Stress Buster: Yoga is What You Need for a Healthy Mind
Plavaneeta Borah , NDTV | Updated: August 17, 2015 11:15 IST
Believe it or not, but stress is something we have started accepting as a way of life. It’s inevitable and since everyone goes through it, we don’t make a big deal about it. Children go through stress at school, the youth in college, the adults in their ambitious careers, entrepreneurial ventures and corporate set-ups, the elderly folks with their retirement, parents with raising their children, and so on and so forth. Everyone seems to be chasing time with their set of deadlines and there’s just no spare moment to stop and breathe.
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While India is known as a country with the highest number of heart disease, cancer and diabetes patients, another silent killer which is significantly impacting health is stress. Though most people go through mild anxiety from time to time, but chronic anxiety takes a tremendous toll on the body, draining energy resources and creating a state of constant unrest. If you consult any doctor, the first thing he will probably ask you is, “are you exercising enough?”
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Stress causes tension in the muscles, clouds the mind and restricts breathing and all of these factors then impact the healthy functioning of the body. This is why it is extremely important to workout regularly to let off some steam. Even thirty minutes of brisk walking releases happy hormones in the body, known as endorphins. While the physical state of the body is what we usually take into consideration while we analyse our own health, but what’s important to remember is that there are two other equally important factors that need attention – the mind and the soul.
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Why Yoga is the Answer
I would say that yoga is a holistic package. True to its name, which means ‘to unite’, it emphasizes on bringing together the body, mind and soul to a state of oneness. One of the primary philosophies of yoga is the importance of breathing. It is that very breathing that sets our body and all its functions in a harmonious rhythm.
Try close your eyes for a few minutes, sit upright and concentrate on your breathing as you inhale and exhale, you will instantly feel a little calmer.
A daily routine of exercise, breathing and meditation can work wonders for the well-being of the body. The more you practice, the more aware you become aware of yourself and the surroundings. It opens the way to improved concentration, coordination, reaction time and memory.
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Yoga basically involves a few techniques such as controlled breathing, stretching, meditation and physical movement that helps in clearing the mind and as such one tends to feel relaxed and peaceful. There are different kinds of yoga, some that are a little fast paced and focuses on building strength and flexibity, while there are some that are slow and gentle and focuses on inner peace.
Yoga for Stress
With the hectic lifestyles that we lead, you may not always find the time to workout regularly, even though you must try and spare a few minutes for it everyday. But here are some simple yoga exercises that you could do while in office or at home to ease the mind and feel relaxed. They are simple to follow and require no supervision.
Similar to our ‘namaste’, sit cross-legged on the floor and bring your palms together with the fingers stretching out to the centre of your chest (heart chakra). This represents the harmony of the two sides (right and left). Now close your eyes and slowly inhale, hold your breath for a few minutes, and then exhale. Continue this pattern for a few minutes.
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Also known as the ‘child’s pose’, it stretches and relaxes the neck, back and the lower spine. Sit on your knees with your hands on the sides (inhale), and then slowly lower your head to touch the floor when you feel your back and hands stretching (exhale). Bring yourself back to your knees (inhale) and continue the process for a couple of minutes.
This forward bending pose may seem difficult for those who lack flexibility but with repeated practice, you will get better at it. It is a great stretching exercise for the spine and therefore helps in releasing tension. Stand straight with the feet a little apart and inhale.
Slowly bend forward to bring your head closer to your knees while stretching your hands out to touch your feet. You will feel an intense stretch on your hamstring and back. You could bend your knees a little if you like. Let your neck, head and hands hang loose and relax. You can take a few short breaths while you hold the pose, and then bring yourself back up to your feet with your back straight as you exhale.
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Popularly known as the ‘extended puppy pose’, this inversion pose can help you release tension in your shoulders. Bring yourself onto all fours by keeping your shoulders above your wrists and your hips above your knees. Move your hands forward a few inches and curl your toes under. Inhale.
As you exhale, move your buttocks halfway back toward your heels and slowly bring your forehead close to the floor by keeping a slight curve in your lower back. Let your hands stretch out, relax your neck and pull your hips back towards your heels. Hold the pose for a few seconds and then release.
Referred to asthe ‘corpse pose’, it may seem extremely easy but is considered to be one of the toughest asanas to get right. This is the ultimate form of relaxation as it brings the nervous system to a complete rest before getting back to the daily functions. Lie down on your back with your eyes closed, arms by your sides, palms facing up and legs stretched out. Let your ankles fall outward. Then slowly start inhaling and exhaling as you melt deeper into the floor with each breath. Stay in this pose for a minimum of 5 minutes.
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