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Yoga … Stress and Your Health

Stress is a natural feeling that is created when we react to a particular situation. It can come at us from any number of facets of our lives; environment, mismanagement of daily routine, job, relationship, family, financial problem, children's studies, servant problem, getting perturbed on small matters, driving the car, children's attitude etc. Our reaction to stress is based on personal beliefs and values & also our attitude; positive or negative. Most of the people do not have major reasons for stress; most of it is self created.

For example:

· It may create stress if you wake up late in the morning and fail to reach the place in time; on the other hand, if you don't have to go to office but unfortunately you wake up early, you feel that your morning is spoiled. In both situations you may create stress.

· Every individual has his own status, plenty of wishes, there is no end to expectations but there is lack of ability to obtain every thing. Potentiality is inadequate but still people want to pluck the stars from the sky. Nothing wrong in that... but it is not proper if such uneasiness creates stress.

· Sometimes it happens that a joyful condition for one may be painful for the others. A little increase in daily workload may disturb one person while other person may become helpful to needy person even after completing his own work. This is where attitude matters.

These all are the reflections of the mental stress. Once it enters in your life, it should be eliminated by mature understanding. You are the key. You have a choice to turn the key clockwise or anticlockwise, that is to lock or unlock.

Gurudev Shri Swami Sivanandji Maharaja always propogated, "In all conditions, I am Bliss, I am Bliss, I am Bliss Absolute! ...... " It means that one should remain balanced and reassured in all conditions.

How Stress Works:

The problem is first assessed by the cerebral cortex, the thinking part of the brain, which then sends signals to the hypothalamus, the switch for a stress response & then on to the autonomic nervous system (ANS). The ANS is an automatic system that controls the heart, lungs, stomach, blood vessels and glands. Due to its action we do not need to make any conscious effort to regulate our breathing or heart beat.

The ANS is divided into two parts: the sympathetic nervous system (SNS) and the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS). The SNS and the PNS are located in the spinal column. They originate in the brain, run down through the spine, and branch out to nearly every organ, blood vessel, muscle and gland of the body including the sweat glands and hair roots. The two systems generally act in opposition to each other.

The Sympathetic Nervous System:

In a stressful situation, the SNS is called into action - it uses energy - blood pressure increases, heart beats faster and digestion slows down. These are "Fight or Flight" responses. Anxiety and panic attack "symptoms" such as sweating, hot flashes, nausea, diarrhoea, heart pounding, smothering, dizziness or light-headedness, tunnel vision, dry mouth, chest pain, etc. result from the normal operation of the sympathetic.

The Parasympathetic Nervous System:
The PNS does the opposite of what the SNS does and thus restores balance in our lives - blood pressure decreases, heart beats slower and digestion is proper. In other words, it calms and cools the system.

A correct balance between SNS & PNS will help in making our lives stress free. However, if SNS is misused for long periods, as often happens in a chronic stressful situation, it can cause sickness and disease.

Is it Possible to Live a Stress Free Life?

Yes! Sit peacefully for a few moments and ask these questions to yourself.

· Do I get disturbed on small matters?
· Do I get disturbed sleep?
· Do I feel exhausted and disturbed when I wake up?
· Am I very much worried?
· Am I having deep anxiety?
· Have I various complaints?
· Am I quarrelsome on small matters?
· Do I experience hopelessness and frustration?
· Do I feel that life is a burden?
· Do I feel fed up of life?

If the answer to any above questions is, "yes" you are living stressful life.

Counteract Stress with Trataka:

Trataka is a very effective way of withdrawing from external stress and distractions and allowing the brain to enter a relaxed and highly beneficial alpha state. It has a strong influence on the pineal gland and the sympathetic nervous system (Since the eye is directly connected to the pineal gland via the SNS).

Trataka helps in decreasing sympathetic nervous activity and increasing parasympathetic function. The level of relaxation attained in Trataka serves to lesson the harmful effects of 'fight or flight' response. The mind becomes steady and still, while all disturbing or stressful thoughts are blocked.

To Perform Trataka:

  • Sit peacefully with straight spine in front of a candle least lighted room.
  • Light the candle and place it on a small bench at a distance of 2 feet from the eyes.
  • Now watch the flame of the candle or the wick of the candle continuously and steadily.
  • When you feel that your eyes are exhausted, close the eyes & try to visualize the flame of the lamp with closed eyes. Try to feel the flame inside you between your eyebrows.
  • When this after image disappears, re-open the eyes and again start gazing the flame tip to re-establish the image in your mind, and continue this experiment several times.
  • While gazing at the candle, engage your mind with chanting Omkar / Bhramari / watching on the breath / take your mind to your childhood period. Try to recapitulate the pleasure of the childhood. Jumping and its joy, laughing free minded and without any restriction etc. After remembering childhood, impressions try to recapitulate your youth gradually. Remember your cheerful youth, delight, enthusiasm, happiness, humour, romance, victory and defeat and if you want to cry do it freely by remembering old happenings. It will wash your stress through tears.
  • Initially gaze for 2-3 minutes. Increase the duration of gazing each time and do it for maximum possible duration of about 15-20 minutes, but undue strain should not be taken.
  • Ending this exercise, slowly close the eyes & lie down in Shavasana for some time.You can freshen the eyes afterwards by rinsing them carefully and gently with cold water.

Some Tips to De-stress

Ever noticed that certain people seem to adapt quickly to stressful circumstances and take things in stride. They are cool under pressure and able to handle problems as they come up. If you want to build your resilience, work on developing these attitudes and behaviours.

· Understand yourself by honest efforts, continuous awareness and learning. Identify the root causes & the role of expectation in creating stress.

· Train your mind to change the situation & smile when stress develops.

· Your outlook, attitude, and thoughts influence the way you see things, is your cup half-full or half-empty. Turn your negative energy draining thoughts into positive and empowering thoughts.

· Eliminate old habits, which cause disturbances in small matters of your daily life. Protect yourself from negative and stressful influences.

· Live methodical life with new thoughts. For that, you don't have to change your values and loyalties. Along with the change in the life, break your stubbornness, ego, obstinacy and old traditional thinking.

· Strengthen your power, capacity and mental abilities by practicing Yogasanas, Pranayama, Shavasana and Mediation regularly.

· Introspect daily life schedule peacefully, engage yourself in utilizing wonders of universe, beauty of life, importance of nature and every moment you have.

· Walk in fresh air; enjoy walking on green grass ground in the early morning, observe the colours of the rainbows, the flowers with soft leaves, groups of black bees, singing birds and dancing peacock, watch the stars in the blue sky; watch the ocean with jumping, undulating black water.

· Be optimistic. Believe in yourself. Be sure to breathe. And let a little stress motivate you into positive action to reach your goals. Interact with others & participate regularly in activities for relaxation and fun.

Practice this Tratak meditation regularly. The life, which you obtained, will be peaceful and stress free. You will become light minded; as calm & pleasant as a beautiful morning after heavy rains.

Courtesy: Dr. Rita Khanna
Aum Shanti