When stressful situations occur the body often becomes the reservoir for tension. The accumulation of relational and work-related stress often goes unnoticed until the body sends a signal about its overworked state. The signal is often pain, injury or illness. Some areas that are susceptible to fatigue and nervous tension are the neck and shoulders. With conscious awareness, pain and even injury can be avoided and healed in these delicate areas of the body. Yoga is a great way to help relieve stress in both the body and the mind.
The most basic tool to help relieve stress comes from breath control.
The most basic tool to help relieve stress from the tradition of yoga comes from the method of breath control. Whenever you find yourself in an uncomfortable situation the first thing that happens is that your breathing pattern will be disturbed. If you are able to become conscious of that disturbed breathing in the moment you can immediately apply the tools of yoga to correct your breath. Disturbed breathing indicates that you need a moment to literally catch your breath.
Withdraw from the stressful situation and find a quiet place to draw your attention inward. Even if you merely go to the bathroom away from other people it may be all the solitude that you need. Close your eyes and gently seal your lips. Drawn your mind’s point of attention to the feeling of your breath both in the nostrils while simultaneously maintaining a light sense of awareness on your pelvic floor. Next, draw in 10 consciously deep breaths, counting both the breath in and the breath out. Count backwards and literally say the words, “10 in, 10 out, 9 in, 9 out,” etc., to yourself to keep the mind in the present moment. Repeat this simple technique up to 10 times to give yourself the space to tune into the present moment. Then you can either return to the situation if necessary or move on to a new aspect of your day without the residue of the stressful situation.
If you are not able to gain conscious awareness in the moment, then stress will build up in both the body and the mind. You may notice only at the end of the day that your body feels extraordinarily tired and the tender areas around your neck and shoulder are sore. In this case, the physical practice of yoga postures will help you clear your mind and heal your body.
The best postures to target stress relief for the neck and shoulders are a combination of stretching and strengthening postures. Shoulderstand, known in Sanskrit as Sarvangasana, is an inverted posture that helps stretch and strengthen the shoulders and can be done by most people at the end of their day. In addition to Sarvangasana, all the Shoulderstand variations, such as Plow pose (or Halasana), are also recommended.
If you have pre-existing neck or shoulder injuries, it would be best to learn the yoga poses from a qualified teacher who can modify the postures according to your particular needs. Any yoga postures done for therapeutic benefits should be done gently without any stress. When practicing yoga for stress relief place the emphasis on your breath and keep the mind soft and relaxed in the present.
Do you have a healthy strategy that helps you deal with stress or relieve tension? Share it in Comments so we can all learn from each other.