In relating here the numerous benefits of exercise as a way to manage stress we would like to take a look at the massive health problem of modern man called stress. More than any other diseases and health disorders what looms large as the greatest concerning area for modern man's regular well being and livelihood problem is stress. In earlier time stress was more of a kind of minor problem that used to take its infrequent toll from time to time whenever one could not cope up with the work pressure or any psychic pressure emanating from a challenging circumstance and it was far from being a regular and constant health problem. But from the last quarter of the twentieth century with the advent of modern industrialized society and its massive influence on our life style, values, living habits and numerous other social factors suddenly civic human being, especially those living in the middle of professional and industrial extravaganza of occupation and economic initiatives all around him, started to experience this psychic as well as physical disorder called stress in its most acute and repressive avatar.
We all know that stress is basically a life style oriented problem and various harmful habits and factors embedded in our daily living hood and activities contribute to the development of stress and only addressing these factors appropriately we can think of managing stress effectively. In the modern time civic man has become more of a psychological being and considering all his occupations, preoccupations, activities, involvements and relations have a predominantly psychic character rather than physical activities it can be well determined that our rising level of psychic activity and corresponding physical inactivity has a great bearing on developing stress. From the nature of the problem itself we can envisage the solution, that is to say, alter the source of the problem from the opposite way around means to accelerate and increase physical activity to make our psychic as well as physical involvement in life more balanced and synchronized. And only in respect of making physical activity work positively for our overall well being, exercise as a way to manage stress comes as an inevitable solution.
Here we would discuss regarding different types of exercises that really can make a positive impact in managing stress and for our overall well being, but before that we would take a look at the impact of exercise in decreasing hormones that are responsible for stress and also the benevolent impact of exercise in increasing some hormones and substances in the body that are opposed to stress and accelerator of feel-good factor in many ways.
Exercise, stress hormones and feel good factor
Numerous studies all over the world have indicated that our body has a hormone called Cortisol which is mainly responsible for making us equipped to fight stress syndromes in more than one ways. Cortisol is the crucial hormone that is known as the agent for our body's natural flight or fight response to stress building circumstances or situations. With this hormone actively present in our body most of the time we can combat stress more effectively and this is the reason why this hormone is also called as stress hormone. Normally stress hormone is present in our body in higher proportion in the morning and it reaches lowest level in the night. As observed by the researchers in many parts of the world that exercise has a great bearing in developing this hormone in our body that in turn makes us less vulnerable to stress factors. Presenting this natural element called Cortisol in our body in higher concentration is one of the many beneficial effects of exercise as a way to manage stress. Some positive effects of Cortisol as a stress reducing agent are mentioned below:
This is just an easy exercise as a way to management stress. There are three steps that ensure calming your mind and stretching your muscles and joints to give you a feeling of relaxation and relief.
Just lie on your back first and slowly bring your knees toward your shoulders. Make your legs as flexible as possible and slowly lift them up towards the ceiling in bent position only. Grab your inside or outside of the leg and in staying in that position slowly rock from side to side intending your knees down.
Stretch your feet horizontally in standing erect just with a gap 3.5 feet and in parallel position. Softly place your hands to the hips. Now inhale a deep breath and lengthen your spine and in the next moment exhale your breath and bent your body forward and in bending your back toward the ground gently place your hands to the mat and keep them wide apart from each other. Breathe easily and hold on to this position for the time of approximately five breaths.
Sit in a kneeling position and then slowly stretch your knees wide like a wide angled V sign. Now bent your chest and forehead towards the ground and in doing these extend your arms longer in front of you touching the ground. Just hold on to this position for the time of 5 to 10 breaths.
Sun salutation is a simple yoga exercise that is most practiced as a nice warm up and is beneficial for revitalizing your body and body's natural response to combating lethargy, stress and all kinds of psychic and physical syndromes that makes a hindrance to your natural energetic and synchronized rhythm of life. Sun salutation is predominantly an early morning exercise as a way to manage stress and keep you ready for a busy and tumultuous day.
Just stand erect placing your two feet together and now stretch both your hands upward beside two sides of your head. Let your palm remain open and stretch your fingers wide. Look straight on to the direction where sun is rising or flickering its virgin rays upon the earth. Breathe normal and if you just cannot concentrate on this splendor of rising sun, at least think something positive and pleasant. Keep this position for 10 breaths of time.
Now slowly bend the upper portion of the body looking downward until both hands touches the ground. In bending your head look at the knees. Keep on this position for 5 to 6 breaths of your time and slowly revert back to the previous position of last step.
Now place one of your legs in front of you in a bent position maintaining the weight of your body on that foot while stretch the other leg backward on the ground. However your hands should be on that same outstretched position towards the sky beside your head. Hold on to this position for 5 to 6 breaths of time and then switch to alternate leg position.
Again revert back to the first step position. Now slowly bend your body towards the ground as like in second step, but this time instead of stretching your hands towards the ground and placing your palms on the floor outreach both of your hands behind your backs towards the sky and hold each palm into one another in lose grasp. Hold on to this position for 5 to 6 breaths of time.
Yoga is a great Indian traditional system of both psychic and physical exercises that more than just body or mental plane on the surface of your whole being guides you to a natural, organic and well synchronized art of living. Yoga means to add or to make sum of, that is to say it actually guides your so called different and disintegrated reality of life and living hood on different planes to the integrity and harmony of whole nature and living beings. Thus through yoga you can learn to heal your different disorders or wounds on different plains through the greater force of natural life. This is the reason why in consideration to our discussion on exercise as a way to manage stress this ancient Indian field of knowledge and practice is simply indispensible.
According to yoga every organic function and parts of our body are intrinsically connected to various natural phenomenon and once these organic functions are synchronized and connected with their natural phenomenon outside the bodily existence you are to experience life in its fullness and can automatically be natural and happy in flowing with the nature just as you are an inseparable part of it. Now the question is how you can experience this bond between nature and your mortal body. Though it cannot be explained in its full exposure here, we can only provide here a few relevant poses and respective benefits to ignite your interest in yoga exercises to manage your stress. Remember as through the passing of the wind, from natural calamities to rainfall to many natural events took place that make the life and living being possible on the earth, the breath and breathing process takes control of almost all your psychic and physical process from within. Similarly as the branches of the tree shed its dead leaves when wind blows and again with rainfall invigorates with new leaves, with movement of your muscles, joints and breathing you can leave behind your disorders and wounds and come to a new and fresh life and precisely this is the objective of yoga in respect of our present discussion.
Padmasana or Lotus Pose
Padmasana or lotus pose all around the world is referred as the quintessential emblem for Indian yoga and meditative practice. This asana actually lead you to the perfect balance of body, mind and soul by inducing equally relaxation, concentration and flexibility. Sit erect while resting the soles of your feet upward on the opposite thigh composing a neatly cross legged sitting posture. Now place your palms open on the knees while touching the thumb with fore finger creating a circle. Look straight and breathe normally while thinking something pleasant. To increase your concentration or for more therapeutic purpose in calming your mind you can concentrate on breathing.
Shavasana or Corpse Pose
Among the asanas or poses we are mentioning here in relation to our enumeration of exercise as a way to manage stress, this is just a must do asana of yoga exercise. Shavasana or corpse pose is the most relaxing pose of all yoga asanas. It is so relaxing that it is attributed with the qualities of inducing sleep and so called as Yoganidra or Yoga Sleeping pose. Just lie straight on your back with your eyes open to above while breathing normally and thinking something pleasant. When your mind is too much distracted on various things you can just concentrate on your breathing lying in this posture and it will calm your mind and increase concentration level.
Advasana or Downward Facing Corpse Pose
This simple yoga exercise is just the other way of obtaining the supreme healing effect of Shavasana or corpse pose and this is why it is called downward facing corpse pose. Just lie on your stomach with legs straight, forehead touching the floor and hands spread straight in front of you.
Makarasana or Crocodile Pose
Lay on your chest and then place your two palms slightly in front you and at the same time straighten your toes together and gently on both of your toes and palms lift yourself in a horizontally parallel position to the ground. Hold to this pose for 10 breaths of time. This yoga asana is highly beneficial for reducing regular physical stress syndromes like back pain, joint pain, fatigue, etc.
Matsya Kridasana or Flapping Fish Pose
Just lay on your chest first and then bend any one of your leg just beside your belly level and simultaneously resting your head on one hand while it clasps the other palm in a resting pose. Alter doing it from one side to other involving the opposite hands. Being an asana to induce resting sensation and physical flexibility and movement this exercise as a way to manage stress gives a soothing effect on your mind and physical movement.
Parvatasana or Mountain Pose
This yoga exercise as a way to manage stress has numerous benefits in calming your mind, reducing tension and physically energizing you. The exercise helps to better circulate blood throughout your body and in turn proves beneficial for reducing fatigue, clumsiness in muscles and invigorating thinking and other mental activities. Placing the palms in front of you with a distance between them which should not beyond the length of your hand from elbow and just in the same manner placing the toes slowly mount your body in forming a curve with the middle portion of your body that will look like a mountain.
Remember, yoga asanas cannot be prescribed just as a straight medication for your well being and healing for any disorderly syndromes and it may vary according to your physical and psychic condition. Moreover, doing any of the asanas in the yoga discipline including those cited above must be learned first to obtain their benefits and a readymade description cannot always be guiding enough. So to take yoga exercise as a way to manage stress consult a yoga specialist and if possible go through regular yoga training for some time to be habituated with the poses or asanas in a proper manner.
Pranayama is an ancient Indian exercise under the discipline of yoga itself that particularly concentrates on various breathing exercises to produce healing psychic and physical effects on us. This great tradition of breathing exercise as a way to manage stress is already popular all over the world for its simple healing techniques that does not need any extra effort and a little discipline in life can make way for great benefits through its practice.
Our breathing is the quintessential life-power or prana, when it goes out through our last breath, we are no longer alive. Now this breath or prana are associated with our physical activities and mental conditions round the clock. That is why when we work hard or run faster or get exited or suffer from agony, our breath gets heavier or fast and on the contrary when we sleep, sit relaxed or just have a rest or relaxing time, our breathing becomes normal and calm. Thus inhaling your breath deeply for few moments our brain is supplied with more oxygen and it has a cooling effect on our nerves. Thus breathing itself and various types of breathing practices in a way provide the basis of Pranayama about which we would discuss in this section.
Nadi Shodhana Pranayama
According to ancient science of yoga and Ayurveda our body accumulates various types of toxic substances that in turn create blockages to the passages through which prana or breath travels. Clearing these passages through this type of pranayama exercise makes it easy for the prana or breath to flow without facing any obstruction within the body and thus in turn this cleansing of the pathways makes our nervous function easier and smooth and naturally relieves stress and anxieties.
This pranayama or breathing exercise as a way to manage stress has a great effect on our blood circulation process. This pranayama works on the carotid sinuses which is located beside the main artery through which blood is circulated to the brain and it has a great effect on the flow of blood or circulation. Through this pranayama you can control your blood pressure syndrome both in higher or lower level and thus people suffering from chronic hypertension and resulting stress syndromes can find relief through this pranayama to a great extent.
Brahmari in Sanskrit means humming black bees and as in this pranayama you are supposed to inhale and exhale your breath through the throat making a sound similar to the humming bees this pranayama is named in this manner. This pranayama apart from its direct effect in clearing throat also useful for proper functioning of nervous syndromes and thyroid glands and thus beneficial for relieving stress and anxiety and other nervous disorders.
Kapalbhati is a type of pranayama that actually has a healing effect on the whole body and our psychic process. For people who suffer from chronic stress this pranayama provides great relief on the nervous function that in turn reduces mental fatigue, tension and stress.
We consciously avoided providing here the exact guidelines for each different pranayama exercise as a way to manage stress, because practicing pranayama wrongly without any proper training can prove dangerous to health. So, having a proper training on these pranayama exercises from a specialist until you are capable enough to do it on your own without any observation is the right course to begin with pranayama as a healing science.
If you can develop a habit of getting up early in the morning, light jogging on the nearby ground or deserted roads or for more feat persons running can be a great solution for stress relief and just after beginning with this exercise, in a few days time you can really experience the refreshing change in your body and mind. Swimming or cycling regularly can be also great alternative exercises for stress relief and overall physical and mental well being. Running, jogging, swimming or cycling or similar sports and physical activities release the clumsiness in your muscles and joints. By accelerating the circulation of blood throughout the body including the brain it actually makes your energy level higher and most importantly helps the nervous system to function better. Naturally with an invigorated and energetic body and mind you are less vulnerable to fall victim to stress.