Ahimsa is the yogic principle of non harming. According to the American Psychological Association's 2014 stress report, women "consistently report high levels of overall stress and unhealthy behaviors to manage stress". Gender aside, all stress has a negative impact on the wellbeing of our society. Our solutions to manage stress (unhealthy food, alcoholic beverages, cigarettes, drugs, etc) are not the best things for our health, and may cause additional harm.
We can look to yogic, mindfulness and wellness practices for healthier (non harming) ways to manage stress, anxiety and insomnia. Some of them may even change the way you view situations that you used to find stressful. Here are a few ideas.
- Yoga Practice - if you're not already a yogi, now is a great time to start. If you're already a regular yoga practicioner, maybe try changing things up by practicing a different style or a new studio. Practices like Restorative Yoga, Yin Yoga, and Yoga Nidra are very relaxing and good for all levels. For more physical work, Iyengar and alignment oriented class are structurally oriented, while Vinyasa and Prana Flow classes generally offer more movement. Try a new class, teacher, video or studio to shake things up.
- Breathwork - Yogic breathwork (pranayama) is a great way to manage stress. Try one of my classes if you're in the area (we practice a bit of breathwork in every class). Otherwise, you may want to experiment with a practice such as Alternate Nostril Breath or simply lengthen your exhales. Sit or lay comfortably, close your eyes, and count the length of your inhales. As a goal, you could try to make your exhale twice as long as your inhale. When your mind wanders, bring your attention back to the breath.
- Essential Oils - Essential oils can change your mood. Lavender is especially relaxing, and mint or orange scents are uplifting. You can diffuse them, wear them in a carrier oil such as fractionated coconut oil, or put a few drops in your bath or on your pillow. I prefer to use 100% pure essential oils.
- Eye Pillow - Laying down (on your back or with your legs propped against the wall) with an eye pillow can be one of the best ways to restore a calm, relaxed mood. Using and eye pillow is said to stimulate the vagus nerve (the body's rest & digest response).
- Hot Tea - There are many delicious types of tea to choose from. Herbal teas such as camomile tea may be a good choice, but I find that taking the time to sit and relax with a glass of tea melts away my stress. You may choose to relax with a friend, or enjoy a quiet cup with a view of nature.
- Hot Bath - I find a hot bath to be a particularly enjoyable way to relax when I'm feeling anxious. You can use oils, candles, and/or music to set a spa like atmosphere.
- Time in Nature - Enjoy some peace, quiet, and get some vitamin D! Being outside (particularly in a quiet place like a park or garden) can do amazing things for your mood. I like a hike in nature, but a walk in our local park will fit the bill when I'm short on time.
- Journaling - Keeping a journal can be a particularly useful practice. You may choose to journal about gratitude, your emotions, or focus on positive aspects of each day. Even this blog has been a way for me to practice a form of journaling.
- Mantra Meditation - Reciting a mantra every day can be a great way to focus on the things that matter the most to you. It can be a personal statement or prayer, or a traditional mantra in sanskrit. Since my trip to Nepal in 2015, the mantra Om Mani Padme Hum has been special to me. Here is a link to a video of the mantra. I like to use mala beads to keep track of my practice, but that is optional.
- Music Therapy - You know the music that changes your mood. It may be a pop song that you like to sing along or it may be quiet background music that you'd find in a spa. You may perfer to play the music yourself, or listen to someone else's music. Whatever the case may be, recognize the way different types of music make you feel, and focus on music when your mood needs a boost.
How do you choose to manage your stress? Could any of these practices help you find stress relief with a focus on Ahimsa (non harming)? Stress is not necessary, you have the tools to avoid it! As you yoga and mindful practices help you find stress relief, maybe you can choose to find a little less stress in your life in general. If these practices are not helping to manage your stress, anxiety, or insomnia, please consult your physician.
Namaste - Beth