People often ask me how they can reduce stress, anxiety, and muscle tension. I almost always recommend some type of relaxation or mindfulness practice in combination with a clean diet. The path to vibrant health is paved by healing and balancing the body, mind, and spirit.
Multiple practices can benefit people with high levels of stress in their lives. Yoga, tai chi, and meditation are some popular forms that can offer incredible benefits. What these all have in common is the connection to the breath. In connecting deeply to the breath, we are welcomed back to the here and now, the present moment. We can inhale fully, opening up to new possibilities. We can learn to exhale completely and release layers of tension. We can pause in stillness, coming home to our true selves. Working consciously with the breath in this way can provide profound healing and a sense of inner peace, and can help us learn to respond more calmly to life’s stressful situations.
I love to encourage people to try yoga. Stretching of any kind can be beneficial, but what makes yoga so wonderful is that, through the focus on the breath, a union of mind, body, and spirit is formed. Many of the movements in yoga originate from the breath. I’ve known many people who were initially reluctant to attempt yoga, but when they finally went to a class, they fell in love with it! Once they got past their mental resistance and preconceived notions, they were able to see their bodies move in new ways, which opened up their minds and their awareness. I’ve seen complete transformations in people who’ve included a yoga practice in their lives.
Tai Chi is a graceful form of martial arts that is also deeply intertwined with the breath. I like to think of it as meditation in motion. It’s a fluid, gentle form of exercise that can subtly connect you with the rhythms of nature. As you concentrate on the breath and the serene movements of the body and hands, the mind becomes calm and clear. Tai Chi is also meant to move our life energy (qi), through the pathways of our body (meridians). When we remove stagnation or blocks in these pathways, our health is greatly enhanced, and stress is reduced.
Along with Yoga and Tai Chi, there are many styles of meditation. Some have different goals in mind, but overall, through concentrated focus and deep, rhythmic breathing, meditation brings the mind and body into a state of relaxation and enhanced well-being. Many scientific studies have proven the connection between meditation and improvement in health.
If you’re interested in beginning to practice meditation, there is a variety of available resources. You can attend meditation groups in your area, read books, listen to CDs, and even download apps for your phone or tablet. I find that when starting any new endeavor like meditation, yoga, or tai chi, it’s best to go into it with an open mind and explore. You may not find the perfect class or teaching right away, but keep in mind that there are many styles of teachings and teachers, and it’s important to find one that feels right for you.
Meditation, Tai Chi, and yoga are a few of the practices I’ve seen (and personally experienced) that can help people deal with stress and anxiety. By centering ourselves with the breath and combining it with concentrated focus, we can detach from the stressors of life and melt away layers of tension. We can free our minds from the perpetual wheel of jumbled thoughts, leaving us with a renewed sense of joy, lightness, and inner peace.
***Disclaimer: Before you begin any new practice or exercise, it is advised to consult with your medical practitioner first. This information is for educational purposes only, and does not take the place of working personally with a qualified healthcare provider.