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Special Content

volume-11, 15-21 June 2019

Yoga for Stress Management

Shweta Saras

Stress has become a common problem in modern life; a chronic condition in everyday life. About 89% of the population in India is suffering from stress.  In addition, one in eight people have serious trouble in dealing with stress, with millennials suffering more than other groups. Stress is abnormal reaction the body has when changes occur. It is response of the body which occurs in difficult situations. The body responds to these changes physically, mentally, or emotionally. It is usually believed that stress is always because of negative changes; but, even positive life changes such as a promotion, or success in an examination produce stress. The term 'stress', as it is currently used was coined by Hans Selye in 1936, who defined it as "the non-specific response of the body to any demand for change".Yogic way of life, if adopted in true sense, empowers us to deal with stress and in promoting physical and mental health. The seventeenth Shloka of the sixth chapter of Bhagwat-Gita gives us five dimensions of Yoga.

The components of yogic way of life are: Namely;

  1. Ahara (Food)
  2. Vihara (Relaxation)

III.       Achara (Conduct)

  1. Vichara (Thinking)
  2. Vyavahara (Behaviour or actions)
  3. Ahara (Food):

A diet should be healthy and help develop a stronger body and mind. A yogic diet helps in achieving better health, sound intellect and also peaceful mind & heart. A yogic diet is nutritious and rich in vital energy. It is often said that, "you are what you eat". So, the Yoga emphasises on the nature of diet you intake. The Yogic concept of Ahara or Food dresses on three qualities of nature.

  • Satv
  • Raj
  • Tam

Satv is the quality of love, light and life. Raj, on the other hand, is the quality of activity and passion, lacking stability; and Tam is the quality of darkness and inertia, dragging us into ignorance and attachment. Yoga considers food as a carrier of the life force called pran and the quality of pran effects our consciousness. The Bhagavad Gita describes the sattvic diet as promoting life, virtue, health, strength, happiness and satisfaction. It describes the rajsic diet as excessively pungent, sour, salty, hot, harsh, astringent and burnt,leading to pain, misery and sickness; whereas the tamasic foods are described as state, tasteless, smelly, left over, rotten and foul. Sattvic food are savory, smooth, firm and pleasant to the stomach. This category of food is that which is pure, clean and wholesome. A sattvic diet is food that gives life, strength, energy, courage and self determination. In other words, sattvic food gives as more than the gross physical requirements of the proper mix of proteins, carts and fats etc. It also give us the subtle nourishment necessary for vitality and consciousness. To keep oneself stress-free, happy, calm and full of life energy, one should keep one's diet sattvic.

Yoga emphasises on meditation to get the true test of food. And helps in developing a taste of sattvic diet, and also a calm mind. Bhagavad Gita says that when satva predominates, the light of wisdom shines through every gate of the body.

  1. Vihara (Relaxation)

The modern society is facing an epidemic of lifestyle related diseases like obesity, diabetes, heart diseases, etc., which primarily result from stress, improper diet and irregular or sedentary lifestyle. According to yogic philosophy, in order to achieve and maintain healthy living or Arogya, it is essential to practice a healthy Vihar or relaxation. Vihara can be brought about by activities such as exercise, recreation and creative activities like drawing, painting, singing, etc. These activities help to regulate and channelise our emotions and bring us joy and happiness. Yogic practices of asana, pranayama and meditation relax body and mind. Yoga prescribes certain healthy practices to gain a Swasthvritti or a healthy lifestyle are recommended. Dinacharya or a healthy and sustainable pattern of lifestyle, obeying the biological cycles of nature, is essential component of yogic practice. Yogic Dinacharya includes waking up early in the morning, elimination of our natural wastes, maintaining oral hygiene, i.e. cleaning teeth and tongue, gargling etc., exercising regularly, body massage, bathing, clothing, eye care, nasal care, etc. Lack of sound sleep or restful sleep is a symptom of stress. As per Yogic Science, quality sleep is essential for a healthy life. It is possible only when the mind is totally dissociated from the senses. Sound sleep rejuvenates mind and also improves mental power. A regular pattern of quality sleep is essential for a stress-free life.

  1. Achara (Conduct)

Yoga prescribes that the conduct of a person should be ethical for maintaining a healthy and stress-free life. Good conduct includes honest, truthful behaviour, avoiding hatred and jealousy, compassion, etc. It also teaches us to build healthy routines that would balance our efforts throughout the day, throughout the years, and ultimately throughout the life. Healthy routines help us to use our time efficiently.  Yoga is also defined as "breaking old routines/habits and building healthy new one". Ancient yogic noticed that the biggest mind problem is to bear the moment-to-moment life. To face the reality of life is the hardest thing to do for the mind. It is very easy to lose grip on the present moment as the mind has the ability to escape into past memories, impressions, day dreaming, imagination and ignorance. We should have control on our desires, instincts, emotions, habits and attitudes. Here, yoga is important as it encourages good conduct in our personal and social life. Yoga advocates for positive emotions and positive attitude towards self and other persons. Yogic principles of Yama (restraint) and Niyama (observance) help to develop control on our desires and emotions and bring about peace and harmony.

  1. Vichara (Thinking)

Vichara is the internal dialogue of a practitioner with self (with his own mind). It is talking to one's mind. Vichara is Self Enquiry. Vichara helps in developing a relationship with one's own mind. It is said that, the only way to understand Self Enquiry is to practise it. It is best to practice Vichara or Self Enquiry daily before you start with your meditaition. Allow the mind to present you with all its doubts, questions and fears. Invite these to come forward so that the mind does not disturb you with these during your meditation.One can ask oneself questions like  "O Mind, What do you want? What is the purpose of life? What is the goal of life ?. One can dedicate the mind by the power of Vichara to the path of light and enlightenment. This is to be noted that Vichara should not become a monologue. One should listen to one's consciousness and the answers will come from your mind. Listening is the key to the exercise. Vichara leads to the process of self discovery. A time comes, when your mind becomes your best companion in one's journey and evolution. It becomes practitioner's friend, teacher, guide and mentor. Yoga prescribes that one should have positive thoughts. Positive thoughts give us strength to bear the sorrows of life. Yogic practices like pratyahara, and dhyana (meditation) help us in controlling our thoughts and thereby promoting optimism in life.

  1. Vyavahara (Behaviour or actions)

Vyavahara is the result of ahara, vihara, achara and vichara. According to Yogic philosophy, our actions should be right. We should not be indulged in wrong activities. Our behaviour towards others should be appropriate. What we experience today is the result of our karma-both good and bad-created by our previous actions.Karma- Yoga proposes that we should perform right act with full dedication without worrying about the results. We should give 100 percent effort, without being attached to the outcome. Can be applied to everything you do: from the most trivial, ordinary tasks to greater, more challenging works. Bhagvad-Gita explains this in the following verse, when Arjuna was not willing to fight the Epic war of Mahabhaarat and Krishna explains to him to perform his duties.

It says, "Keep on performing your duties without expecting for any reward in return, leading a selfless life."

When action is performed selflessly, with full focus and attention, it brings fulfillment and freedom. Acting without being attached to the fruits of one's deeds - this alone can lead to union with the Self, which is the goal of yoga.We can remain stress-free and become happy if we follow this philosophy and act accordingly.

Yogic Asanas for Stress Management

  • Ardhamatsyendrasana: The word comes from Ardha (Half), Matsyendra (from the name of Yogi Matsyendranath)and Asana (Posture). Yogi Matsyendranath was the founder of Hatha Yoga & Nath Tradition. Full Spinal Twist position was the favourite meditation pose of the Sage so this pose is named after him. However, as it is a little difficult to practice a simplified form Half Spinal Twist came about.


  • Bhujangasana: Bhujangasana or Cobra Pose is a reclining back-bending asana. It is commonly performed in a cycle of asanas in Surya Namaskar. The name comes from the words Bhujanga (Snake) and Asana (Posture). This asana is very helpful in stress management. In Bhujangasana the organs of endocrine system especially the adrenal glands and pancreas are activated which help in strengthening them.


  • Hastottanasana: The name is made of three words: Hasta (Arms), Uttana (Stretch Up) and Asana (Posture). In this posture, the arms are stretched upwards, hence, it is called Hastottanasana.It relaxes whole body and relieves pain in neck, shoulders and arms


  • Makarasana: The name comes from Makara meaning crocodile and Asana meaning posture. This asana is described in the 17th-century Ghera??a Sa?hita. Crocodile Pose is a relaxing yoga asana. It is perfect for back and shoulder problems. The pose resembles a crocodile taking rest in water, keeping its face and neck above the surface water level. It offers deep relaxation for shoulders and spine. It relaxes body completely and keeps the practitioner rejuvenated. Makarasana treats hypertension, heart diseases, and mental disorder


  • Matsyasana: The name comes from Matsya (Fish) and Asana (Posture). According to Hindu mythology Matsya was an incarnation of Lord Vishnu who is believed to be the preserver of the Universe. This asana aims at being focused and resilient when one feels out of balance. It is especially helpful in anxiety. The practitioner feels energized and full of life after doing it.


  • Padahastasana: The name consists of three words, pada (feet), hasta (arms) and asana (posture). In this asana, the hands are brought near the feet, hence it is called Padahastasana. It is one of the 12 basic postures of Hatha yoga. It is also the third pose of surya namaskar. It is believed to reduce tamas, which means heaviness or inertia in the body. It helps the practitioner to feel lighter and more energised. It is also said to slow the heartbeat, giving relief from both mental and physical exhaustion.


  • Sarvangasana: The name consists of Sarv meaning all, anga meaning part of a body, and asana (posture).As the name suggests, the asana influences the functioning of all parts of your body. Sarvangasana is an asana in which the whole body is balanced on the shoulders. It increases the supply of blood to the brain and strengthens the central nervous system enabling the person to ght the problems induced by stress. This asana is highly beneficial in maintaining the mental and physical health and is also referred as 'Queen of asanas'.


  • Shashankasana: The name comprises of Shashanka (Hare or rabbit) and Asana (posture). This asana resembles a rabbit in the final position. There are many benefits of this asana including relaxation, relieving of depression and much more. It is one of those which is very easy to perform and can be done by anyone regardless of age.


  • Shavasana: This asana gets its name from the recumbent posture of a dead body. This posture is very effective for de-stressing the body and mind. In this asana, the body and mind remain in a state of rest. This helps in the repair of tissues and cells, and there by rejuvenates the body and mind. It helps to reduce blood pressure, anxiety and insomnia.


  • Trikonasana: The term comes from the word trikona, meaning triangle and asana (posture). It is a standing yoga posture that requires strength, balance and flexibility. In this posture, both arms extend with the legs spread apart and one foot turned at a 90-degree angle. The upper body bends toward the lead foot so that one arm reaches toward, but not necessarily touching, the ground and the other toward the sky.


  • Ushtrasana: The name consists of words, Ushtra meaning camel and Asana (posture). The body resembles a camel in the final position of this asana. Hence, this is called Ushtrasana. This asana should be practised after Sarvangasana.It is known to open up the heart chakra and increase strength and flexibility.

email: shweta82saras@gmail. com.

Views expressed are personal.