Oh stress. Such an integral part of life, yet such a tough reality to accept! There is the type of stress that pushes us to work into the night to give a killer presentation or to better our life circumstance.
And then there are the huge atomic stress bombs that cause life to never be the same.
There are daily stressors that eat away at internal contentment, and stressors outside of our control – like a freaking #Pandemic!
Stress will always be a part of our lives. And that’s not necessarily a BAD thing. Stress has a productive and meaningful purpose as well. After all, it’s really just energy. Energy that can be harnessed into power.
So we’re going to lasso this powerful energy through 4 incredible Yogic practices specifically targeted to effectively manage stress:
|Breathing exercise (Pranayama)
|Mudra (symbolic hand gesture)
|Mantra (sacred sound)
|Positive Affirmation (written by ME for YOU!)
1. Breathing exercise (Pranayama)
When searching through your tool box trying to decide which Breathing Exercise to choose to destress, we always want to pick one with a concentrated focus on the exhale. Long drawn-out exhales downshift and relax the nervous system
The exhale triggers the Parasympathetic Nervous System – i.e. our Rest and Digest. This is in opposition to the Sympathetic Nervous System – i.e. Fight or Flight.
For thousands of years Yogi masters have been using counted Breath Exercises to influence their internal landscape. They discovered through guru mentorship and teachings that were passed down, how the inhale – exhale – and breath retention affect both the body and mind.
What is 4-7-8 Breathing Exercise?
Modern Breathwork practices have re-purposed counted Pranayama techniques and presented it in a more friendly and accessible way – i.e the 4-7-8 Breathing Technique made popular by Dr. Weil.
Why do it?
Let’s consider what we receive in exchange for the time given to this Yogic practice:
|Increased adaptability to stress
|Bettering of migraine symptoms
|Mitigation of asthma in children & adults
|Lessened aggressive behavior in adolescent boys
How to do it?
You will become an expert in this Yogic Breathing exercise (watch the video below!), but a quick and easy visual is below.
Things to consider
You may want or need to work your way up to these suggested counts. That’s totally fine. Remember – we don’t aim for PERFECTION, we aim for EXPERIENCE. When we push ourselves to be perfect, (yes even with Breathing exercises) we rob ourselves of fully embodying our experience. We want to be engrossed in what’s happening. Feel all the feels. And we can’t do that if we’re stuck in our head trying to be perfect!
So drop down the count if you need to 3-5-6 if you’d like. And work up! Your lung capacity will expand, day by day. And it’s exhilarating when it does.
***Remember – our job is just to try. This breathing exercise and all others are powerful enough to finish the job and take us to the finish line.***
And finally, you might start to feel light headed or high, if it becomes too much for you – stop and relax for a little bit. And then join back in when you’re feeling better.
2. Gyan Mudra
Mudras are sacred hand gestures that have been used for thousands of years.
Mudras are specific placements of the hands to direct mental focus and energy. These symbolic gestures work by 1st sealing, and then directing the flow of energy to different parts of the body and brain.
Each Mudra has a unique quality with its own signature benefits. Mudras circulate Prana (our very life force) to influence moods, energy, emotion, and spiritual experiences.
What is it?
Gyan mudra specifically helps us connect to our fundamental wisdom by connecting the thumb to the index finger.
And we’ve probably all found that to be true if you’ve ever had a massage or Reiki!
Each finger is directly connected to a part of the body or a natural element in Acupuncture and Ayurveda:
thumb =pineal gland (regulates Serotonin hormones)
index finger = brain
thumb = fire
index finger = air
What does Gyan Mudra mean?
Similar Mudras: Jnana Mudra, Dhyana Mudra, Chin Mudra
So what we are doing physically in this Mudra is:
1st: Sealing and activating our inherent wisdom.
2nd: Directing energy to the pineal gland in the brain and reducing the Air element (Vata) in our bodies.
A Vata imbalance creates an excess of anxiety and fatigue. So in using the thumb (which has the fire element) to press against the index finger (which has the air element), any restlessness is brought back into balance.
Any jitteriness or unease is quieted – conditions that are required to be able to hear that quiet voice inside.
Why do it?
Gyan Mudra has been used by Buddhist monks and Hindu sages for thousands of years to enhance meditation.
It is a deeply traditional Mudra.
And what wisdom are we trying to restore during times of great stress? The wisdom of who we really are. Not what our thoughts tell us who we are. Not the stories or memories we play on repeat of what others have said about us.
Through Gyan Mudra, we allow our true self to emerge into the foreground, and limiting thoughts and beliefs to merge back with the background.
“The index finger, symbolizing the limited personality, curls inward to meet the thumb, representing our limitless true being. The circle formed by the thumb and index finger represents the wholeness and limitlessness of our true being. The little, ring, and middle fingers represent the three gunas (qualities) of rajas (passion), tamas (darkness) and sattva (goodness). In this gesture, these three fingers are released downward, representing the return of the gunas to their primordial state of balance in which they no longer disturb our meditation”Mudras for Healing and Transformation
How to do it?
|1. Sit in easy pose or whatever is comfortable.
|2. Press the index finger and thumb together.
|3. Extend the arms outwards, palms facing upward.
|4. The 3 other fingers press together and remain straight.
Things to consider
|You can place the palms upwards in a gesture of receptivity, or downwards to ground yourself.
|Swirl the thumb and index finger together to further activate the reflexology pressure points (brain & endocrine system) and 2 elements (fire & air).
3. Om Mantra
What is it?
We will be opening and closing every HYY practice by chanting 3 Om’s. It is traditionally practiced this way since Om opens and clears the internal landscape for meditation.
Other subsequent mantras are said to be less effective if Om isn’t practiced first.
Om is the primordial or original sound from which the entire Universe was created. It is the most sacred and ancient Mantra in Hinduism and Buddhism.
And Om is the Mother of them all!
Om is said to contain the entire universe. It is the first sound from the beginning of time, and it also encompasses the present and the future. As such, its importance and power are difficult to overstate.VeryWellFit
It is not only a revered sound, but it’s also a mystic symbol carrying immense meaning in each curve and bend.
Om is not your average sound!
Bija Mantras such as OM are no ordinary words with simple dictionary definitions. Oh no, these Mantras, like all Mantras, are meant to be FELT.
Through this Mantra we are meant to tune into and connect to the original vibration of the Universe. We are not meant to overthink it, or try to focus on the meaning too much during meditation.
Just vibe man! (just kidding – that felt way too hippy)
Why do it?
What’s so exciting, is that for this particular practice, “Yoga for Stress Management,” we’re going to incorporate a much longer Om Mantra meditation than what’s incorporated into most typical Yoga classes.
Here at Heal Yourself Yoga, we’re going to chant a Mantra for every single meditation. Each Mantra chosen will supports our topic, or desired benefit, and I can think of nothing better than a long drawn out OOOMMMMM to instantaneously induce stress relief.
Scientifically, some suggest that the frequency wavelength recorded by Nasa are the same sound waves of Om. Others point out that Om vibrates at a frequency of 136.1 Hz or C# in 432 Hz which is the frequency of Nature herself.
Scientists have even studied participants chanting Om under MRI scans and have empirically found that:
|Similar effects to Vagal nerve stimulation (VNS) which is used as treatment in depression and epilepsy.
|Significant deactivation in the amygdala, parahippocampal, hippocampal regions of the brain (emotion, memory, behavior, motivation)
|Triggers the relaxation response
|Beneficial changes to the autonomic nervous system (regulates blood pressure, heart rate, metabolism, and other internal functions)
|Modulation of brain regions involved in emotion processing, raising implication in potential possibilities in the treatment of major depressive disorder (MDD).
|Release of Nitric Oxide increases oxygen flow, decreases blood pressure boots immunity, and balances the nervous system.
How to do it?
Traditionally, Om is taught to have 3 syllables – A U M. Interestingly, this is alignment with many religions trinity symbolism (if you’re into that!).
However some have proposed that there is actually a 4th syllable – a silent one at the end of AUM.
|M (3rd eye>top of head>out to Infinity)
There has been some confusion in the Yogic community around the correct pronunciation.
However if you consider the langue that Om originates from – Sanskrit, there is a rule called Sandhi. Sandhi means that when 2 syllables sit next to each other, they merge to create a whole new word.
So linguistically, A + U combine to create O.
When Om is pronounced in this way, the vibrational sound current is drawn up the spine, through each Chakra, and released from the top of the head into the Infinite Universe.
The 4th syllable at the end is Silence. We take time in reverence to allow this vibrational energy and power to swirl inside and around.
Things to consider
|Whether you choose to chant OM or AUM truly doesn’t matter. Intention and effort far outweigh pronunciation concerns.
|So pick one of the 2 and go for it! Enjoy. Experiment. Get curious. Yoga is meant for enjoyment. There is no room for perfectionism.
Stress is at an all-time high right now. For everyone. You can see it everywhere – on the road. At work. And all the pressures at home. But there is 1 thing I can control. And that’s my stress. Even if the entire world around me is in total chaos, I will remain peaceful. I plant my feet firmly on this Earth. Mother Earth. My foundation. I stand tall and confident. Because I have all the tools needed to not only get through trying times, but I will do so with grace. When traffic starts to become stressful, I take a big breath and flood my body with calm. When work threatens to overwhelm my spirit, I take a break and chant OM OM OM. All is well. And at the end of the day when the kids are in bed and it’s finally just me, I connect my thumb with my index finger, close my eyes, and do nothing. It is my birthright to change my energy inside at any minute. I don’t have to succumb to stress. I don’t have to feel this way. I can feel whatever way I choose. And I choose me. I choose my sanity, my health, my tranquility. I will be ok. I remember that. And I remind myself. I will be ok. I will be ok. I will be ok. No matter what. No matter what circumstance is presented to me everyday, I can handle it. I have the internal reserves and resources to hold tight onto Me. My values and integrity remain intact. I have the ability to instantly calm my body, and reign in and calm any unruly thoughts. So I repeat to myself – Breathe my love. Breathe. Focus the mind on the breath and nothing else. We will get through this together. As we always do. There’s not been a single instance we’ve not overcome. None. All will be handled with dignity. So I get up. Get dressed. Look in the mirror – marvel at Me. Yes, ME. I’m everything I always hoped to be. And as I look, I smile, and say -“there is nothing too hard for me. there is nothing that I won’t be fully supported in. I begin again. I try again. And that is enough.”