Mindful Yoga for Stress - Tip #4

In this series of posts, I explore skills that you can take from a mindful yoga class to use in your daily life to help you respond to stress.  

Tip #4: : Open your body up

One of the things you might start to notice as you begin to pay attention to how your body and mind interact is the way your body posture changes when you are stressed. For many people, the shoulders lift up, the jaw clenches, and we hunch forward, protecting our bellies. Although there are very good reasons for your body taking these actions in response to short-term stress, if you tend to hold onto these posture long-term it can begin to feed into a stress-cycle that is hard to break.

There is a very real link between our emotions and state of mind, and our posture. We slump and hunch when we’re feeling down, nervous, or tired. Evolutionarily that makes sense; by drawing in on ourselves, we make ourselves less visible and protect our soft, vulnerable front. But if you get into the habit of holding yourself like this all the time (as computers, sofas and stress encourage us to do) your body can feel stuck in these feelings.

So the next time you are feeling really stressed, give yourself a moment to find some space in your body. This is not a case of forcing yourself into “good” posture and rigidly holding yourself there – this is just as stressful for the body as being in a collapsed, protective state. Instead it as a process of gently opening and lengthening to find more space.

In the moment practice: Finding space

Sitting or standing, bring your attention to whatever is in contact with the ground. Allow your feet or seat to relax and feel the ground underneath you. You are supported.

- Bring one hand to your belly, and one to your heart. Lift the crown of your head and lengthen the back of your neck.

- As you breathe out, let your shoulders relax.

- Find some space between the back teeth.

-  Scan your body and notice where you are holding tension right now, and see what might be able to let go.

- Breathe.