8 quick ways to relieve stress now

What are the things that stress you out?

It could be something as simple as burning a toast, getting stuck in a traffic jam before an important meeting, being in crowded places, health issues of near and dear ones, conflicts in relationships and work…well the list could go on and on.

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What if I told you now that YOU yourself have the ability to reduce the impact of stress on your body and mind? Mastering the art of calming yourself down in stressful situations doesn’t come easy. It requires a bit of practice, and it also requires you to be mindful and acknowledge the fact that you are stressed out before you begin the process of fixing it. It is important that you identify your body’s stress response. Do you have a tendency to clench your fists, breathe shallow, get angry or agitated or do you feel tightness in your stomach or shoulders? You might even become depressed and spaced out when you are stressed.

Once you recognize the signs of stress you can go about working on it. Yoga and meditation work wonders for improving your coping skills. But chanting while sitting in a lotus posture during a job interview isn’t really the way to go. Or rolling out a yoga mat and going into a headstand during a disagreement with your spouse isn’t ideal (though I can’t say I’ve never done this). For these situations you need something more immediate and accessible. That’s what this article is about. Here are 8 tried and tested ways to relieve stress immediately.

  1. Press your palm in the centre with the thumb of your other hand to relieve nervousness in stressful situations like exams and interviews. Increase the pressure steadily as you breathe out. Hold for 3 to 7 seconds. Release the pressure as you breathe in. Repeat 3 times or until you feel the anxiety begin to dissipate.
  2. Breathe out a negative, breathe in a positive. As you breathe out, visualize the negative emotion, such as anger, streaming out of your nostrils. As you breathe in, imagine an appropriate emotion such as peace or compassion being drawn into your lungs and from there into the bloodstream, where it is carried to every part of your body. Continue until you feel the signs of stress dissolve. Other variations – breathe out blame, breathe in understanding; breathe out resentment, breathe in acceptance; breathe out complains, breathe in forgiveness.
  3. Drip cold water onto your wrists whenever you feel hot and bothered. Cooling the wrists has a refreshing effect on the whole body because it is here that arteries (large blood vessels that distribute blood throughout the body) are found close to the surface. You can also splash cold water behind your earlobes to achieve a similar effect.
  4. Recall a smile on the face of someone who loves you to give you the strength to deal with problems. I always try to visualize my son’s face in an ear to ear grin whenever I feel a bit tensed. I can’t help but smile back.
  5. Sing away sadness. Agreed you can’t do this in many situations but maybe some. Humming a favourite or uplifting tune releases pent-up negative emotions, lifts the spirits and helps to reconnect you with a sense of life’s endless possibilities.
  6. Lay your head on a pillow or cushion to release anger and tension if it’s available to you. Imagine the pillow to be a sponge sucking and absorbing all the tensions and frustrations out of your mind, like blotting paper, from which they evaporate into the air.
  7. Visualize a blue bubble stretching protectively around your body. Blue is associated with protection and tranquillity. Imagining ourselves enveloped in this blue film helps to prevent our energies from being leached by those around us. This technique is especially useful when we feel stressed by crowds.
  8. Unplug, take a break from technology. Instead go for a walk in a park, listen to the sounds of nature, observe people around you, read a book, look out of the window and just breathe. Sometimes that’s all that you need to do.

Let’s get real, you might not be able to recall any of this when you are in the middle of a nerve-wracking moment. It is our natural response to just give in and become tensed. Quick stress relief takes practice, more practice and some more practice. It is a bit like learning to drive or swim. You do not learn the skill in just one lesson. You practice until it becomes your second nature. Start small, practice, and have fun. Soon you will be handling mini-crises and not-so-mini-crises with a peaceful smile on your face.

Plank Pose all you need to know – Plus a 5-minute plank challenge

Plank pose is a very basic pose used as a core and upper body strength builder in Yoga as well as other fitness regimes. Plank is truly a foundational pose – not only does it bestow you with the power and strength to hold your body together when staying in a pose, it also helps you to achieve grace when making transitions during your practice.

Performed correctly & consistently it has many benefits:

  1. Strong wrists, arms and shoulders.
  2. Strong and toned abdominals.
  3. Quads strength builder.
  4. Great for spinal support and strengthening and a better posture.
  5. Builds up wrist integrity.
  6. Improves nervous balance and develops a sense of inner equilibrium and harmony.

Which muscles it works on:

As you must have figured out by now that holding the plank pose stretches and strengthens many muscle groups at the same time. If you spend the bigger part of your day sitting in a chair, planks can be a wonderful way to achieve a full body strengthening. Starting from the top, it lengthens the neck, builds up the strength in your shoulders and your biceps. Moving along, it also works on the chest although this is a secondary muscle group that is worked. One of the major muscle groups that we work in planking are the abdominals. And obviously we work the muscle groups directly on the opposite side of the abs – the lower back muscles. Moving along, we are also working on our buttocks, thighs and calf muscles. So there, you have it. An end-to-end work out and you do not need an equipment other than your body to reap the benefits.

But in order to achieve these benefits, it’s important that the pose is executed correctly. I once heard a teacher saying – “hold your plank stiff as a board but light as a feather”. And this is what I practice and teach now. When you find the correct alignment in plank, there’s a clear line of energy running from the crown of your head through your hips and your heels.

How to Plank:

  1. Begin on hands and knees with wrists below the shoulders and knees below the hips.
  2. Grasping the mat with your toes stretch the feet back until the body is straight. Scoop your tailbone slightly in.
  3. Engage your abdominals, press down flat into the palms and lengthen the neck.
  4. Focus your gaze at a fixed point to the front so that you lengthen your neck in line with the spine.

Contraindications:

Do not practice if you have carpal tunnel syndrome or hernia or if you have a history of degenerative lower back problems.

The 5-minute Plank Challenge:

I have put together a five minute plank workout plan that you can try out. It uses relative inactivity to challenge the abdominal muscles and strengthen them. To get the maximum benefits, tense your abdominal muscle group in each pose. So just five minutes a day and you get strong abs, strong core, more power, better coordination, stronger arms and shoulders plus you look more toned. Here’s how to execute:

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  1. High Plank – hold for 30 seconds
  2. Elbow Plank – hold for 30 seconds
  3. Wide Legged Plank – hold for 30 seconds
  4. Superman Plank – hold for 30 seconds
  5. 3-Legged Plank – 30 seconds on each side
  6. Knee To Elbow Plank – 30 seconds on each side
  7. Side Plank – 30 seconds on each side

In your practice, try to consciously find pockets of tension and relax them. As always, listen to your body and approach each pose carefully and respectfully. Good luck planking!

Looking through the Ayurveda Lens – Imbalances

Ayurveda loosely translated means “knowledge of life”. It is a 5000 year old practice and has it’s origin in the Vedic culture. This traditional Indian medicine practice includes the uses of herbal medicines, mineral or metal supplementation, surgical techniques, opium and oil massages to cure ailments. Ayurveda, is much too wide a subject to be constrained within a concise article. But I’ll strive to get the basic points across to help you identify your ayurvedic constitution and develop practices that can be beneficial for your body and mind to stay in a balance. In a nutshell, Ayurveda emphasizes balance, suppressing natural urges is considered unhealthy as it causes imbalances and imbalances lead to disease.

There are three elemental substances (Doshas) in Ayurveda –

  • Vata – Refers to Movement, space and air within the body
  • Pitta – Refers to Transformation, moisture and fire within the body and
  • Kapha – Refers to Strength and structure, earth and water within the body.

These are the primary forces responsible for sculpting the character of our mind and body. Each individual has a unique combination of these forces that shapes their nature. These are dynamic energies that constantly change in response to our actions, thoughts, emotions, foods we eat, seasons and other sensory inputs that feed our mind and body.

The table that follows gives a succinct portrayal of the three Ayurvedic Doshas. You can read through to figure out what is your constitution and what dietary, exercise and lifestyle changes can you make to get yourself back in balance.

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Please note that the information in this article is meant solely for educational purposes. It is in no way a substitute for medical diagnosis, treatment or advice.