Exercises For Overcoming Emotional Stress

It is important to remember that the body and the mind are intimately linked. The influence of mind over body is, however, considerably greater than that of body over mind. It is the emotional aspect of mental activity, which exercises the most powerful influence over the body-in particular, the nervous and endocrine systems.

A distinction must be drawn between positive emotions e.g., confidence, hope, joy, gratitude, devotion, etc., and negative ones e.g., rage, jealousy, despondency, fear, distress, envy, hatred, etc.

The positive emotions produce a generally beneficial effect on the nervous system, while the negative ones disrupt it. The endocrine system is thrown out of gear by negative emotions and this leads to illnesses, which are sometimes quite serious, depending on the intensity and duration of the emotions in question.

The thyroid and sexual glands occupy an extremely important position among the endocrine glands. The sexual glands are very easily influenced by the emotions. For example, there have been cases where a violent emotional shock has caused sudden menstruation in women, or impotence it, men. This is why it is important for us to learn to control our emotions and dominate over our impulses.

With this in mind, we recommend five highly useful exercises based on Savasana-complete yogic relaxation; Anuloma Viloma-breathing through alternate nostrils, rhythmic breathing with autosuggestion: interiorisation-and meditation.

Exercise I
Savasana: Complete Yogic Relaxation Posture

Lie on the back, and relax the different parts of the body one after the other until all tension disappears. For example, if someone lifts an arm, it should fall back as if completely inert. While relaxing, one should leave aside the problems of the outside world and everyday life.

A particular feature of this posture is that one is completely able, without actually dozing off, to detach oneself from the surrounding environment and to remain aware of one’s deep physical and mental relaxation. In order to achieve this, regular breathing is required.

Persistent practice is needed to master this exercise (which is not at all easy to begin with) and to attain correct co-ordination between the relaxation of mind and body.

A perfectly relaxed psychosomatic system is one of the best remedies against anxiety and all forms of nervous or emotional tension.

Exercise 2Anuloma Viloma: Breathing Through Alternate Nostrils

Like all the Pranayama exercises, this breathing technique generally includes a period of inhalation, Puraka, a period of retention, Kumbhaka, and a period of exhalation, Rechaka.

To begin with, the time spent on inhalation is half that of retention and exhalation, e.g. four seconds of inhalation, followed by eight seconds of retention and eight seconds of exhalation.

According to Swami Vivekananda, there are three kinds of Pranayama exercises: simple, intermediate and advanced. The second and third are not at all easy, and are only practiced in India by monks who observe highly strict rules regarding their diet and their physical, moral and spiritual discipline. Without these rules, the exercises in question are not only useless but dangerous because they involve extremely long breathing periods and even longer retention periods. This can permanently damage the heart, nerves and lungs, especially if the lungs are not first strengthened and purified of all dust, smoke or other city pollution.

In the words of Swami Kuvalayananda, a Yoga master and medical practitioner, those who practice Yoga uniquely for health reasons should not perform the. retention of breath, for in this instance it serves no purpose.

According to Swami Kuvalayananda’s laboratory experiments, it is not certain whether a larger quantity of oxygen is absorbed during the retention of the breath. On the other hand, the rate of four seconds inhalation and eight seconds exhalation which we recommend in the present chapter is the one most suitable for completely oxygenating the body.

The form of Anuloma Viloma which we therefore recommend does not involve retention of the breath. It is performed in a meditation posture, or, sitting with the legs crossed.

This exercise is to be performed three times a day morning, noon and evening-before meals and can be repeated up to seven times in a session. During the first week, one should begin with three respiration per session; the second week, the number can be increased to five; thereafter, providing one performs the exercise every day, the number can reach a total of seven respiration -(actually 14 respiration through alternate nostrils.)

If practiced regularly, Anuloma Viloma is one of the best exercises for purifying the nervous system and bringing calm to the mind. It is particularly recommended to those suffering from anxiety or depression.

All Pranayama exercises regulate the secretion of hormones, revitalize the nervous system, oxygenate the body and ensure the correct functioning of the entire organism. They not only calm the emotions, but also remedy’ the physical damage caused by them. In addition, they help control sensory and mental activity.

Exercise 3
Rhythmic Breathing With Autosuggestion

This exercise is performed with the back upright, sitting either in a meditation posture or cross-legged. Close the eyes and perform complete yogic breathing, i.e. abdominal, middle-chest and upper-chest or clavicular.

Breathe deeply and consciously, ensuring that the breathing rhythm respects an equal time for inhalation as for exhalation. Instead of simply using numerals to count i.e., one, two, three, four, five regulate the breathing with the help of words suggesting positive things e.g. ‘calm and peace’. Repeat them to yourself rhythmically and harmoniously during inhalation and exhalation so that, in the end, you identify with them.

Whenever we breathe in and out, we should think of peace, for in concentrating on it, we attain perfect joy and inner peace.

“The body is what the mind makes of it. It is but the outer covering of the mind, and is obliged to carry out what ever the mind tells it to do.’

Interiorisation – Directing One’s Attention Inwardly

Exercise 4
Interiorisation : Directing One’s Attention Inwardly

In order to perform this exercise, assume a meditation posture, i.e. the Lotus, Half-Lotus or cross-legged position, with the back of the right hand resting in the palm of the left one.

Begin by regulating the breathing-a vital factor in stabilizing the mind. After withdrawing from the outside world, allow the attention to remain centered on the depths of one’s inner being while letting the mind bask in silence, calm and serenity. By collecting one’s thoughts in this way, one is able to calm the baser instincts, dominate the impulses, and find inner harmony. Interiorisation and meditation are a unique therapy for psychosomatic illnesses. They help soothe the mind, produce a beneficial effect on the entire organism and revivify the nervous system.

Exercise 5
Meditation : Dhyana

A certain amount of preparation is required if meditation is to produce results. We advise those wishing to practise it to begin with the exercises described above. Once these have been performed regularly, one may then pass on to mediation.

Meditation – Dhyana

Assume the same position as for Interiorisation. Begin breathing ‘rhythmically, for controlled breathing helps concentrate the mind and provides effective preparation for meditation.

Once a regular breathing pattern has been established, direct the attention towards the spiritual heart, located slightly to the right of the physical one. It is here, at the very core of our inner being that the higher Self resides. It is the Soul of our soul, the Essence of our being, the Source of life within us.

While meditating on the Self, we are detached from material constraints, we go beyond the limitations of the body, and we transcend our awareness of the ego. This brings us great mental tranquility and unfailing inner force; for human weaknesses stem from the fact that we constantly identify ourselves with the lower self which is limited and self-centered. By meditating on the supreme Self, as an unlimited and inexhaustible Force, we assert our will.

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