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Can I get real for a sec?
I freak out sometimes.
People often assume that because I teach yoga I never get stressed. I assure you, nothing could be further from the truth. NYC has been great, it's been fun, and it's caused me to stretch and grow in ways I didn't know imaginable. But sometimes it feels like this town is kicking my ass.
Fortunately, I've got some tools.
I've taught Yoga for Anxiety courses, not because I never get stressed, but because sometimes I freak out too and sometimes I use the tools yoga has taught me to help me manage stress. Don't get me wrong, I don't pretend to always have the answer for stress. Despite my experience with meditation, breathing techniques, and stress-relieving yoga poses, sometimes I still find myself self-medicating with Ben and Jerry's.
Here's what I do when I get stressed and I'd love to hear what helps you when you get stressed.
First, I take a bunch of fat sighs out my mouth, mostly when I'm driving or alone and can really let it fly without turning heads. I try to make it as dramatic as possible. I think this helps. This is a natural tension releasing technique that a lot of mammals use. Also, I'll try to relax my jaw and notice whether my stress lessens even by doing just a couple of sighs. Sometimes when I’m really worked up, I'll sigh for 5 minutes or so.
Next, I'll practice ujjayi breath, whisper breath. A lot of you know this but it's the breathing you use during yoga practice where you breathe in and out of your nostrils and put a little whisper in the back of your throat, elongating your breaths. It really helps. This form of breathing activates your parasympathetic nervous system, the opposite of your flight or flight nervous response. Try it, it's a miracle for stress.
Often when I feel stress, I will also do something physically active, like go to a yoga class, put on my running shoes and hit a trail, or even just take a 10 minute walk around the block, even if I don't have the time to do so. It's incredible how my perception changes when I get outside or at least get moving for a bit.
Wallace Stevens once wrote, "Sometimes the truth depends upon a walk around the lake."
Yoga explores the relationship between mind and body. If my body can relax, maybe my mind can follow. Putting some endorphins in my body and some oxygen in my brain is a great way to make me feel good and clear my mind.
Next, I'll actually look the bull straight into the eyes and see my stress for what it is. I'll try a meditation technique where I try to adopt the role as the observer rather than the one who is oppressed by stress. The other day, I felt like I was feeling a lot of stress and caught myself trying to avoid it or pretend it wasn't there. I had a few minutes to meditate and instead of mentally escaping it, I decided to look at it straight on. I closed my eyes and noticed how my body felt in response to the stress. I observed the images in my mind and emotions in my heart and thoughts in my brain, everything associated with this stress and tried to just observe it rather than fix it.
As I looked inside, this feeling inside me felt like a cold, metal vice along my chest. The more I looked at it, and just observed it, the more I realized that what I was feeling was more like protective armor than oppressive stress. It suddenly felt less like worry and more like my call to action to both do something about what was worrying me as well as practice self care.
Through my meditation, my observation, I was able to see this feeling for what it was instead of trying to avoid it and worry about the monster I felt was breathing down my neck.
Overall, I'm doing wonderful in NYC. These stress relieving techniques certainly help when ever I feel less than wonderful. I
can assure you I'll continue to use these techniques throughout my life. Maybe you can use some of these techniques if you find yourself freaking out. Try to do some breathing techniques, come to a yoga class, or try to meditate.
Of all these aforementioned techniques, I realize, too, that the only thing yoga class does not incorporate is the Ben and Jerry's therapy. Maybe after class we should go and get some ice cream and talk about our problems.
What are the tools that help you work with stress?
I've built an entire learning module complete with stress relieving Yoga Nidra practice, breathing exercises, discussions, and additional recourses. It's built like my online courses. This is free awesome and totally free.
Let me know how it goes!