It is well known that either a quick or constant stress can induce risky mind-body disorders. Immediate disorders like dizzy spells, anxiety, tension, sleeplessness, nervousness, muscle cramps can result in chronic health problems when we constantly remain under stress. Besides prescribed drugs, there are extremely effective holistic methods to tackle the impairing influence of stress. Some of them are age-old techniques whereas many lost therapies have been retrieved and being applied in new manners for alleviation of stress and its effects. Yogic techniques for stress relief Stressed out individuals carry a great deal of physical tension in their bodies. In these cases the natural unblocking effected by yoga postures are helpful. When one rests between postures, abdominal tension is released from the body promoting deep breathing. The benefits of yoga postures (asana), breathing (pranayama), and meditation (dhyana) include increased body awareness, release of muscular tension and increased coordination between mind-and body. It helps in better management of stress and ensures an overall feeling of well being. Some custom made yogic techniques include Sudarshan Kriya by Sri Sri Ravishankar, Sahaja Samadhi by Ma Anandmayee and Kriya Yoga by Paramashansa Yogananda—are three widely practiced techniques of yoga devised by three epoch making spiritual gurus. Yogic breathing techniques The ancient therapeutic traditions as well as modern medical research speaks about the intimate relationship between our breathing patterns and our physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual health. They have shown how natural healthy respiration not only increases longevity and supports our overall well-being and self-development, but also helps in medical conditions such as asthma, poor digestion, insomnia, low energy, high blood pressure, anxiety, panic attacks, heart ailments, and many other problems. How Stress Affects Our Natural Breathing Pattern With each inhalation, oxygen (pure air) enters into our body and triggers off the transformation of nutrients into fuel. With each exhalation carbon dioxide (toxic air) is eliminated from our body. Presence of oxygen purifies the blood streams and helps invigorate each cell. Sufficient amount of oxygen is required to maintain the vitality of our body organs. In normal conditions the body follows a natural breathing pattern that is slow and regulated. Under stress when the body shows symptoms such as tightening of muscles, distractions, anxiety, hyperactivity and angry reactions et al, breathing becomes quick and shallow. One tends to hold one`s breath, frequently. With restricted breathing inflow of oxygen is restricted. Lungs are unable to exhale the stale airs and residual toxins build up inside the body. Under stress the stiff muscles restrict the circulation of blood. So, even less oxygen comes in and fewer toxins are removed. It affects the healthy regeneration of cells. Medical studies show that the oxygen-starved cells are the major contributing factors in cancer, immunity deficiency, heart disease and strokes. Breathing also affects our state of mind and consequently makes our thinking either confused or clear. When breathing is slow, deep and full, the lungs work more, the diaphragm moves well, the intercostals, back and abdominal muscle work, drawing in extra oxygen to the blood stream. Increased oxygenation purifies blood and stimulates healthy functioning of cells, glands and muscles. Hence, a regulated and mindful breathing pattern has been held vital to maintaining the highest level of physical health by yoga. Another positive result of conscious breathing is its calming effect on the emotions, reducing fear and anxiety in the nervous system. Regulated and mindful breathing, dynamic movement of the head, shoulders and arms during the practice of breathing and meditation promote concentration and relaxation. Pranayama Yoga offers many breathing skills for stress-affected individuals. These yogic breathing techniques are termed as `pranayama` (prana+ayama). Roughly `prana` can be explained as the vital life force that regulates all activities in this universe. `Ayama` has a wide range of meaning; the most appropriate here is `control or regulation`. According to yoga, pranayama consists of various ways of inhaling, exhaling and retention of prana. This prana is inter-linked with consciousness (citta) both at the cosmic and individual levels. Pranayama is devised by yoga to create a synergy between the self-energizing life force and individual mind-body-spirit by scientific regulation of prana. Perhaps the simplest form of pranayama is nadi shodhanam (channel purification), which consists alternate nostril breathing, suitable for everybody. Nadis are subtle nerve channels through which prana flows. In Sanskrit, Shodhana means `cleansing`. According to yoga there are 14 major nadis and prana flows in and out of them controlling all our mind-body functions. Nadi shodhanam works to unblock tensions and resistance in the energy-conveying channels of the gross and subtle bodies, thus calming and strengthening sensitive nerves. Conscious breathing through cleansed nadis allows more oxygen inflow and effective excretion of toxins from within. This brings about a healthful state both in body and mind. Method of Nadi Shodhanam • Hold your right hand up and curl your index and middle fingers towards your palm. Place your thumb next to your right nostril. Close the left nostril by pressing gently against it with your ring finger and inhale through the right nostril. The breath should be slow, steady and full. • Now close the right nostril by pressing gently against it with your thumb, and open your left nostril by relaxing your ring finger and exhale fully with a slow and steady breath. • Inhale though the left nostril, close it, and then exhale through the right nostril. (That`s one complete round of Nadi Shodhana—Inhale though the right nostril, Exhale through the left, Inhale through the left, Exhale through the right) Begin with 5-10 rounds and add more as you feel comfortable. Remember to keep your breathing slow, easy and full Nadi Shodhana can be practiced just about any time and anywhere. Nadi Shodhana helps control stress and anxiety. If you start to feel stressed out, 10 or so rounds will help calm you down. It also helps soothe anxiety caused by flying and other fearful or stressful situations. For the details about nadi shodhanam and other pranayama techniques click here. Important points to remember before going for pranayama: • Pranayama should always be practiced with a suitable asana (asanas that increase the volume of the lungs and free the muscles of the ribs, back, and diaphragm can help prepare one for pranayama ) or yogic posture for its effectiveness. • It should be practiced under the guidance of an able teacher. • Those who suffer from chronic shortness of breath or other breathing disorders should not attempt pranayama until they are ready for it. • The practitioner shouldn`t exhaust himself in the process. • Breathing should always be done in an almost empty stomach. • Breathing shouldn`t be done in haste, nor should it be jerky or irregular. Breathing should always be smooth and steady otherwise the whole purpose of pranayama is lost. Uneven exhalation is held to be a sign of present or impending illness. Yogic meditation Meditation, one of the eight limbs of yoga outlined in Patanjali`s Yoga Sutra, is the final step before attaining spiritual bliss. The great seer has described yoga as —yogaschittavrittinirodhah, which means completely shutting out all kinds of mental fluctuations. When such a stage is reached, meditation (dyana) is perfected, resulting in yoga (union of individual consciousness with the cosmic consciousness). That is the zenith of meditation. On a lower plane, meditation has proved helpful in reducing stress and anxiety, lowering blood pressure, improving concentration and creativity besides bringing relief from stress-induced ailments. In the postmodern age various meditation techniques are increasingly being used for relaxation as well as therapeutic benefits. The Transcendental Meditation technique made popular during the 1970s by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi was aimed at ushering in perfect health and happiness. The technique is specifically designed to relieve man of his modern day trappings and the resultant mind-body disorders by helping him to access the boundless cosmic energy field. The words of Maharishi aptly describe TM: ‘Transcendental Meditation opens the awareness to the infinite reservoir of energy, creativity, and intelligence that lies deep within everyone.’ TM is a simple, natural and effortless procedure practiced for 15-20 minutes in the morning and evening, while sitting comfortably with the eyes closed. During the course of the meditation, the fluctuating mind gradually becomes still and the individual experience a unique state of `restful alertness`. The body becomes deeply relaxed; the mind transcends all mental activity to experience the simplest, purest and highest form of Consciousness. Numerous researches on TM in institutes and universities all over the worlds have shown that its practice benefits all areas of an individual`s life. The researches claim TM develops the individual`s latent creative potential while dissolving accumulated stress and fatigue through the deep rest experienced during practice. This experience enlivens the individual`s creativity, dynamism, orderliness, and organizing power, which result in increasing success in daily life. Hypnomeditation believes in the Freudian theory of the origination of ailments from deep impressions of emotional traumas etched in our subconsciousness. The idea of hypnomeditation is to use the body`s own inherent energy to holistically treat the individual bein
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