Yoga for Stress & Mental Health

Yoga for StressI met a lady recently who said that her husband loved it when she went to yoga.  He told her, “You always come back a much nicer and calmer person after the class!”  The practice of yoga can help to unlock the blocks and emotional disturbances in our life, often associated with loss of confidence, anxiety, depression, nervous disorders and stress. Coming to a weekly, or twice weekly class, gives us the time and space to reflect on our lives and also shows us a more peaceful way of being.  Yoga for stress relief is one of its commonest uses.

The practice of physical yoga postures, breathing techniques and relaxation actually starts the process of “detoxing” the body of stress.  We hold our tension in our muscles and our posture is often a tell-tale sign of our state of mind. For example, someone with a collapsed chest and rounded shoulders may have depression or lack of confidence or simply be fearful of experiencing life, due to past experiences and their ways of coping with them.  Someone who is a shallow breather, who feels their muscles aching more than others or who’s eyes won’t relax is often someone with anxiety or unreleased anger or frustration.  They tend to rush into their postures and be impatient when doing relaxation postures.

Over time, the practice of yoga postures helps people to come back to their true nature, peace.  We get glimpses of it from time to time, moments of clarity when all our problems, worries and habitual clinging on to life are let go of, and we are simply just in the moment, on our mats.  The idea is then to take this feeling of groundedness into our everyday lives and learn to live a little more in balance.  We learn to create the state of mind that can help us to change the way we perceive life’s stresses and strains, the way we deal with them and to help us move more freely through them.

A skilled teacher can help individual students through the process of change with specific postures and techniques tailored to alleviate our more negative feelings and to enhance positive feelings.  Very broadly, and obviously these postures need to be modified to suit all levels of physical ability and experience also, back bending or chest opening poses are beneficial for depression and anxiety; inverted postures such as headstands, shoulderstands are good for combating fearfulness and lack of confidence; forward bends are very good for emotional stress and fatigue; breathing techniques can be applied for a wide range of stress disorders and twisting poses are a great way to release the physical blocks we create in our bodies when we hold ourselves in tension.

Yoga can also help those who have gone through serious trauma, drug or alcohol addiction and many offenders in prison practice yoga to help them rehabilitate back into society, to come to terms with their path they have created and to start the process of change.  A carefully balanced programme of postures and relaxation will guide students to maintaining emotional strength and stability and to releasing gently and slowly many of the emotional disturbances and habits associated with their conditions and life choices.

BKS Iyengar says of yoga & the mind:

“The primary aim of yoga is to restore the mind to simplicity and peace, and free it from confusion and distress. This sense of calm comes from the practice of yogic asanas and pranayama. Unlike other forms of exercise which strain muscles and bones, yoga gently rejuvenates the body. By restoring the body, yoga frees the mind from the negative feelings caused by the fast pace of modern life. The practice of yoga fills up the reservoirs of hope and optimism within you. It helps you overcome all obstacles on the path to perfect health and spiritual contentment. It is a rebirth.”

Inspirational Quotes

“Asanas penetrate deep into each layer of the body and ultimately into the consciousness itself.” — B.K.S. IYENGAR

Here are some more of our favourite quotes and phrases.  Scroll down for a further collection of inspirational quotes from BKS Iyengar himself.

“Yoga does not remove us from the reality or responsibilities of everyday life but rather places our feet firmly and resolutely in the practical ground of experience. We don’t transcend our lives; we return to the life we left behind in the hopes of something better.” Donna Farhi

“Strive to achieve whatever you think you cannot for it is on the path toward your impossible dream that you will find what you truly seek.”

“When you are preoccupied with end results you pull yourself from the present into an imagined, usually fearful future. Then your anxiety robs your energy, and making matters worse, you lapse into inaction and laziness.” On fear: Bhagavad Gita – Krishna counsels Arjuna

Sometimes we get despondent with our lack of ability in Hatha Yoga practice and that can lead to apathy and negativity. Here is a quote from spiritual mentor, Edgar Cayce to give a little perspective on that negative process our minds take us on when we think we’re not achieving our potential:

“There is progress whether ye are going forward or backward! The thing is to move!”

 


“People become what they expect themselves to become.”

Mahatma Gandhi

“Nature, in all its functions, is remarkably purposeful. Who then, could possibly imagine that he or she was born into this world for no purpose?”

When the power of love overcomes the love of power the world will know peace.

Jimi Hendrix

Meditation is the dissolution of thoughts in eternal awareness or Pure consciousness without objectification, knowing without thinking, merging finitude in infinity.

Voltaire

BKS Iyengar

BKS Iyengar

 

 

Here are some famous quotes from the great master of yoga, BKS Iyengar, who has dedicated the last 70 years of his life to the study and practise of yoga and to making this wonderful art, science and philosophy accessible to all people.

“The beauty of a lake reflects the beauty around it. When the mind is still, the beauty of the Self is seen reflected in it.”

 

 

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“Intelligence, like money, is a good servant but a bad master. When practicing pranayama, the yogi [makes] himself humble and without pride in his intellectual attainments.”

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“The body is your temple. Keep it pure and clean for the soul to reside in.”

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“When you inhale, you are taking the strength from God. When you exhale, it represents the service you are giving to the world.”

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“The rhythm of the body, the melody of the mind & the harmony of the soul create the symphony of life.”

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“Illuminated emancipation, freedom, unalloyed and untainted bliss await you, but you have to choose to embark on the Inward Journey to discover it.”

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“Change leads to disappointment if it is not sustained. Transformation is sustained change, and it is achieved through practice.”

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“It is through your body that you realize you are a spark of divinity.”

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“Yoga teaches us to cure what need not be endured and endure what cannot be cured.”

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“Yoga, an ancient but perfect science, deals with the evolution of humanity. This evolution includes all aspects of one’s being, from bodily health to self-realization. Yoga means union – the union of body with consciousness and consciousness with the soul. Yoga cultivates the ways of maintaining a balanced attitude in day-to-day life and endows skill in the performance of one’s actions.”

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Quotes from his autobiography, Light on Life:

“The practice of yogasana for the sake of health, to keep fit, or to maintain flexibility is the external practice of yoga. While this is a legitimate place to begin, it is not the end… Even in simple asanas, one is experiencing the three levels of quest: the external quest, which brings firmness of the body; the internal quest, which brings steadiness of intelligence; and the innermost quest, which brings benevolence of spirit.”

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“Often, we hear people saying they remain active and light when they do just a little bit of asana practice. When a raw beginner experiences this state of well-being, it is not merely the external or anatomical effects of yoga. It is also about the internal physiological and psychological effects of the practice.”