Stress made simple
Stress comes from the Latin word “stringere” – which simply means to pull or draw tight. Or in other words: to close in. And we all experience this pulling tight in one or more of several ways:
- Mentally, for example in the form of a constant whirring of repetitive thoughts or continual distraction
- Emotionally, for example we get easily upset or we get locked in to negative emotions
- Physically, for example in the form of tight muscles and for many of us the upper back, neck and shoulders are where stress accumulates – or a feeling of tightness in our belly
- Energetically, for example in the form of a continual or regular sensation of agitation
The best strategy for countering a pulling tight is to create space, the best strategy to counter closing in is to start opening up.
Yoga is all about opening up – when we are practising yoga we grow connection inside, we move into a greater sense of wholeness, a deeper sense of balance. Yoga provides us with many practices or tools for creating space, for opening up. One of the most fundamental and powerful practices is how we approach our doing, thinking and feeling, how we “use” our belly, head and hearts:
- We redirect the focus of our actions – our doing – away from the outcome to the process. We engage with, and enjoy, our doing. We take the attitude of: the journey is the reward
- We redirect the focus of our minds away from knowing and problems and towards to curiosity and discrimination. We grow our awareness – our ability to disentangle ourselves from the immediate situation – and from awareness we observe and deepen our seeing things as they are
- Seeing things as they are and enjoying the process, opens our hearts. We grow our compassion for ourselves and the world around us
These are three simple things. Simple does not however mean easy. It is not always easy because we are deeply entangled in all sorts of patterns – the same patterns that drive our experience of stress.
Moving towards balance
As we grow and deepen our relationship with the practices of yoga for belly, head and heart – both on and off our mats – we are growing our engagement with patterns that work for us. Patterns that are healthy in the deepest sense of the word – they move us towards wholeness. We are also creating space and loosening ourselves – moving away – from the patterns that no longer work for us. Both this moving towards and this moving away support us in growing our sense of balance and diminishing our sense of stress.
For a deeper discussion of our belly, head and heart in yoga, the patterns that hold us and that lead to our stress, and for simple practices for creating space throughout your day, check out my video on Exploring Balance