De-stress for a Happy & Healthy Life
by Yogacharya Dr. Ananda Balayogi Bhavanani
Chairman: International Centre for Yoga Education and Research, and Yoganjali Natyalayam, Pondicherry, South India
Stress is inevitable in the modern world because of the imbalance between the demands of one’s environment and one’s capabilities. In fact, it is the distress, which causes the problem and can be defined as every physical and mental tension that we experience as unpleasant. The environment today is more demanding. From childhood onwards, the development of capacities and capabilities of the individual is not able to keep pace with the increase of demands on them. This gap in most cases goes on widening. The huge crowds at Temples, churches and mosques in some way or the other are related to this imbalance. Everyone seems to be going there in order to beg or bribe the almighty to perform the balancing act.
When we talk of stress we must also remember that some amount of stress is necessary in order to bring out the best in us. However it is vital to learn how to manage stress and keep it under our control. It is important to also remember the words of Epietetus in 60 A.D. who said, "Men are not disturbed by things, but the views, they take of them". As Swamiji Gitananda Giri Guru Maharaj jocularly used to say’ “You don’t have problems—you are the problem!” A positive frame of mind will help us to be cheerful and unstressed. Maharishi Patanjali’s advise in this regard to cultivate Pratipaksha Bhavanam (The Opposite View) is vital to achieve balance of the emotions and mind. It is also worth trying to follow his advise of Maitri-Sukha (Friendliness towards the happy), Karuna-Dukha (Compassion towards the suffering), Mudhita-Punya (Cheerfulness towards the virtuous) and Upekshanam-Apunya (Indifference towards the wicked).
The most common causes of stress are the Shat Ripus or the six enemies of the spirit. These are Kama (Uncontrolled passion), Krodha (Senseless Anger), Lobha (Greed), Moha (Blind infatuation), Mada (Massive Ego) and Matsarya (Malice / envy). Corruption of character, conduct, thought and interpersonal dealing is another cause of stress. An environment where sadistic pleasure gives satisfaction, where ethics have little or scant regard, where self-interest is more important and where under cutting and backbiting are a common feature, will surely lead to the development of extreme stress. It is important to realise these facts and be aware of them in our life. Unless we develop awareness and consciousness of what we think, feel and do, there cannot be a lasting solution to stress.
We must strive to become persons of “Equal mindedness in all situations” that is described as Stitha Prajna or Samabhava in the Srimad Bhagavad Gita. Yogeshwar Krishna says that the man of Stitha Prajna has the following qualities:
Beyond passion, fear and anger. (II.56)
Devoid of possessiveness and egoism. (II.71)
Firm in understanding and unbewildered. (V.20)
Engaged in doing good to all beings. (V.25)
Friendly and compassionate to all. (XII.13)
Has no expectation, is pure and skillful in action. (XII.16)
Though stress probably cannot be avoided, it can, however, be managed. The following actions may help reduce/eliminate the stress.
*Awareness: It is important that we first become aware of the stress and then try to let it go. Sharing your tension with a friend and/or a family member may solve the problem to a great extent. You cannot wish away the problem by non-acknowledgement/ acceptance.
*Movement: Movement helps in reducing tension. This can mean walking, jumping, making noise, swimming and playing. Stress tends to accumulates in the joints and movement helps to dissipate it. Rotation of the neck and shoulders in many cases helps a lot. Some corporates have even established stress-relieving chambers where employees may shout, screams or hit a hanging pillow to relieve the pent up tension.
*Yoga techniques: The regular practice of various Yoga techniques and inculcating the Yogic values in daily life will go a long way towards not only reducing the stress levels bit also in giving us that elusive “Peace of Mind”. Yogic relaxation practices such as Shavasana and Yoga Nidra help to create a sense of awareness and relaxation in the whole body as well as the mind.
*Hobby: A hobby can help to relieve tension because it helps us to divert our mind from an unpleasant occurrence. Music, dance, painting, cooking and gardening are effective ways to take our mind to a different “Zone”. Playing with your pet can also help relieve tension and many people have ‘Thera-pets” or pets that help them therapeutically!
*Breathing: Breathing is one of the easiest ways of relieving stress. Whenever you feel tension rising, take a few deep breaths and you will immediately feel the difference.
*Attitude: It is important to “Let things lie” for sometime when facing problems and many situations resolve on their own. Other situations may appear smaller and less stressful after some time. Development of a detached attitude can also help us to have a better perception of situations and this in turn helps us to face them better.
*Visualization: Visualization of a pleasant solution to the problems can also help a lot. This is quite different from daydreaming. This is widely adopted by players and athletes for improving their performance. After a stressful encounter, coolly sit in your chair, close your eyes and visualize the episode as an act of an ignorant person and excuse him for the incident.
*Auto-Suggestion: Another mental technique is Positive self-suggestion. The negative thoughts are to be replaced with positive ones and an attitude of ‘I can and I will ‘ is to be developed.
*Self effort: Stress is related to the individual’s environment and their tolerance capacity. As both of these are different in different people, each individual has to settle for their own method for managing their day-to-day problems. It must be clearly understood that we are responsible for our health and happiness and have a duty to take care of these Divine gifts. Swami Gitananda Giri used to often say, “Health and happiness are your birthright”. It is through our own efforts and will power that we can ultimately solve the problem of stress and achieve our birthrights.
Yoga is not just performing some contortionist poses or huffing and puffing some Pranayama or sleeping our way through any so-called meditation. It is an integrated way of life in which awareness and consciousness play a great part in guiding our spiritual evolution through life in the social system itself and not in some remote cave in the mountains or hut in the forest.
It is therefore fitting to end with Pujya Swamiji Gitananda Giri Guru Maharaj's statement that "Yoga is the science and art of right-useness of body, emotions and mind".
The Yogi wishes peace and happiness not only for himself, but also for all beings on all the different planes of existence. He is not an “individualist” seeking salvation for only himself, but on the contrary is an "universalist" seeking to live life in the proper evolutionary manner to the best of his ability and with care and concern for his human brethren as well as all beings on all planes of existence.
"Om, Loka Samasta Sukhino Bhavanthu
Sarve Janaha Sukhino Bhavanthu
Om Shanti, Shanti, Shanti. Om"
About the Author
Yogacharya Dr. Ananda Balayogi Bhavanani grew up in the gurukula of Ananda Ashram in Pondicherry, India, where the yoga vidya (knowledge of the art and science of yoga) was imbibed as a 24 hour a day sadhana.
Ananda took great interest in the Hindu rites and rituals, mantra, yoga and the Carnatic fine arts from a very young age. He was nominated as his guru father's successor on his fourth birthday and was trained in Rishiculture Ashtanga (Gitananda) Yoga under the guidance of his Guru-father.
He has completed with distinction a two-year, post graduate diploma in family health (PGDFH) from Sri Ramachandra Medical College in Chennai (2003); completed a diploma in psychological counselling as well as a diploma in stress management from the Institute for health care administration, Chennai in 2001; and passed the PG diploma in yoga from Annamali University with Distinction, also finishing highest among the 350 students in 2005.
Ananda wrote his first book at the age of 12 years, entitled Yoga for Children, and has since authored many books and produced several videos related to yoga. He has had 18 scientific papers and 21 scientific abstracts on yoga research published.
Learn more about Ananda on his website!