December 2015 By Saraswathi Vasudevan The judicious practice of asanas and pranayama can free the mind and body of stress, says Saraswathi Vasudevan Yoga has always defined stress as a projection of our mind’s distorted perception of reality. A confused, fragmented mind invariably guides us to act in ways that perpetuate suffering instead of resolving it. All painful experiences, and negative emotions get stored in the physical body, eventually leading to disease. How can this cycle be broken? The first step is to become aware of the problem, its negative effect on the body, breath and mind, as well as one’s environment, lifestyle, relationships and work. The next step is to take responsibility. Take responsibility for your state of health, quality of life and actions. Avoid blaming outside circumstances for your suffering. Yoga is a state of mind that is calm, unperturbed and clear. A mind that can perceive with clarity, and in every situation, enables you to choose peace and harmony over conflict or argument. Yoga practices help us develop immunity to stress-inducing situations. Here’s how. Daily ritual: With consistent effort, some of the long-term effects of stress from the body and mind can be cleared. Every morning practise asanas that pay special attention to parts which absorb tension like the neck, shoulders, upper back and lower back. Movements that include back arches, forward bends, twists and lateral stretches of the spine in standing position helps clear stiffness and accumulated tension from almost all joints in the body. Using the breath actively in asana helps deeper cleansing, removes heaviness and refreshes the system boosting your energy levels. And surprise! The mind also clears up and you will be ready to face the day with clarity and positivity. Pranayama helps us connect more deeply with the breath – our intimate friend and ally in healing. About 20 breaths of extended inhalation and exhalation through simple throat breathing (ujjayi) with a mild breath retention after inhalation has a magical effect! Those who don’t have time in the morning will benefit from a 20-minute evening practice before dinner or at least two hours after. This comprises some active movements similar to the morning practice but with focus on longer exhalation. Lying postures to rest the back with gentle leg stretches help clear stasis in lower extremities. Long exhalation gets rid of negative thoughts and emotions gathered during the day, clears your mind and drifts you into a blissful state of sleep. Tadasana variation This can be done standing or seated (except after a full meal), anywhere. Stand with your feet apart, your back against the wall (at least one-ft. distance from the wall). As you inhale, sweep your right arm back to the wall behind on the same side, opening the right side of the upper body, eyes following the hand movement. Touch the wall, pause for two seconds. Then as you exhale sweep the arm back to touch the left shoulder, eyes following the arm movement. Pause for two seconds. Inhale, take the hand back to the wall on the right side, pause for two seconds. Exhale, bring the hand back to neutral position by the side of the body (starting position). Repeat this with the left arm. Five to six repetitions alternating sides will release tightness in the neck, shoulders and upper back while clearing your mind of its clutter. About the author : Saraswathi Vasudevan is a yoga therapist trainer in the tradition of Sri T Krishnamacharya. She specializes in adapting yoga to the individual. (www.yogavahini.com).
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