International Yoga Day 2021: Yoga expert suggests ways to integrate yoga into our daily lives to reduce stress
Yoga has proven beneficial to ease anxiety and stress at all levels. Yoga and meditation head, Divya Rolla talks about the importance of yoga for releasing stress and how you can achieve it by practising easy yoga exercises.
Stress is the root cause of 70-80 per cent of all our health conditions which require us to visit the doctor. When we treat these problems with medicines, it is only a temporary fix. This is where Yoga comes in. Yoga is the practice of a non-competitive, physical exercise involving held or static poses (in Sanskrit we call it, asana) combined with regulated breathing also known as pranayama and meditation techniques.
Yoga, with its combination of asana, pranayama and meditation, truly combats stress at its source and eliminates it, and better still provides a person with the tools to manage it for a lifetime. We all know that exercise, in general, is proven to be a very useful way to relieve stress, but yoga is different from other forms of exercises like running, cycling or weight-lifting.
How do asana and pranayama affect the body and mind?
The calming effects of yoga practice that many speak about and maybe even you have experienced personally can all be linked to a common mechanism –The Vagus Nerve. The vagus nerve connects the brain and hence the mind to the body. From the base of the brain, the vagus nerve forms connections to facial muscles, heart, lungs, digestive tract, kidneys, and reproductive organs. It also plays a key role in operating the parasympathetic nervous system which includes the feed and breed and rest and digest processes, and also regulates heart rate, and promotes calm and soothing states.
This nerve also regulates our loving and caring behaviours, and hence a well-functioning vagus nerve leads us to feel calm, relaxed and most importantly safe in relation to others, and it helps switch off our flight or fight response. This is also reciprocal as feeling calm, relaxed and sociable also stimulates the vagus nerve. This means it’s possible to start off a positive upward spiral of well-being either by affecting the states of the body or the states of the mind. A regular holistic yoga practice which includes meditation, breathing, and performing yoga postures (asanas) – tones the vagal nerve. Even a short practice of yoga for 10-15 minutes daily can leave us feeling more satisfied and happy.
So, how can you integrate yoga into your daily life to get rid of stress?
Set small realistic goals - Start with a short 15 to 20-minute asana. Practise daily and commit to this at least 4 times a week. Consistency over quantity is always the key to success. If you have access to a good teacher, then take their guidance or if not there is plenty of wonderful material available online to suit your needs.
Breathe - Add in short pranayama practice with your asana practice. This habit will change your life. I highly recommend learning and practising a calming breath called Alternate Nostril Breathing or Anuloma Viloma daily. Doing this for 5-10 minutes before you sleep at night improves your quality of sleep and truly allows your mind to release all the stressors of the day before you fall asleep. A good night's sleep can do wonders to keep stress at bay.
Quiet time - Spend the first 10 minutes of your day as soon as you wake up in silence. No phones, no books, no music, no eating or drinking anything. Just sit and stay with your thoughts, whatever they might be. This may be hard to do in the beginning, but it is worth it.
About the author: Divya Rolla is the Yoga and Meditation Head at Cult.Fit.