This month in our Kundalini yoga classes we are focusing on the universal experience of vitality vs stress, and learning that we have a choice between these two states.
Stress comes from two distinct sources: external stress, i.e. the situations we are confronted with in life and have little or no control over; and internal stress, i.e. our reaction to the situations we find ourselves in, which is pure perception, which means we can change our attitude and therefore our stress-response.
Stress affects every area of our lives; our relationships, our ability to focus, our work, our sleep patterns. We find that it can change our eating habits, our consumption of alcohol or drugs to either stimulate and distract, or numb the sensations. Often we isolate ourselves, snap at people, become aggressive or defensive and every single one of us will get into a cycle of increasing mental activity which can range from distracting to a feeling of being completely out of control, overwhelmed and on the verge or losing the plot.
And of course our health suffers. Massively. An estimated 70-80% of all illnesses can be attributed to stress - and just look at the increase in heart failure, IBS and mental illness over the past 20 years. How can we stop the descent into this dark abyss from which there often feels like there is no escape.
When I lived in London I often found myself plunged into dark phases - I felt totally disconnected from everyone around me, unable to connect, reach out for help, or articulate what was going on. I felt that I was walking around in a cloud of fog and had no idea how to get out.
Kundalini Yoga taught me how to address stress. If you think yoga is about the body beautiful, think again. Yoga is about connection. Yoga puts us back in touch with who we really are. It rebalances the body's systems (a strong nervous and hormonal system are essential to improve our resilience to and ability to deal with stress), and teaches us awareness and how to find mental clarity again.
Each of us has the capacity to deal with ANY challenge thrown at us, but often we are disconnected and don't realise we have the tools and capacity already within us. We forget - and maybe were never even aware - that we can choose how to react to a stressful situation.
Life is given to us as a precious gift - and the best way to honour that gift is to LIVE! FEEL VIBRANT! Throw off your stress, let go of your beliefs that situations are too much. YOU are perfect just the way you are, and have all the tools, strength and capacity to deal with life and all its challenges. When things get tough, take it one day at a time, and remember to breathe, smile, get out into nature - and yes, be silly on a regular basis!
Meditation to Alleviate Stress
Sit in a comfortable position with your spine straight - even on a chair with your feet flat on the floor, of if you need to get away from someone for a few minutes to gather your thoughts to avoid exploding in anger, frustration, rage, go and lock yourself in the bathroom and sit on the loo!
Close your eyes and direct them to the point between your eyebrows, your Third Eye. Breathe through the nose in the following pattern:
Inhale fully in eight equal strokes (i.e. you break the breath to segment it into eight parts)
Exhale fully in one single, smooth breath
Practice for a few cycles of the breath if you're using it for an emergency 'calm down', or if you have time to meditate properly sit quietly for anywhere between three and 11 minutes each day. It will make a real difference to your stress levels; which will improve your health, sleep, relationships, eating habits, happiness and vitality! Go on, it's your birthright!
How do you cope with stress? Please share your techniques that help you take the pressure off and feel more alive again. Let's learn from each other, reach out and share!