Yoga for De-stressing
Yoga for de-stressing (or stress relief) doesn't have to be about doing particular yoga poses. In its simplest form, stress relief can occur simply from not thinking. How do you do that?
How do you stop thinking?
Note that focusing on your muscles (feeling and controlling them) makes it easy to both since muscles not only create movement, they also create sensation that allows you to feel or proprioceive your body.
One way to practice Muscle control is to practice turning your muscles on and off. To help de-stress, you can do muscle control exercises slowly and smoothly. You can also look for a comfortable rhythm. And to improve the chances of de stressing, focus on the sensations that are generated as your muscles turn on and off.
"Control" can often have negative connotations. However, here it is you who is doing the controlling, and it is your own body you are working at controlling, much in the same way a pilot controls a plane or a drive controls a car. A more important aspect of muscle control in terms of de-stressing is the changes in sensations that muscles generate when they activate and relax. This is actually how we proprioceive or feel our body. And so muscle control is more about feeling your own body. Because you are focused on these sensations, you may find it helps you to relax or de-stress.
One of the simplest mechanisms for destressing is to focus on breathing or to use particular breathing exercises. In particular what you can focus on is the sensations generated by the muscles that you are breathing with. This can be thought of as embodiment, or one way of becoming embodied. Basically, you are learning to directly feel and control your body. So rather than doing everything by habit, you still do the habits, but you observe the outputs of your habits as they occur. In the case of breathing exercises, what you can focus on to reduce stress is the sensations generated by the muscles you are breathing with.
Note that breathing can be challenging to learn. And it can be frustrating. So an approach to learning to breathe is understanding the anatomy of breathing and applying that understanding when you practice breathing exercises. So rather than wondering how to breath or why you can't breathe deeply, with an understanding of breathing anatomy you can adapt breathing exercises to suit your experience and your needs.
To make breathing easier, one thing you can learn to do is improve your awareness and control of your ribcage. And that's what the basic ribcage mobility and control course does. It teaches you how to feel and control your ribcage with a sequence of easy to follow exercises: Basic ribcage mobility and control
While breathing can help you destress, understand that it is the focus on feeling your respiratory muscles (and controlling them), that can help you become present and de-stress. For more on that, check out sensational breathing exercises. Note that muscle control is an extension of this same idea, but instead of focusing on respiratory muscles, the focus is on muscles in general.
Meditation is another way of de-stressing. One could argue that becoming present in your body via focusing on your muscles is a type of meditation.
Other types of meditations can involve visualizations. Purists might argue that you aren't really meditating if your "meditation" involves creating imaginary constructs. However, if it leaves you feeling more relaxed, I'd say that is a good thing. Two imaginary constructs that you can use to guide your meditations are the chakra system and the meridian system.
Note, that these are both tools for helping you to become present. They can also be used as models or metaphors.
One of the reasons we get stressed is dealing with problems. The chakra system and the meridian system both offer philosophical models to help you sense the root of your problem. If nothing else, they give you something to focus on within the volume of your body, helping you to withdraw from your thinking mind, or at the very least, direct it so that is is working on something that doesn't cause stress.
One style of yoga where the focus is on relaxing is meridian stretching. Here the focus is on stretching the meridians. Because the meridians are situated in our connective tissue, to stretch them, the focus in this style of stretching is on relaxed stretching. Note that the idea isn't to relax the whole body. Instead, you do have to give the muscle you are stretching a stable foundation. Then you can use gravity to drive the stretch.
This type of yoga practice, guided by the meridians themselves (the meridians are organized in a logical sequence that traces its way around your body) can often leave practitioner feeling relaxed and/or pleasantly energized.
Another physical practice that may help you to de-stress is called the dance of shiva. It's a little like doing a sudoko math puzzle, but instead of pencil and paper, your use clearly defined arm movements.
While it is possible to figure out the movements as you do them, I'd suggest that to use this practice to de-stress, you'd be better of memorizing small movement sets so that you can do the movements quickly and without thinking.
Another option is to do the movements slowly, smoothly and moving back and forth between one position and another while feeling the way that you do the movement.
Yet another option is to focus on holding positions while being aware of your body. Because the positions are reasonably extreme (i.e. at the limits of most peoples normal range of movement) you may find that you improve strength and flexibility of your shoulders and arms, as well as improving left/right balance between the upper limbs.
One other reported benefit of this practice is that it can help you to focus, a good thing if you get stressed.
One simple way to de-stress is to get into the flow.