Stress and tension seem to be everywhere in today’s world.
I was interested to see a recent poll by the Nationwide Building Society showing that nearly a quarter of people come back from their summer holiday feeling more stressed than when they set off! In addition the figures show that two in five ( 38%) holiday makers claim they have felt ill or run down once they reach their destination. This is perhaps unsurprising as the survey shows that many people stay switched on to to life at home while on holiday and therefore still on ‘high alert’ rather than starting to relax. Two thirds of holidaymakers (80%) apparently use their mobile phone while away and one in seven (15%) take work calls and emails. Daily life is definitely making us feel tense and in many cases unwell.Nowadays we suffer from tension in our shoulders, back, neck and jaw – causing us aches and pains such as headaches and migraines. Dentists report that many people clench the jaw and grind or even break their teeth. Some of this physical tension is to do with our posture-being hunched up over electronic devices and at the steering wheel to name a couple of examples- but some is linked to our state of mind.
So how can we de-stress and feel healthy, calm and well?
For thousands of years Yogis have known that our body, breathing and mind are all linked. If the body is tense, our breathing is forced and the mind is stressed. Similarly if the mind feels stressed, the muscles tense up and our breathing starts to be shallow and strained.
That’s why yoga is a bit different to regular forms of exercise as it is a holistic practice which aims to minimise tension- relaxing the body, helping us breathe steadily and calming the mind.
Something simple you can do if we feel stress creeping in -either physical or mental- is to be aware of your posture. Sit or stand tall, then scan around the body for any tension; release the shoulders away from the ears, soften the muscles of the face and take a few long exhalations -sighing softly through the open mouth- noticing how your body and mind can start to let go.
It won’t be long before you start to feel calmer and healthier.
Next week I’ll be talking more about techniques for dealing with stress.
[I am also running a morning workshop in Ipswich on Saturday October 31st 2015 ‘Yoga for Stress, Anxiety and Worry’. Please book in advance -More details on my website.]