We all have a little more stress these days with more work and less pay - and all just in time for the holidays.
The State asked Maxine Deutschendorf, owner of Infinite Yoga who teaches stress-relieving workshops around Columbia, to offer advice on lowering tension before it gets the best of you.
Richland County planning director Joseph Kocy is a believer. He had Deutschendorf teach a class to his staff this month.
"I know that we have a lot of stress at the office," he said "This is a natural healthy way to relieve stress. It's quick, cheap and painless."
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Many of Deutschendorf's yoga exercises can be done at your desk:
Find the triggers: Ask, "How do I feel when I am experiencing stress? How do I know when I am stressed?" Knowing what happens physically, mentally and emotionally when we experience stress is essential to being able to implement our own intervention.
Ask, "Where do I first feel stress in my body or mind?" When we are able to identify this, we can stop stress before it escalates.
What are the situations, tasks, individuals that create stress in your life? With more information about how we react to and experience stress we are able to address it more effectively.
Breathe: It is easier to calm down gradually than to attempt to go from experiencing high levels of stress directly to fully calm state.
Breath of Joy - Inhale three full breaths through your nose and then exhale with great force through your mouth. With each exhale visualize releasing anything that is causing stress, tension, worry.
Power Hara - Inhale two breaths through nose and exhale twice through mouth to sound of "ha."
Move: Since our responses to stress often involve tightening of muscles and tension in various areas of our body, stretching and moving those areas decrease this effect. Try some of these movements while breathing deeply through the nose.
Shoulder rolls - Inhale bringing shoulders up toward ears. Exhale taking shoulders back and down.
Side Stretches - Inhale bringing right arm out to the side and up over head. Exhale taking right arm over to left lengthening right side of torso. Hold for several breaths. Inhale bring right arm up overhead. Exhale lowering right arm out to side and down. Repeat with left arm.
Spinal flex/extension - Sit in a chair with feet on the floor and place hands on thighs. Exhale rounding the back, hugging spine to the back of the chair, and bring chin to chest. Inhale lifting head and chin, bring chest forward and arching the back.
Sound -Try adding "ahhh" to the shoulder rolls described above, "ohhh" to the spinal flex/extension and "oooo" to the side stretches.
Once the stress indicators have been lessened or eliminated, you may want to do some breathing exercises to further calm.
Long Exhalation - Inhale through the nose to the count of four and exhale through nose to the count of six or more. Extending your exhale for more than six counts calms the mind and nervous system.
Breath Retention - Do the above exercise and hold your inhale for six counts before exhaling.
Mountain Breath - Inhale through the nose. Hold breath as long as possible. Exhale slowly and smoothly through nose when needed.
Relax: Find a quiet comfortable place to sit. Close your eyes and begin to breathe in and out through the nose.
Starting with the toes and moving to the top of the head, relax all the parts of your body even down to some of the smallest parts that might not usually be considered like the belly button, eyelids, tongue, etc.
Using the calming breath exercises and deep relaxation before going to bed can be helpful if stress interferes with your sleep.
Do regularly: To keep the effects of stress lower on a consistent basis, have set times throughout the day to check in with yourself.
It may be necessary to make entries in your calendar or to post reminder notes at your desk. The more you can stay aware on a consistent basis of where you are on the stress-meter the more you can keep your stress level down.
If your day contains events and tasks that are stress triggers, use some of the stress reduction tools before embarking on those tasks. It will put you in a more balanced, clear state to begin.
Use the tools on a daily basis. You do not have to wait to experience stress for the techniques to be helpful. Using them on a regular basis can keep you from getting to the place where you feel overwhelmed and over-stressed.
It's the same principle as servicing your car. It is better to do scheduled maintenance than wait until a costly repair appears.