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A weekly column on Philly area yoga: concepts, studios, classes, teachers, tips & techniques

Yoga for Immediate & Long-term Stress Relief

By Carmen Greger

Yoga has been tested and proves to be tried and true, not just a passing trend, as it has been labeled in years past.  There is something serious and mysterious, magical and functional, spiritual and scientific about the practice.  The comprehensive practice is a dynamic and holistic system, an integrative toolkit, a multi-dimensional survivor’s guide to inner peace in this very busy, often overwhelming world we live in.

As a wellness educator and long-time yoga teacher myself, I used to lovingly joke that yoga has swept the nation mostly because people in our hustle-culture society were so craving ‘permission to nap’ during shavasana (final resting pose at the end of class, where the student simply lays supine, palms open, heart open, eyes closed, breath natural, intentionally releasing and relaxing in mind, body and spirit) as at least a handful of students per class would fall into a deep, peaceful sleep. This phenomenon would occur much more regularly and in more abundant numbers with my younger school aged and summer camp students.  

This always struck and moved me deeply. 

I have forever been in awe of and on board with the profound benefits of yoga and have personally been heard multiple times sharing that ‘yoga is the undoing of the doing that we always do’ and ‘if you are new at yoga and don’t like it (and many will absolutely ‘hate’ it during the first time because it is a facing of the stuck stuff, aka ‘obstacles’ on the physical, energetic and spiritual level) then give it 10 times this month and it will love you so much that you won’t even have a choice to respect, embrace and adopt it as part of your lifestyle.  

In all of my years and thousands of classes taught, I’ve only had a single and recent ‘one and done’ student; Let’s call her Karen. She proclaimed that the yoga actually stressed her out, that the ‘quiet was too loud’, and that she didn’t have time for relaxing; she needed to ‘get things done’ and not be forced to listen to her ‘mental chatter’ and wanted more of a strenuous workout in the precious time allotted.  In my heart of hearts, I totally get it, and I also know that she is exactly the person who truly needs and will benefit tremendously from it. She is a rockstar producer in every way, and there doesn’t seem to be much of an off-button in her life; it’s definitely difficult to pause when you’re in the fast lane, but it’s so important and will take you further than you ever would have gone without it. Rest, Relaxation & Rejuvenation is guaranteed to take you the extra mile. Karen and I have become friends and we talk often. She’ll be back on her mat someday, perhaps when she retires from She-EO-ing in the corporate world and when her grandbabies enter highschool; I’ll be waiting to welcome her with open arms, as will the practice, but I have a very good feeling she’ll be back much sooner than that.    

Yoga teaches us presence; to move mindfully and peacefully on ‘the mirror of our mats’ (or grass patch, or beach towel, or office cubicle) seeing ourselves clearly and being with ourselves fully, in a specific pose and with breath, so to open specific channels of the body, mind and soul and focus attention and healing energy to the spaces within that need to be nurtured. 

We are actually brought into our body on the mat with breathwork so that we may heal and transcend the discomfort in it, and in turn we may be much less stressed and distracted, much less tense and reactive, and much more deeply present in our lives while we are out there engaged in the world, having done the work to cultivate a healthier, happier, calmer, quieted and much less anxious mind.

Yoga is a tender, strong and empowering practice; it is a doorway into the deepest parts of us and serves as an elevator to peace in the process.  Yoga teaches us to respond rather than react, and with a gentle, wise and curious calm. Yoga means ‘Union’, ‘Yoking’ or ‘Coming Together’ in all parts of our being, on all planes and levels of our existence; the practitioner experiences this during and way beyond the practice. The breathwork, presence and mind-body awareness as one moves mindfully through the specific sequence of poses are all key to regaining a state of ease; the breath is the healing link between the mind and the body and liberates them both.

What is the first thing that a dear friend, parent, partner, teacher or coach will tell you to do if they notice you have stress?  ‘Take a deep breath’… words of wisdom, perhaps even beyond their own full understanding. Try it now; inhale deeply for a count of eight and exhale deeply for a count of eight. Repeat. Even if you weren’t obviously tense before intentionally deepening your breath, you likely noticed an immediate energy shift.

It’s a good idea to Insert a yoga practice into your google calendar and press repeat; make an appointment with your mat a few times per week so you can proactively hold yourself accountable to be present and at peace in your body, with nurturing, loving, soul & deep, life-enriching, vital breath.

‘Our yoga practice gives us relaxation and ease when we set an intention to allow ourselves to be genuinely open to what our inner self truly needs. Stress reduction in my experience of working as a yoga teacher for 25 years, comes from not only practicing being more loving and kind to oneself but orienting or reorienting one’s life around the value of inner ease and peace. It’s intentional and on-going. Not one and done. Yoga is a beautiful way to tune into what authenticity promotes; peace inside us and out’, says Jennifer Schelter, Philly-based Educator, Artist, and Writer whose great work can be found at www.jenniferschelter.com.

If you don’t yet have a regular yoga practice, or have veered off path, Jen and I encourage you to start now and forever gain your peace.  There is a multitude of class types, styles, methods and teachers of yoga; do some exploring and find the right fit for you. 

Stay tuned… we will be featuring local instructors, their insights and practice tips as well as links to online and local classes.    

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