Every Tuesday, I teach an early morning yoga class in the sleepy, picturesque
town of Bedford, New York. It’s one of many classes I teach during the week, and
somehow this particular confluence of atmosphere and personalities has developed
into quite a sweet and supportive haven of healing.
Of course, every yoga class, in my opinion, presents exactly the same opportunity
for healing, but the way the energy will or will not flow depends largely on
student/teacher expectations as well as encouragement from everyone involved
in developing a solid and loving relationship with themselves. To that end, we
practice our yoga in many different ways, using therapeutics, restorative poses,
meditation, aromatherapy, and a smidgen of vinyasa as conduits for self-knowledge
As human beings, we sometimes find ourselves spiraling into negative situations
which can leave us feeling lonely, depressed, and low on energy—which, in turn,
can cause us to yearn for the connection, compassion, and camaraderie a supportive
practice can provide. Discovering different ways to self-soothe and deeply relax has
a profound effect on a person’s ability to release stress and trigger healing, not only
physically but perhaps more importantly, emotionally.
Often the steady, almost constant stream of sensory overload coupled with
mundane, ongoing stressors most of us deal with every day manifest as physical
ailments. Think about how many times you find yourself biting back words,
pushing down anger, or fighting back tears. Think about how all of those actions
are forms of subtle aggression. Muscle tension, colds, and sometimes even
chronic disease can be a direct result of this ever-accumulating aggression and
"Stress is absolutely toxic to the body," explains Dr. Joseph Feuerstein, Director of
Integrative Medicine at Stamford Hospital in Stamford, Connecticut and Assistant
Professor of Medicine at Columbia University. "We know from both animal and
human studies that cortisol, the hormone released by the adrenal gland during
times of stress, actually damages areas of the brain connected to memory, and
there are multiple medical studies showing the health benefits of yoga, especially
for countering stress."
The great relief of letting go of deep-seated physical stress can result in quite
an array of emotional responses in yoga class; within a class that is specifically
designed to soothe the body and calm the mind, this release can elicit a variety of
The Value of Yoga as
a Therapeutic Way to
Release Anxiety and Stress
BY RITA TRIEGER
OPEN HEART RESTORATIVE
This reclined practice will help release emotional
stress as it offers gentle relaxation for your back
and helps cultivate overall positive energy.
Supported Bridge: place a block or folded
blanket under your sacrum. Release weight
from the pelvis allowing for a more expansive
breath and deepening relaxation. 5-7 minutes.
In between: set your feet wide with knees
knocking, then windshield-wipe legs right and
left to soothe any tension in the low back.
Supported Fish: place a rolled blanket lengthwise
along the vertebral column. Allow your arms to
rest away from the body with palms up, making
sure your head is supported. This will relieve
low back pressure but still provide chest opening
and gentle adrenal stimulation.
In between: happy baby to lengthen the spine
and massage soft tissue.
Supported Twist: place a bolster along the left
side of your body; hug your right knee in and roll
the leg around in the hip socket, then roll onto your
left hip and drape your right leg across the bolster.
Peel your right arm back to the right and rest in the
twist. After 5 minutes, switch to the other side.
Savasana with lower legs resting on a bolster;
cover body with a blanket. Massage lavender or
sandalwood oil into your temples or back of your
neck. Relax for 10 minutes.