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Quieting the Mind and Soothing the Soul

Posted Oct 29 2009 11:00pm

It's estimated that 19 million Americans are affected by stress and anxiety. Ouch -- that adds up to a lot of stressed out, anxious people. That's a lot of road rage, reactive behavior, broken relationships, overindulging in "medicinal" substances, and a lot of dis-ease.

The American Psychological Association and The American Institute of Stress offer up these troubling stress statistics:

  • Stress levels are deeply affected by work in 62% of Americans.
  • Money is thought to contribute significantly to the stress experienced by 73% of Americans.
  • 66% of Americans would seriously welcome help in dealing with stress in their lives.
  • About 70% of workers are unhappy in their current employment due to work-related stress.

And then there's yoga -- it stands there as a beacon of hope much like the Statue of Liberty ("bring me your stressed out, unhappy, anxious, monkey-minds..."). Stress is one of the top complaints of my clients and one of the main motivators that drives them to seek out yoga. Yet, stress oftentimes leads to a perceived (or real) lack of time, which translates into an irregular yoga practice.

So, what's a stressed-out person to do if he/she doesn't have time to practice yoga? I've been known to give my clients 10-15 minute practices, which helps those tight on time. I like to recommend bite-sized yoga breaks to those who can't deal with the idea of fitting an hour of yoga a day into the daily schedule.

One of my favorite things do do outside of yoga to de-stress and recharge is walking in nature. My hiking in the local nature preserves are, for me, the equivalent of taking happy pills. Often my "nature high" will last all day after a morning walk.

Soooo, what to do if you don't have a yoga teacher who offers short practices or you can't get into the woods for a walk? Have no fear, Yoga Nidra and Living Temples are here.

Yoga Nidra -- or yogic sleep -- is a guided experience that puts a person in a conscious deep sleep from which the person emerges refreshed and relaxed, yet energized. It's classified as a meditation as well as a relaxation practice. Sometimes yoga teachers will do a guided Yoga Nidra at the end of class. 

Recently, a new type of yoga nidra entered the market -- Yoga Nidra from Hypnosis Downloads. At first I was a bit skeptical about this -- after all, Yoga Nidra isn't about auto suggestion. Yet, after reading the promotional material for the Yoga Nidra download, I had to agree that wording in Yoga Nidra is important. I gave it a try and was impressed. Yes, the language did feel different than what I'm used to, but different in a good way. If you're looking for a 20-minute (approximately) solution to stress, I highly recommend Yoga Nidra from Hypnosis Download. You can download it for under $15, and they offer an excellent money-back guarantee if you're not satisfied.

Recently a study was released that makes a case for Yoga Nidra (which is done lying down) -- Researchers at Texas A & M University found that the mere act of lying down can reduce anger.  Researchers have known that mood can be altered by mimicking the facial and body movements of certain emotions (slumped shoulders can evoke sad, morose feelings, smiling induces an uplifted mood), but a new study recently published in the journal Psychological Science finds that when study participants who were in a supine position were insulted they did not show brain patterns associated with anger as compared to those participants who were seated when insulted.

If you'd rather relax using beautiful landscapes but you don't have the time or ability to get out in nature on a daily basis, the folks over at ThirdPlanet Productions have created the Living Temples -- Sacred Land DVD. This breath-taking DVD (which you can also download online) offers beautiful scenes based on decades of scientific studies conducted by major research institutions which all say basically the same thing:  Connecting with nature - even just viewing nature in a painting or in film is one of the most healthy things we can do.

The first DVD is just the initial release in a series, all of which are geared to quiet the mind, stir the soul, and change the way you see the world. I must admit that the images do all that and more. The visuals are stunning and viewing them gave me the same sort of "nature high" I get from my hikes. If you're ready to experience your own "nature high" and transport your self into a world of beauty, I highly recommend Living Temples -- Sacred Land

My final piece of advice for the stressed out? BREATHE! That's right -- deep, slow, even breathing. Inhale for a count of 4 and exhale for a count of 6. This will definitely help in a pinch.


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