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“What We Are Doing Is Not Yoga!”

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Bryan Kest Power Yoga blog post
27 Mar
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2 Simple Yoga Practices for Reducing Stress

Living in the Rat Race: 2 Simple Practices for Reducing Stress

Welcome to the Rat Race. Although somehow we seem to just barely keep this phenomenon we've created called "modern society" from exploding, imploding or simply toppling over, the effort it requires, takes an enormous toll on our minds, bodies and spirits. If you live in or near a city or not, you can't really avoid the rat race. It's also hard to avoid the people in your life who are heavily affected by the stresses of mere survival, let alone "getting ahead".

The freeways with their accidents, gridlock and commutes - the workload, family, crime, cost of living, commercials, billboards, advertising gone mad, junk mail, E-mail, voice mail, beepers, cell phones, home phones with answering machines - appreciation, depreciation, inflation, interest rates, Nasdaq and Dow Jones, mergers, buyouts, takeovers and bankruptcy, finance, refinance (would you like to borrow some more?), smog, landfills, ozone, rainfall, rainforest (what's left), global warming and road rage - deforestation, over population, warning unsafe to swim at beach, safe sex, abstinence, condoms, aids - too skinny?, too fat?, too tall?, too short?, not the right color?, too old?, too young?, not pretty enough?, too nice?, too expensive? - TOO MUCH! Plastic surgeons, plastic breasts, would you like your penis pumped up?, anti-abortion, anti-depressants, anti-perspirants (you mean it's not proper to sweat?) - indecency, (cover your body), insomnia, infidelity!, impeachment! hypocrisy, technology, outdated computers (you just bought it yesterday). My new phone came with a 90 page instruction manual; it has 10,000 functions! Can you explain it to me?

I'm sorry, I got carried away! Yet believe it or not this is only part of the stresses we are all affected by, not only every day, but every moment of every day. Most of it we tune out otherwise we would overload. It's no wonder that stress is the #1 cause of missed work days, costing businesses billions if not trillions of dollars, as well as more illnesses than I care to mention (ranging from ulcers to heart disease, which is the #1 cause of premature death in this country).

Sometimes people even practice yoga in a manner that feeds this perpetual stress syndrome - you know, competitively, critically or reactively. But in corpse pose it's hard for perpetual stress syndrome (PSS) to penetrate, although it can! I'll explain. Thoughts, dreams or fantasies come with feelings that have an effect on the body and this effect is stress. Obviously the more intense the feeling, the more stress. Thoughts of negative experiences, past, present or future; exciting or scary dreams or fantasies can all affect the mind and body stressfully. Thought alone can facilitate the secretion of hormones and chemicals into the bloodstream that provoke a mental or physical reaction. The heart rate may rise, blood pressure become elevated, (hypertension), stomach may secrete acid, the muscles may tighten, etc... So within this corpse pose there is a practice happening, of course. You didn't think you were just going to get to lay there and fantasize or dream? Come on, you know better than that by now. It's not that easy, even though it is simple!

There are two practices that I like best for reducing stress (although there are probably many I do not know about):

1. Scanning the body in a 4 to 6 inch increments from head to toe and back to head. At each increment visualize white, healing light penetrating the area and eradicating all decay and disease and softening any tension. Then move on to the next 4-6 inch segment of body. Miss no part of your body. What you are doing is bringing together consciousness, intention and visualization, a potent mix of healing energy. PSS will try to divert your attention, but when you catch yourself drifting off in thought, just bring yourself back.

2. Simply observing the natural breath. This technique called Ana Pana, will calm your mind and keep you here - present - and prevent thoughts from stimulating stress. Again you will have to be watchful. Thoughts will sneak up on you. When you catch yourself drifting toward thoughts, you must bring yourself back to natural breathing.

So corpse pose is in itself a powerful tool against PSS and for reducing stress in general; it is a simple yet potent meditation, as well as a time of relaxation, recovery and renewal after a potent asana (physical) practice. Corpse pose is a buffer zone between what I was doing and what I will be doing. Like after surgery, you just don't walk out of the hospital, you spend some time in recovery. Similarly, after yoga asana we do savasana (the last asana). Somewhere I heard that corpse pose should be practiced for one third the length of time you practiced asana I know that's asking a lot but minimally rest 5 solid minutes and if you practice longer than 1 1/2 hours, rest 5 minutes more for each additional 1/2 hour you practice.

People really have trouble with this one. They just don't get it. The ego, anxiety and "antsyness" just won't allow them to be here. Remember, you are still practicing yoga. Don't react to that stuff; keep breathing and come back to your breath flowing or scanning the body. Remember, it might not be egotistically gratifying, but it's the pose we need most, not just after a substantial practice, but before or after a long day!!!