a firm chair with a straight spine).
- Start by breathing slowly in and out through the nose with the eyes lightly closed. When you feel ready, inhale and retain the breath. During the breath retention draw up the pelvic floor muscles.
- Hold the breath and the contraction of the pelvic floor muscles for as long as you feel comfortable whilst visualising a turquoise glow inside your torso. Do not strain during the breath retentions.
- Relax the muscles slowly and evenly before the exhalation.
- Repeat three times.
It is not advisable for those with high blood pressure or who are pregnant to retain the breath – if this is the case then draw up the pelvic floor muscles as you inhale and release them on the exhalation.
Vitality booster Kapalabhati (frontal cleansing breath) is a great all rounder as it energises the mind and eradicates fatigue, increasing overall vitality and producing a healthy glow.
- Sit in a comfortable position with the spine straight.
- Inhale deeply through the nose, filling the lungs completely.
- Use a short sharp contraction of the diaphragm to push some of the air out through your nose.
- Now allow a little more air to enter the lungs through the nose before pushing it out again using the short sharp contraction of the diaphragm. Continue breathing like this. You should be creating a sound similar to a steam train.
When starting this technique begin with a cycle of 20 breaths. This can gradually be increased up to a cycle of 100 breaths. At the end of each cycle take one complete inhalation followed by a complete exhalation. Repeat this technique for a further three complete cycles.
If you find the volume of New Year sales shoppers a little hard to handle, this simple breathing technique can be performed anywhere as and when required. Inhale slowly and deeply through your nose.
- Retain the breath for a comfortable length (a natural pause is fine for those with high blood pressure or who are pregnant) and then exhale as slowly as you can through your nose.
- Feel all the stress and tension leaving your body with the exhalation.
Repeat at least five times.
The chill-out zone
- Yoga helps to relieve stress and tension in several ways
- Yoga teaches relaxation techniques that help to calm and focus the mind.
- Performing yoga postures will stretch the body and help to relieve physical stress and tension. When the tension is released in the body so too is it released in the mind.
- The slow controlled breathing performed during a yoga class will increase vitality by raising oxygen levels and calming the mind.
- Yoga will improve levels of self-esteem, which will help to eliminate emotional stress.
- Any exercise will help to relieve stress by keeping the body healthy and releasing endorphins which are the natural hormones that make you feel good.