Learn to Relax

The last three days I have been enjoying the start of my vacation at the cottage. Being on the lake, breathing in the fresh air and taking a break from my routine has allowed me to completely decompress. Even though I absolutely love what I do whenever I take some downtime I realize the importance of finding time to exhale, relax and re- energize.

There is no magical way to escape the stresses that present themselves on a daily basis. It is not always possible to take a holiday as soon as you feel those stresses, so it is essential to find ways of coping with the overload to ease tension and live life to its fullest.

Stress is often accompanied by one or more negative effects: impatience, frustration, irritation, anger, tension, neck pain, back pain, headaches and indigestion. When stress is present the mind alerts the body and in response our adrenal glands secrete hormones. These adrenaline and noradrenalin hormones act upon the autonomic nervous system and the body prepares for fight and flight. Heart rate, blood pressure, mental alertness, and muscle attention are increased. The adrenal hormones cause metabolic changes and the body begins to sweat. The body also shuts down systems that are not an immediate priority including digestion, elimination, growth, repair and reproduction.

The antidote to stress is relaxation. When one is able to relax a physiological and mental response occurs known as the “Relaxation Response” bringing your system back into balance: deepening your breathing, reducing stress hormones, slowing down your heart rate and blood pressure, and relaxing your muscles.

Adding a regular yoga practice to your daily or weekly routine is one thing you can do to help you relax . Yogic stretching and breathing exercises can result in an invigorating effect on both mental and physical energy and improve mood. Yoga creates mental clarity and calmness, it relieves chronic stress patterns and relaxes the mind. Yoga can leave you feeling more peaceful and happy.

So next time you begin to feel those stressors creeping up on you take a moment to breathe deeply and try one or all of these postures:
Reclining Twist: Lie on your back and with an exhalation bend your knees and draw your thighs to your torso. Shift your pelvis slightly to the left and, with another exhalation, swing your legs to the right and down to the floor (if they don’t rest comfortably on the floor, support them on a bolster or folded blanket). Turn your upper torso to the left. Rest your right hand on the outer left knee and stretch your left arm to the side, in line with your shoulders or bring both arms out into a T shape to stabilize your torso. Look straight up or close your eyes. Relax for three minutes to 5 minutes. Repeat on the other side.
Benefits: Releases physical stress based tension, invigorates the spine, digestive aid.
Contraindications: Lower back injury, unstable sacrum, Rotator cuff injury (no arms over head, support shoulder with pillow if floating).

Childs Pose: Kneel on the floor. Touch your big toes together and sit on your heels, then separate your knees about as wide as your hips. Lower your torso to your thighs, the floor or to a bolster or pillow. Lay your hands on the floor alongside your torso, palms up or bring your arms out in front of you palms down whichever is more comfortable. Stay anywhere from 1 to 5 minutes.
Benefits: Gently stretches the hips, thighs, and ankles, calms the brain and helps relieve stress and fatigue, relieves back and neck pain when done with head and torso supported.
Contraindications: Knee injury, pregnancy.

My personal favourite, Legs up the Wall Pose: Sit next to a wall with the side of your body on the wall and your knees bent into the chest. Bring the lower back onto the floor while bringing the legs up the wall. Keep the upper body supported with the elbows on the floor. Slowly release the elbows and lower the whole back down to the floor. Stay here several minutes. To come out, bring the knees into your chest and roll to your side. Benefits: Relieves tired or cramped legs and feet. Gently stretches the back legs, front torso, and the back of the neck. Relieves mild backache. Calms the mind. Contraindications: As with any inversion Legs up the Wall should be avoided if you have serious eye problems, such as glaucoma. Avoid posture if serious neck or back problems. If your feet begin to tingle during this pose, bend your knees, touch your soles together, and slide the outer edges of your feet down the wall, bringing your heels close to your pelvis.

Wishing you a relaxing long weekend!

This blog post was originally posted by 889 Yoga on July 30, 2011. To view all related comments click here.