Here’s what happens when we get stressed.
Our sympathetic nervous system leaps in—with the best of intentions, to help us out. Suddenly, our heart starts pounding to increase circulation, our muscles contract to get ready for action, our digestive system slows down, our awareness centres power up, and adrenaline and the stress hormone cortisol pump through our body. Among other symptoms, this collection of action-initiators is known as the fight-or-flight response. It’s a great tool for when we really need to get the heck out of harm’s way, but not so great when we need to get through a deadline-riddled day.
Luckily, there are yoga tools instantly available to us—to help calm us, and our sympathetic nervous system, down.
Top 5 Yoga Stress Busters
- Deepen your breathing. This will help counter the tendency most of us have to take short, chest-shallow breaths when we’re stressed. For details on how to take long, deep, yogic breaths.
- Relax your muscles. Take a 5 minute yoga stretch break—you can do simple neck and shoulder, hip, leg, ankle and foot stretches right in your chair.
- Take your awareness centres down a notch. A great way to do this is to go from one sense to the other, using mindfulness tools to focus only on what you can hear, feel, see, smell or even taste. By highlighting one sense, the others become less active.
- Burn the hormones off. Doctors say exercise is the best way to burn off the excess adrenaline and cortisol that remain in our system after the stress reaction has gone down. A power or Kundalini yoga class will not only stretch out your tightened muscles; it’ll help you burn away stress hormones that would otherwise continue to make you feel stressed.
- Get out of your head. Most stressors don’t have to be. It’s hard to believe it in the moment, but the truth is that someone else may be excited or relaxed during the exact same situation that you find super stressful. Getting out of your thought pattern—that’s telling you “this is bad!”—by doing something that gets you in your body will help you find perspective. Go for a walk. Do some yoga. Put on some music and shake your booty. Meditate. Whatever works.