Monday, August 9, 2010

Maintaining Internal Silence, Antar mouna: Yoga; How do you deal with stress?

Life's been a little hectic--a good hectic, but that doesn't stop the way my brain goes all frenetic and my body at times will complain, particularly my back. I was a personal trainer for 5-6 years, before I moved here to Western North Carolina, and exercise to keep strength and flexibility are important to me still. I’ve taken up running lately and since April have worked up from about five minutes of “ughnnn uhhhngnnnhhgghh” running (laughing) to a little over five miles as my best, so far. It helps me to zone out, to keep myself from becoming too crazy. I do some strength training, too, mostly on my upper body, to keep myself strong. There are walks at Lake Junaluska, or around my mountain cove. But . . . it’s the yoga at the end of it all that rounds everything out.

Once I step onto my yoga matt, I leave everything else behind but the moment. There are no racing thoughts, no worries about what I have to do next, for I must concentrate on breath, on maintaining internal silence, Antar mouna. I am careful not to overextend, such as in forward and backwards bends, or to take my body too far into the pose in those areas where I am not as flexible; I must respect my body’s abilities and its limitations. My eyes look inward as I concentrate on a spot or object, Bahiranga tratakanot. I stand in Mountain Pose, Tadasana,—feet together, hands at my sides. I bring my hands to prayer position, then raise my arms up to the sky, feeling a gentle stretch, my balance, my focus, and from there, I fold and move into the sun salutation, Surya-namaskar.

If my back is bad, I will let yoga take me only to where I feel safe, as in a gentle cat and dog stretch, or perhaps hold downward facing dog, Adho Mukha Svanasana, a bit longer. It is just me and my matt and my heart; there is no one to tell me how much or how little I must do. I like that. I feel the freedom of making the yoga my own. Perhaps that is what is intended, but if not, I can only ask forgiveness for my ignorance.

No matter which yoga poses I do, I always include child’s pose at the end. It is hard to feel anything but peace and serenity when folded into a facing-down fetal position. My face is hidden from the world, my body tucked tight, yet my spine is vulnerable to the sky and anyone who may come near me. It is at once both a trusting pose, while a very private and protective one. I breathe in and out, slowly and evenly. I stay that way until I can face the world again. Then I curl up and sit into half-lotus pose, ardha padma-asana, bring my hands to prayer position, then lower my head, close my eyes, and whisper, Namaste, which is an acknowledgment of the soul in one by the soul in another, or when alone, my own acknowledgement of my heart. How can I feel anything but contentment and peace when in this beautiful pose? I cannot. Namaste.

What about you? How do you control stress in your life?


Donna M. Kohlstrom said...

Stress is an old friend of old friend I'd rather forget!

I'm slowly learning to let go of all the control issues I have, which helps but it's a never ending battle!

I meditate and yoga breathe. Had been doing Tai Chi and it was helpful but got too behind with my classes so it went by the wayside. Would like to get back to it.

My nature walk photography is a definite stress reliever too.

Be careful not to get tied up in knots with those yoga positions! LOL!

Jill of All Trades said...

Stress, I manage it fairly well by writing and exercise but B and I are actively looking to take some yoga classes. The Hubby on the other hand doesn't handle it well AT ALL, especially right now. He's driving me a bit crazy with it all really. Oh well, we'll manage.

Marcy said...

When I'm stressed, I tend to bake cookies. Something about having a freshly baked chocolate chip cookie makes me feel better. It's soothing sitting at the table eating cookies and milk. Good thing I don't get stressed out too much or else we'd have a lot of cookies to eat.

Suldog said...

I relieve my stress via exercise (fast-pitch softball, mostly); via napping (which I consider extremely concentrated meditation); and via prayer. Once softball season is over, I'll be writing a bit about my religious beliefs, actually. Hope you'll find it a worthwhile read when it happens!

Karen said...

Well, I love to walk the beach, or with my dog, or hubbie. But most of all it's a quiet time in my faith that relieves the craziness.

Patience-please said...

Not very well!!!!

But remembering to do what I love, well it helps.

Thanks for your lovely words.


Deb Shucka said...

Isn't yoga the most amazing thing? It heals at all levels. I love these pictures, too.

john bord said...

The discipline of the writer, the discipline of exercise, an embrace of both. It is amazing how one helps the other.

For me stress is between the ears, the worries are given up to my creator and He helps me through them.

Running is tough on the knees, mine are worn out and I am limited on how far i can walk but at least I can walk.... still.

Focus, no matter the endeavor is critical.


Linda Hoye said...

Love this post, Kat. I am a yoga newbie but I do find it quiets the mind (despite the pulled groin muscle I am struggling with. Grrr) I am always looking for ways to de-stress and unwind. Stress, it seems, is my ever-present, though unwelcome, companion.

Linda said...


Your card and healing stone arrived today, Tuesday August 10th... I just picked up the mail. Thank you for sending it. No wonder they call it snail mail!!!!

Barry read your latest book before he went into the hospital in June. I am going to read it soon. I will let you know how much I loved it in a few weeks.

Thank you for inspiring Barry so much. xoxo