The yoga boom has hit the Western world: 400% increase of yoga practitioners in the US in just 10 years and similar figures in Europe, and an end of this trend is not foreseeable. People take to yoga to stay fit, to maintain good health, and most of all to restore mental balance in a chaotic world full of anomalies, stress and insecurities.
Yoga has already proven its capacity to very effectively alleviate stress symptoms and bring us back to our center. But how does yoga do that? How does it calm the mind? And how can you adjust your practice to take maximum advantage of yoga’s anti-stress properties?
Relieving mental tension through stretching
Mental stress leaves its marks as accumulated tensions in the body. By gently stretching different parts of our body we are not only relieving those tensions in our physical body, but also where they originally came from – in our mind (our mental and emotional body). Forward bending asanas especially calm the mind, because they direct our energy inwards.
Recommend exercises: Paschimottasana, Kurmasana, Yoga Mudra, Child’s pose
Change your mind through breathing
Mental activity also reflects in our breathing (breath-mind relation). If we are fully concentrating while driving our car at rush hours or happily receiving an unexpected gift – every mental or emotional activity is connected to a certain kind of breathing pattern. In turn, breathing in a certain manner during pranayama exercises results in a specific state of mind.
Nadi Shodana, Bhramari and Ujjayi Pranayama all have a tranquilizing effect on the mind.
An agitated mind doesn’t have time for anything. So, when you want to relax take your time – slooow down and dooo less. Make sure you avoid multitasking. Whatever you do: give it time and give it quality.
Recommended practices on the mat: sunrise/sunset pose and half sun salutation.
Just be present
The mind is constantly recalling the past and projecting the future. But life is here and now!! This little practice of living in the present moment is super efficient when it comes to quieting the mind. As soon as you start being aware of the present moment you leave the anxieties of your mind far behind you. That doesn’t mean that we should never think about the past and the future. But don’t get stuck in your mind.
Train your awareness by meditation and try to apply full awareness to your yoga on the mat. Then it will be much easier to be present in all your other activities.
A very potent meditation method to practice awareness is Antar Mouna.
Connect to yourself
Where are you? Do you find yourself in your daily activities? How are they related to what is really close to your heart? Connecting to yourself is most essential in life, and it is the most precious thing. When you connect to what is really important to you, everything else shrinks down to its natural size. Most of the things just appear to be important; they are not actually that important. At least not compared to what is really close to your heart. Connect to your emotions, feel your heart, feel what you want to share with others, feel the love inside you. Connect to the hearts of other people.