How to Release Stress through Yoga and Meditation

In our modern lives it seems that stress is unavoidable. A friend recently called this internal chatter her “unwelcome roommate”. This unwelcome roommate decided to move right on in and take over your mental space without asking and without being considerate of how you’ve been living. This roommate makes judgments, thrives on emotions, makes demands and imposes  opinion. Sound familiar? It did for me. When our mental space becomes cluttered, it actually makes solving our problems and making the right decisions for our lives more complicated. It’s time for space, you need to detach.

In yoga, we look at how stress or mind chatter, can affect our lives. In the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, Sutra 1.2 explains “yoga chitta vritti nirodha” which translates to “yoga is the calming of the mind fluctuations.” There are five main vrittis or mind fluctuations that affect our outer consciousness:

  • Pramana - Correct knowledge

  • Viparyaya - Incorrect knowledge

  • Vikalpa - Imagination or fantasy

  • Nidra - Sleep

  • Smrti - Memory

It isn’t that these fluctuations are good or bad, but more that, when they can take control, they shape our perspective, and influence our actions. Imagine your mind when calm, as the surface of a crystal clear lake that reflects the surrounding landscape. A single drop of rain in the lake can cause a ripple that distorts the reflection. The more severe the rainstorm, the more distorted and cloudy the lake gets. Just like our minds, fluctuations can distort how we think and approach a situation and make us act out of character. It can even make us lose sight that we were once calm and clear-minded. However, underneath the fluctuations (or ripples), the crystal-clear lake is still there. Waiting patiently for the storm to pass and for you to return.

So, how can we help ourselves become more aware of inner stress building and weathering the inevitable storms that will arise? We can start by forming positive and consistent habits that ground us including a consistent yoga practice, setting aside 10 to 15 minutes each day to meditate and maybe even setting up monthly acupuncture maintenance appointments. These activities become our tools for maintaining a clear and calm mind.

If attending Jade or a studio near by isn’t possible for you, try taking an online class in the comfort of your home and downloading a meditation app to your phone. Here are a few of my personal favorites to get you started on your path:

Online Yoga:

  • Seane Corn Yoga Seane Corn is one of my favorite yoga teachers. She is powerful, nurturing and no nonsense. Whether it is your first class or 100th, she has something for everyone and makes it fun and challenging. On her website she has online videos that you can buy and download which can be great for compiling a weekly practice that you can grow from a teacher you can trust. Price per class ranges from $9 to $13.

  • MyYogaWorks This is a new program offered through the Yoga Works website (I’m excited!). Many of my favorite teachers are Yoga Works teachers. Full disclosure, I was trained by YogaWorks and chose them due to the high quality teachers, their philosophy and the focus on alignment. Price: $15/mo or $150/year (Discount for Yoga Works Members).
  • YogaGlo Various teachers with different types of yoga and meditation. The different styles of yoga makes this a great choice if you are exploring various types of yoga. Price: $18/ month. 15 Day Free Trial

Meditation Apps

  • Headspace - my new personal favorite. You begin with a Take 10 challenge to encourage you to meditate every day. The app is modern, easy to use and has great animations. It has individual meditations as well as series that cover stress, sleeping, flying, sports, relationships and more. Bonus - They also just added a kids sections to help bring awareness and calm to your little tots as well!
  • Insight Timer - Insight Timer keeps track of your progress and allows you to pick from a simple timer meditation or guided meditations from different teachers. After you complete a meditation it lets you know how many people around the world just meditated (using the same app)! The only downfall is sometimes finding a guided meditation that speaks to you.

Bringing awareness to what is going on inside through yoga, meditation and acupuncture will help you de-stress and quiet the chatter in your mind. This fall, be sure to take a step back, take a breath and create some space for yourself. Set a goal to practice 3-5 times a week (in a studio or using one of the programs above) and download one of the meditation apps above to start your daily meditation practice. In no time, you will begin to see that inner shift in yourself. Go ahead, you owe it to yourself.