Yoga's most important impact is it's ability to tackle stress. Some special poses are particularly effective as de-stressors. Keeping this set handy will help you gain an immediate sense of control when being overwhelmed by external stressors.
The poses work by wringing out stress-induced body stiffness. Muscles get cramped in a state of readiness when we are faced with any feeling of anxiety or anger or heightened hyper-vigilance. This is because the body's response to stress is still very primitive. It prepares itself to either flee or fight. The muscles in our limbs tense in reaction to this need.
Since in an urban set-up we are required to neither flee or fight physically, we end up suffering the physical consequences of our body's reaction to stress.
Several biological changes are triggered due to stress: blood chemistry changes, preparing to clot faster, showing just how animalistic we are biologically! The iris width changes, to manage vision better (again, the same instinct of an animal that needs to catch better sight of either prey or predator).
The mechanisms involved with sweating, excretion, body hair also immediately change, to accommodate an emergency situation. For example, the body hair stands erect (in an animal, this can give it intimidating inches).
So, although the stress situation we face is not physical any more our body continues to create neuro-chemical loops which leave their negative imprint on our body. This is why stress long-term leads to a whole host of chronic ailments, like blood pressure (both high or low), diabetes, heart problems, stroke, skin eruptions, digestive mess-ups and more. What it does to our emotional and familial life is better left unsaid.
Yoga poses for de-stressing works out all the systems adversely hit by stress. The poses are designed to set off the master switch that halts our biological and emotional response to stress. For instance, breathing will remain calm, or it will normalise much sooner, even in those who fly off the handle. This in turn will coax the other systems to settle back into an unthreatened state of calmness. When this physical calmness is achieved, our own psychological and emotional perception to the threat also changes.
Shameem Akthar, yoga acharya trained with the Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Center, Kerala, instructs you in these five de-stress poses.
Text: Shameem Akthar
Photographs: Jahnavi Sheriff
Catch more of Shameem's yoga writings and about her upcoming workshops at jaisivananda.blogspot.com
Harmony Foundation recently published Shameem Akthar's book, Yoga for Silvers. To place an order, please write to: firstname.lastname@example.org
(This article only attempts to enthuse readers towards yoga practice and complement your existing practice. Yoga is best learnt under the personal guidance of a teacher.)
Also read: Strengthen your body with these yogic leg raises