Stressed? Here are some yoga techniques to give you some relief

One of the great advantages of basic pranayam is relieving stress and improving the capacity to concentrate on work or any activity.

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Stressed? Here are some yoga techniques to give you some relief
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With International Yoga Day coming up, a good number of people have shown an inclination to learn and practise yoga in their daily routine (though the correct word should have been yog).

Around 200 BC, Maharishi Patanjali is said to have been the main sage for writing Yog-Sootra, the aphorisms on yoga. Looking at this book, one can conclude that the techniques will help a practitioner achieve total surrender to the almighty.      

There is also a treatise on Patanjali's Yog Sootra by Late Mr Kolhatkar back in 1947 called Bharatiya Manas Shaatra (i.e. The Indian Psychology). In the 15th/16th century AD, two sages, namely Svatmarama and Gheranda, wrote separate books on yogic postures and pranayam (meaning extension of the life force or breath). In these books, they detailed the procedures, benefits and safety aspects of yoga postures and pranayam. With the help of these books, people started to look at yoga from a different angle. They realised that yoga consists of postures and pranayam and can help a person maintain good health. At times, these procedures can also be used as therapy.

What are the benefits of practising yoga in your day-to-day life? One of the great advantages of basic pranayam is relieving stress and improving the capacity to concentrate on work or any activity. Once the stress is relieved, the endocrine system goes back to normal and the practitioner feels energetic for the whole day. He/she is then able to enjoy the otherwise 'boring' work or study. Let's first focus on pranayam.

The first technique is called 'Praan Dhaarana'. This involves concentrating on normal breathing, which is an 'on going' process. You can sit down relaxed and start counting breaths as a pair of inhalations and exhalations. The high rate of breathing observed initially, will slow down automatically and you will feel relaxed. This relaxation is highlighted by the Sage Patanjali in his second aphorism on Aasan (Body Postures). As you get used to counting breaths, the mind may start wandering again so you can try counting in the reversed order such as 99, 98, 97... etc. As you proceed further, you should concentrate on the feeling of air entering and leaving your nostrils. Subsequently, you can look for the temperature difference between inhalation and exhalation, which is a subtler signal. 

As the mind develops the habit of concentrating on signals, it will eventually help you concentrate on your daily routine at the work place. Even students will be able to concentrate more on their studies without feeling tensed or stressed. Now-a-days we hear and read about a lot of people developing stress related ailments such as spondylosis, acidity, asthma, PCOD in young working ladies, diabetes and insomnia. As the mind calms down, this simple act of 'Praan Dhaarana' will reduce stress and keep the individual away from such ailments. However, you have to make it a part of your standard daily routine.    

Nadi-shudhi pranayam or anulom-vilom pranayam can also help reduce stress. In this, one should start breathing through the left nostril and follow the sequence: Inhale through the left nostril, exhale through the right, then inhale through the right and exhale through the left. Later, one can follow the same sequence without blocking the nostrils physically. This pranayam is called as Manasik (Mental) Anulom Vilom. 

Bhramari is another stress-relieving pranayam. In this, with the normal breathing, you exhale through both nostrils simultaneously, generating a sound of a honey bee. You can also feel vibrations, either at the root of the nose (just below the forehead) and/or at the soft pallet in the mouth. Thus, you will have a choice, either to listen to the sound of a honey bee or to pick up the vibrations at any one or both places. With concentration, the mind will calm down and the benefits will follow. 

Ujjaayi is a technique, wherein sound is generated at the throat level, as if one has a hoarse voice. The volume of the sound can be so low that only the practitioner will be able to listen to it. Thus again, it is a subtler sound and as you try to concentrate on it, you develop a habit of concentrating effectively on the work or studies undertaken. A precaution about Ujjaayi pranayam is that it develops a little more heat in the body. Hence, it will better to do this pranayam during winter.

Thus, simple techniques like Praan Dhaarana, Anulom-Vilom, Bhraamari and Ujjaayi will help reduce stress, calm the mind and increase concentration. However, it is recommended to learn these skills under the guidance of a learned yoga teacher who will be able to confirm that appropriate skills have been inculcated properly.     
The author is a Mechanical Engineer by profession. He completed the Yoga Teachers’ Training at Yoga Vidya Niketan, Mumbai in 1988-89 and then worked as a yoga teacher at one of the centres of the institute. After his retirement in 2009, he dedicates his time to being a full time yoga teacher. 

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