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Shining light this month: 3 ways to ease stress

Ellen Aarts, yin yoga teacher, coach and holistic therapist who hosts retreats here at Suryalila on a regular basis a is a stress relief expert. She overcame PTSD, anxiety disorder and burnout a long time and went to look for answers for her wellbeing in the holistic world, being a trained academic journalist, she really wanted to know what works in easing and managing stress. Here are her top 3 tips in how to effectively manage and ease stress.

1. Radiators and Drains

Radiators are the things in your life that give you energy, like a nice conversation with a good friend, watching your favourite comedy or walking in nature. Write a list of your radiators as this will become your soul food to nourish your spirit so try to include some of these into your day as they will only bring benefits to your life. Drains are the things that deplete your energy, perhaps there is a friend that exhausts you or doing the weekly shopping is making you tired. Again write a list of these and make a conscious effort to avoid or if you can’t then see if someone can do them for you them until you are feeling better. To know what gives you energy and what costs you energy, is of vital importance and will eventually help you rebalance your energy.

Tool: Take some time to write down your radiators and drains in your notebook. You can add other things the next day, or a few days after.

2. Take relaxation seriously - Try yin yoga and meditation

Quite simply, Yin Yoga changed my life. When very tense, it is very common to lose touch with ourselves and more specifically our body. We need to reconnect again: going from an disembodied life in our heads into an embodied life with our whole being: body ánd mind. Yoga and meditation are beautiful powerful tools to help you with that. Yin yoga is a powerful combination of those two.

Yin yoga is the perfect countermovement for a very active ¨yang¨ lifestyle: it is a gentle, mindful yoga that is about yielding and a practise in awareness.

Yin yoga teaches to slow down, to become still and to be mindful of what you feel in the body. The poses are held for usually 3 and 5 minutes: in that stillness you start to open up to the sensation in the body, you start to awaken to the present moment. Feelings and emotions can be felt, you can start to release and let go. It becomes a moving meditation.

The focus on breathing in yin yoga has a positive effect on the stress system.

By breathing slowly, stress reduces immediately and the fight-or -flight reaction in the body is deactivated and transitions to a state of rest and digest The heart rate slows down and the blood pressure drops relaxing the heart. Blockages in the deep connective tissues can open up and energy can move more freely.

Yin yoga works on the body, mind, heart and soul. It will support you greatly on your recovery path (like it did with me).

Tool: try to sit in stillness for a few minutes every day, close your eyes and focus on your breath. Feel the breath coming in through the body, feel the breath moving out your body. Try to focus on your exhalation, and see if you can extend it a little bit over time.

3. Ground

When we are tense, we tend to have excessive energy stored in the tops of our bodies, usually our heads! When tension accumulates, we tend to act in a counterproductive way: we work harder, we overthink, worry, ruminate and try to 'think' our way to the solutions for the problems we face. The tension usually only gets worse! And as Einstein said: you can not solve the problem from the same level that caused it to begin with. Ever had a brilliant idea whilst taking a shower or being on the loo? Right. It is usually when we take ourselves away from the situation, that we can find an enlightening idea. From a more yogic perspective, tension stems from the mind. Tension in the mind creates excessive energy and it means you are usually not very present in the body. One solution to equally divide the energy, and channel it can be to ground. This is something the Daoist understood very well!

Tool: There are lots of ways to ground. When you are working behind a computer, take some time away from it, take your shoes off and stand with your bare feet on the floor. Equally divide the weight of your feet in the floor. Notice the sensations in your feet. Walk barefoot at home. Sit in silence for a minute and focus on the lower half of your body. Go and sit in your favourite nature location. You can even visualise that you release all that excess head energy into the earth! Do not forget to then also fill yourself up with new energy.

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