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Yoga for Stress

What is Stress?

Stress is a nonspecific, conventional basic response pattern of the body to demanding situations. The primary function of stress is to prepare the body for physical activity such as resistance or flight (called as Eu-stress). If, however, the subject lacks the means of restoring either to fight or flight i.e., of relieving the stress reaction, stress gives rise to distress which manifests in the form of psychosomatic symptoms or disorders.

Eu-stress and Distress?

There are two kinds of stresses that are distinguished by Selye and Levi. Eustress is Synonymous with healthy essential stress produced for example by joy, and kind of positive impulse, sensible recreational activities, sports practiced as a hobby, etc.

Distress is synonymous with Destructive stress that has to be controlled e.g., continuous mental or physical strain of any kind, anger, frustration, state of tension seemingly without hope. However, even high and prolonged Eustress can turn dangerous in cases as in IHD due to strong excitations associated with Eustress too.

A man who is trying to live a successful life as per expectations and norms of the society today is continually challenged with rapidly accumulating stresses. In his attempt to reach the expected standards of living, he cares not for his own worries, anxieties and difficulties.

Today's man can think and act much faster than what he did half a century back. This speed has not limited itself only to the level where he can be most efficient in his mental and physical capabilities but has moved further to ungovernable levels. This activity in the mind is so much and so fast that the system cannot cope up with it any longer. This speed has also made man emotionally hypersensitive. Small things can upset a person psychologically and emotionally to such a great extent that it can lead to disasters. The increasing number of divorces is an example of this highly sensitized and greatly excitable state of human personality today.

A common man in this modern society tries to cope with stress often by resorting to smoking, drinking, sex or drugs. Amongst men with great ambitions, the 'A' type personalities in whom the problem of stress are more prevalent, these methods are on the increase. But they are no solution to the problem. They make matters worse.

Stress according to yoga is imbalance. Imbalance is misery. At the mental and physical levels, it is excessive speed and thus a demanding situation causes pain and leads to ailments and diseases. Imbalances at emotional level manifest as upsurges which are caused by strong likes and dislikes.

The great sage Patanjali uses the term Klesa which apply describes stress.

In our original state we are totally stress-free. We are blissful. That state devoid of any tension and pressures, (even) thinking or feeling is the source of all bliss, knowledge, creativity and freedom. We may call it perfection, Patanjali calls it Swaroopa, Self. The process for achieving this target is to learn the three cardinal principles of yoga, "Relax the body, slow down the breath, calm the mind".

Prasarita Padottanasana

Prasarita means expanded, spread, extended. Pada means afoot. The pose is one where the expanded legs are stretched intensely.


  1. Stand in Tadasana.

  2. Inhale, place the hands on the waist and spread the legs apart 4.5 to 5 feet.

  3. Tighten the legs by drawing up the knee-caps. Exhale, and place the palms on the floor in line with the shoulders between the feet.

  4. Inhale and raise the head up, keeping the back concave.

  5. Exhale, bend the elbows and rest the crown of the head on the floor, keeping the weight of the body on the legs. Do not throw the body weight on the head. Both feet, both palms and the head should be in a straight line.

  6. Stay in the pose for half a minute, breathing deeply and evenly.

  7. Inhale, raise the head from the floor and straighten the arms at the elbows. keep the head well up by making the back concave.

  8. Exhale and stand as in position 1.

  9. Jump back to Tadasana.

This article has been written by Dr. R. Nagarathna, Dean, Division of Yoga & Life-sciences, SVYASA
This article is published online courtesy
and Arogyadhama

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