When change is upon you, and you feel stress levels rising, try the following three restful practices. Engaging your innate relaxation response is a natural way to counteract the stress that follows change.
Change can be stressful, even when the change is a positive and welcome one. Whether you are navigating through some big life transitions such as getting married or retiring, or moving through a smaller change, you can benefit by practicing relaxation techniques to offset the inevitable stress.
For example, when I was a 15, my mom and I were in the midst of two of women’s most colossal transitions: menopause and puberty. Mom turned to yoga, and she brought me right along with her. My teenage self was skeptical. Even so, this early experience with yoga made a powerful and lasting impression, and helped reduce our stress levels.
Change Ignites Stress
Stress is a normal response to change. A perceived threat, challenge, or even something exciting can elicit a stress response. This causes a cascade of hormonal and physiological reactions that make you alert, focused, and careful. You may experience shifts through your whole being on physical, mental, and emotional levels.
Ideally, after an alarming or unfamiliar situation has passed, your relaxation response takes over. Automatically, without a conscious thought, all systems settle down and return to business as usual.
Unfortunately, for most of us, this doesn’t happen. Instead, you may stay in alert mode. It doesn’t help that you may also overreact to small changes on a daily basis, such as unexpected traffic, a flight delay, or spotty cell service.
As a result, you may be chronically stressed. Excessive, long-term stress can lead to many different types of suffering, such as:
Yoga Brings Balance
Life comes with change, and in turn, stress. Yoga and meditation practices can help you through the many transitions in life, such as:
- Getting married
- Switching careers
- Buying a home
- Making new friends
- Handling health issues
- Going to graduate school
- Becoming a parent
- Grieving the passing of someone dear to you
The list goes on. It’s essential to balance stress with its antidote: relaxation. This is one of the many reasons yoga is beneficial: it can gift you with invaluable tools to release stress and restore balance.
When change is upon you, and you feel stress levels rising, try the following yoga and meditation practices to activate your innate relaxation response.
1. Supported Child’s Pose (Salamba Balasana)
Restorative yoga poses allow you to experience a physical shape that slowly unwinds tension. When you settle into Salamba Balasana—Supported Child’s Pose—you have an opportunity to cultivate calm. This restorative form may encourage you to slip into silence, soften your senses, and relax. Here’s how:
- Gather a few blankets and a yoga bolster or bed pillow.
- Kneel on a folded blanket, padding your knees and shins, and bring the bolster lengthwise in front of you.
- With your knees a comfortable distance apart and feet closer together, come down to your hands and knees.
- Then, let your hips sink back toward your heels, resting your torso and head on the bolster.
- For more support, blankets can be propped under your sit bones, ankles, torso, or head.
- Close your eyes. Spend 5–20 minutes sinking in and letting go.
2. Om Mantra
Repeating a mantra—a sound, word, or phrase—can regulate your breathing patterns and quiet an overactive mind, which can help you feel calm and relieve stress. The vibration of Om—pronounced “AUM”—connects you to the primordial sound of the universe. Here’s how:
- Find a comfortable seated position.
- With your eyes closed, practice a few rounds of gentle, deep breathing.
- Let your breath move in and out of your belly, ribcage, and chest.
- Then, invite Om to join your breath: On the inhale, feel your breath move in through your nose.
- On the exhale, chant “ahhhh-ohhhh-mmmm.”
- Feel the vibration in your body. Allow Om to ride the length of your exhale. Invite the mantra to extend your exhale.
- Practice for several more rounds.
3. Metta Meditation
Meditation is a technique to focus your attention and give the mind a rest. Metta Meditation—Loving-kindness Meditation—promotes feelings of compassion and love and helps you enter a relaxing state. Here’s how:
- Find a comfortable position.
- Invite several deep breaths.
- Then, repeat the following: “May I be happy. May I be well. May I be safe. May I be peaceful and at ease.”
- Repeat over and over, until these words permeate you.
- And then, when you’re ready, expand that loving-kindness to include others. At first, you may expand to loved ones, but eventually expand to people and situations that cause stress, and ultimately to all beings everywhere.
- Practice as often as you can, even if only for a minute at a time.
Next time you’re facing a big transition—or feeling stressed from a small change in your everyday routine—carve out space to experience the power of rest.
Ready to reduce your stress and start meditating, but don’t know where to start? Deepak Chopra guides you in creating a simple, personalized practice in our Primordial Sound Meditation Online Course. Learn More.