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The world can be a stressful place, and we all feel overwhelmed at times. It might seem as though there’s simply too much to do, and not enough time. Curve balls can arise out of no where, and we feel stretched in opposite directions. Yoga teaches us that life isn’t about avoiding challenges, but rather flowing through them with grace. And the good news is, there’s no need to wait. Here are some tips on how you start to break down stress, and rejuvenate your spirit.

Breathe

Breath is the most fundamental expression of life force (in yoga this is referred to as prana). As the Dalai Lama once said; it’s the most obvious and natural bridge between the visible and invisible worlds. It’s worth remember that in any circumstances, the ability to create peace is available to you – simply by focusing your awareness on your breath.

Breathing exercise:

Try taking a few slow and focused inhalations; breathing into stillness, and breathing out into spaciousness. Imagine that you’re inhaling life, vitality, joy, creativity and anything else you need in this moment. Exhale your tension, worries and fatigue. Feel your body release, and start to let go. Observe how the breath starts to naturally lengthen and grow steady. Then, notice the growing pause at the end of each inhalation. Follow your exhalation breath to its final moment, and observe it float away into emptiness. Notice the growing pause at the end of your exhalation and witness the sense of stillness here.

You can do this simple (yet profound) exercise anywhere, at any time, and the people around you don’t even have to know what you’re doing. Aim for at least ten deep breaths and see if you feel differently. You might be surprised!

Smile

Regardless of whether or not you feel like smiling, try to hold your smile for a few minutes and notice what happens. Researchers from the University of Kansas found that even ‘faking’ a smile can help reduce stress. We usually smile when our mind sends a signal that something good is happening to us, but this works in reverse too. Your smile can indicate (to your mind) that everything is okay in your world, and stress will begin to dissolve.

If this feels too forced for you, why not really make yourself smile? I’ve created a ‘things that make me laugh’ folder on my computer. It’s full of the videos and photos that never fail to make me crack a smile. Perhaps you have a favourite podast, comedian or TV show that gets you giggling.

Get active

As you exercise, you release endorphins which reduce your perception of pain, triggering positive feelings throughout body. If you’re time short, why not try a quick yoga flow, or going for a brisk walk?

Movement practices will allow you to feel centred in the world, as well as to reconnect with your body. In one sense, all of life is movement – so practising this with intention, can be a profoundly healing act. Your specific chosen practice should simply depend on what aligns and resonates with you on any given day. For example, if you need to let off some steam, try going for a long hike. Experiment and witness what happens when you give yourself fully to each moment of exercise. Some other great activities for stress relief are swimming, yin yoga or Tai chi.

Go Outside

Sunshine makes the world seem brighter. Even better; sunshine and a body of water. Not surprisingly, science confirms that natural environments profoundly contribute to feelings of happiness – and some of the ‘happiest’ locations are marine and coastal areas.

If we allow it, nature always gifts us perspective. One study found that a ninety-minute walk in nature decreased brain activity in the subgenual prefrontal cortex, a space highly active when negative thought loops arise. You might not have ninety minutes, but any time in nature is beneficial. If possible, connect your bare feet to the earth when walking outside, or find your perfect sit spot. Feel the heaviness of your soles and weight against the ground, and notice how mother earth always supports you.-

While these are effective ways to reduce stress quickly, practising them over time and making them your immediate go-to when stress arises is key! If you’re feeling inspired… our retreats offer exploration of these practices and more.

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in 2014… but we’ve added to it!