“A little goes a long way when we choose healthy measures to take the edge off a stress-filled day. The benefits of restorative practices far outweigh the damaging effects of unfavourable habits when we are under pressure”

Breathe it out

Take the edge off a stressful day with these easy-to-do, tried and tested Zen habits. By Jill Lawson

Yogis are known for being calm, cool, and collected. After Savasana, it's apparent that the 5,000-year-old practice honours its claim of reducing stress and tension. As a yoga teacher, I watch my students transform from their high anxiety post-work mode to savouring supreme post-yoga bliss. The deep relaxation they gain is one of the best health panaceas I know for taking the edge off a stressful day with these zen habits.

Missing a class can feel like the end of the world when we are under a lot of stress. Overindulging in red wine or caffeine, or engaging in other toxic habits may seem like a viable solution, but doing so gives us a false sense of inner peace. There are many healthy ways to smooth the edges of our prickly, anxious minds when our tension levels are high.

Do it now

The following options will help you find that Zen moment when taking a yoga class doesn't fit your schedule.

Breathe Deep to Relax

Of course, taking several deep breaths will help, but how you breathe matters. A deep and complete yogic breath expands then deflates your lower belly first, then your rib cage, and then the top of your chest in a wave-like manner. When we are stressed, we only breathe from the top of our chest, limiting the amount of oxygen we consume. Take a moment to practice full, yogic breathing, and feel a calm come over you.

Breathe Fast to Recharge

Bellows breath is a method of pranayama that clears the mind and increases energy in the body. The practice involves 8-10 short, forceful, diaphragmatic exhales followed by inhales of the same cadence. Proceed with caution as this type of method is contraindicated during pregnancy and for those with high blood pressure.

Breathe Slow to Reset

Practice alternate nostril breathing to balance the mind and reframe your attitude. Using your right hand, close your right nostril with your thumb as you inhale and exhale once through the left nostril. Then, close your left nostril with your ring finger as you inhale and exhale once through the right nostril. Complete 8-10 cycles of breath, then breathe naturally.

A little goes a long way when we choose healthy measures to take the edge off a stress-filled day. The benefits of these zen habits and restorative practices far outweigh the damaging effects of unfavourable habits when we are under pressure. Take time to care for your mind and body because as it helps you, it helps those around you, too.

Jill Lawson is a writer and yoga teacher enjoying life on the island of Maui in Hawaii (jilllawson.net)

Om Magazine

First published in November 2009, OM yoga magazine has become the most popular yoga title in the UK. Available from all major supermarkets, independents and newsstands across the UK. Also available on all digital platforms.