Stress is an inevitable part of our lives—in any profession, at any age, no matter where we live. But there is a lot we can do to respond to stress in ways that mitigate its affect on our health and on our lives in general.
Being stressed interferes with practically everything we consider important in our lives. It affects our health, our relationships, our work, and our overall well-being. When we are stressed by either physical demands or mental anxiety, it’s harder to make good decisions, and we can become distracted when we need to focus. We also tend to treat others with impatience, anger, or disrespect, even if we don’t mean to. Take a moment to consider the different ways that stress affects you. The more aware you are of the effects of stress in your life, the more you’ll be able to see how important it is to prevent or at least reduce these effects.
The health implications of stress are enormous. Traditional and ancient healing practices have always acknowledged the influence of stress and emotions on our health. But now even medical doctors are recognizing stress as a major factor in many ailments. If we become chronically overwhelmed by stress, the chances of developing a serious disease increase dramatically. Stress triggers the production of cortisol, the “fight or flight” hormone that allows us to respond to emergencies. But if the body is constantly producing cortisol, as it does with chronic stress, the body never gets the chance to rest, heal, and regenerate. Cortisol suppresses the immune system, and so long-term and constant exposure to cortisol gradually wears away at our immune system, leaving us vulnerable to seasonal coughs and colds and eventually more serious ailments and diseases, such as heart problems, kidney disease, or gastrointestinal disorders. Other symptoms include impaired cognition, decreased thyroid function, and increased abdominal fat.
The effects of stress are not limited to our physical well-being. In fact, studies have shown that chronic stress is the pathological foundation of clinical depression, which underlies many mental problems and anxiety disorders.
We don’t have to live in a chronically stressed condition. Yoga offers us many tools for easing stress, and we can take advantage of these tools by using them regularly. Yoga asanas or exercises release physical tension from the body, while the various forms of Yoga Sound Meditation™ ease the deep-seated anxiety that often plagues us. Breathing with Yoga Sound Meditation allows us to slow down and focus on the breath and on the Yoga Sound, which has a very soothing effect on both the body and the mind. Yoga Singing and Dancing is a way to let go and release stress from your body and mind. In japa meditation, we use beads as a way to help focus the mind and heart on the Yoga Sound. These are just a few of the techniques in the Easy Meditation for Everyone kit. I hope that you will practice at least one of these techniques every day to prevent and relieve your stress.
Once you become familiar with the different meditation techniques, you can practice them throughout the day whenever you feel stress starting to build. You can also try this week’s asana, Hummingbird, an effective way to release built-up stress and tension in the shoulders and upper back.