Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Yogic Perspective on Stress

Keri teaching kids downdog
Let's face it all of us our stressed to one degree or another. Even our children identify with "feeling stressed out." When teaching a kid's yoga class to a group of fourth and fifth graders last September. I asked the children on the first day of the class what they hoped to gain from taking yoga. Their answers were impressive. Before me was a room full of brilliant 9-11 year old kids telling me they wanted to feel angry less and happy more.

One boy talked in particular about how stressed and angry he becomes when other kids pick on him. He said that he hoped yoga could teach him how to find inner peace and calm. By the end of a few months of once weekly classes, for whatever reason, he was able to do just that. When I asked the young boy at the end of the semester how yoga class had helped him, he told me that everyone around him comments on how calm he is now and that he is no longer known as the angry kid. He reported using his breathing practice to fall asleep, meditate, and before big tests to calm down. What a cool little guy.

It was so beautiful to see the kids come into class each week. Some of them feeling noticeably awkward and unsure of themselves. While other kids were just plain oblivious. They hardly knew that they had feet much less which one was right versus left. With a row of grinning teacher's pets lined up few inches from my mat, and some serious yogi's with a focus spread throughout the room. Ironically, I see the same types of students in my adult classes.

According to the study of psychotherapy, somewhere between the ages of 5-8 each individual makes some very important life decisions that shape their habitual ways of thinking. These decisions impact how to perceive and manage stress. During those young years of life, we may decide for example that we have to take care of everything ourselves if mom or dad are not "showing up" for us physically or emotionally. Then as we grow older, we continue to think those same thoughts and may end up in frustrating relationship with partners and friends. These thoughts only hold us back from reaching our full potential. These habit patterns of thoughts and feelings which restrict us are called samskaras. 

However, a yoga practice can teach you that in all moments you have a choice. 
To suffer or not to suffer?

You can choose how you spend your time thinking, feeling, and living your life. You can break the cycle of negative thought patterns or continue to feed them so they grow ever stronger. To break the cycle you must take the time to become aware of them and continue to learn as you go along. Take some time to focus your awareness inwards and you will suddenly become more aware of what decisions will be good for you or not. Seek help from others when you need to and find away to let go of the stress in life. That stuff can really kill you. 

To relieve your stress levels and anxiety keep it simple and decide. Do you want to spend all your time feeding negative thoughts or ones that make you feel good?

When you have negative thoughts come to the surface take time to acknowledge them and try to relax into any discomfort you feel. You are not your thoughts and feelings. During a Bryan Kest workshop last weekend, it was mentioned that 90% of our thoughts are the same thoughts we think everyday over and over again. We mindlessly reinforce the way we feel about ourselves and our life in our unconscious mind all day long! So how many times a week do you tell yourself your fat? not good enough? etc. 

So instead of feeling like you have to run out and do something about your stress levels. Take some time to sit quietly and just acknowledge where you are and how you feel. Through becoming aware of your thought patterns you can grow towards a place of health and balance.

Here are some tips to manage your stress levels:
  • Notice how you think about yourself and how those thoughts make you feel. If they make you feel stressed or anxious do something about it. Try to take a healthy action at least 80% of the time.
  • Be with your samskaras in a meditation practice, restorative yoga, and in all moments. By simply becoming aware of your thoughts things will naturally shift towards a more balanced place. 
  • Allow yourself the luxury of learning continuously throughout your life instead of feeling like you have to get everything right every time. Life is a journey, not a destination. Take yourself out of the pressure cooker and into a big open space to grow.
  • Practice conscious breathing. Become aware of your breathing and take time to sit quietly each day and focus on it. Breathe in and out slowly and deeply to calm down your nervous system.
  • Do yoga or exercise. Yoga and exercise naturally reduce your stress levels, promote health, and detoxify your body. So that you can meditate comfortably.
  • Meditate to stimulate your parasympathetic nervous system and promote a relaxation response in the body and mind.
Article and first two photos by Keri Rogers.

Keri is an internationally Registered Yoga Teacher, creator of yoga props, and health lifestyle educator.  She owns and operates BAYA Wellness, LLC offering yoga classes, handmade props, and healthy lifestyle services. Keri teachers both privately and publicly around the Greenville area offering on-going classes and special events. 
BAYA... Be As You Are!

Contact for details: Website or 864-430-1275

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