Stress is a chronic disease and affects 77 percent of the population. As sister sciences, Ayurveda and Yoga work together to calm the nervous system through grounding yoga poses and techniques for stress relief.
Yoga goes beyond the physical asanas most of us are familiar with in the yoga studios. Traditional yoga incorporates breath, mantra and meditation, as well as tonifying Ayurvedic practices to strengthen the body and align the mind, body and spirit. Through this alignment, our body’s nervous system begins to shift from a fight or flight mode, to rest and digest, relieving you of stress!
How To Use Yoga for Stress
The following yogic tools can help relieve stress and create a greater sense of calm.
Forward Bends for Stress
One of the most beneficial ways to lower your stress is to increase your exhalations. Forward bends increase exhalation, which helps bring your nervous system back from a sympathetic state (fight or flight) to a parasympathetic state (rest and reset). Forward bends such as paschimottanasana (seated forward bend) and padangusthasana (big toe pose) are powerful in calming the brain and reducing anxiety. As you fold forward, your awareness shifts inward, releasing your worry and fear from the outside world and leading to the relaxation response from your body. Try holding each of these yoga poses for 3-5 minutes for stress relief.
Mantras are considered sacred sounds of the universe. They support one’s overall immunity and work to release negative thought patterns and reduce stress and anxiety. In yoga, the bija mantra Lam (pronounced Lum) works to relieve stress by calling in more of the earth element to help ground.
Directions: Practice Lam mantra while seated in a chair with your feet connected to the ground. Be sure that you are warm, comfortable and in a safe environment. Bring your focus on your root chakra and imagine strong and heavy tree roots growing down through your legs and feet, and planting firmly into the earth. You may chant as fast or as slow as feels best for you.
So Hum Meditation
So Hum is a traditional meditation that combines breath and mantra. So Hum translates to “I am that”. This mantra calms the mind, yet simultaneously focuses and sharpens it.
Directions: Find a seated position where you are connected to the earth. Once you are comfortable, take a few cleansing breaths in, and a few cleansing breaths out. Allow you gaze to naturally close. When you are ready, begin to practice So Hum. Mentally chant “So” as you breathe in, and “Hum” as you breathe out.
A tonifying Ayurvedic practice, nasya is the application of medicated oil into the nasal passages. Nasya helps relieve accumulated stress, promotes mental clarity, sharpens memory, and nourishes the nervous system.
Directions: Find a safe and comfortable place. Drop 3-5 drops of medicated oil into each nostril. Gently inhale and massage the oil into your nasal passages. Rest for five minutes to allow the oil to absorb.
Affirmations for Stress
Stress relief affirmations can help calm your nervous system by bringing in more positive energy into your mind. These are a few examples of powerful affirmations that you can try for stress:
- I am relaxed and calm.
- My mind is slowing down.
- I’m letting go of all my worries and fears.
- I am releasing all negative emotions from my system.
- I am grateful for the good in my life.
- I am safe.
Choose one and repeat 5-10 times while looking in the mirror.
For optimal stress relief, pair these yoga practices with a healthy diet and lifestyle, proper sleep, and herbal remedies like Chyawanprash. Chyawanprash is an ancient herbal formula packed with nutrient rich herbs and adaptogens, like Ashwagandha, Holy Basil and Shatavari, which improve the body’s resilience to stress.
“Daily Life.” The American Institute of Stress, 18 Dec. 2019, www.stress.org/daily-life
Dr. Vasant Lad & Anisha Durve’s. (2008). Marma Points of Ayurveda. Albuquerque, New Mexico: The Ayurvedic Press