We can’t deny that this year has brought some unexpected stress, and while we all wish stress could just magically disappear, sometimes it hangs around. If you have tension in your body, it may be caused by any stressors you have in your life. Each person holds their stress differently, so your stress might find a home in your shoulders or curled up in your stomach. It’s natural to have tension in your body, but the problem starts when the stress stays there for days—or months—as a result of a stressful event or exposure to ongoing stressors (ahem, can anyone say pandemic?!)
Here at our yoga studio in Dayton, Ohio we embrace humanism. You aren’t coming to yoga because you already have inner calm. You are coming because you know you need it. So, let’s start off by talking a little bit about how stress affects the body. Chronic stress can contribute to various problems, including insomnia, headaches, change in appetite, and more. Stress is also thought to be one of the key contributors to a variety of diseases and illnesses. So, it goes without saying that we want to get any stress we have in our mind or body out of there as soon as we can or at least learn to utilize it to our advantage.
There are many known ways to combat stress, including adequate sleep, meditation, exercise, spending time with those you love, and even yoga. But, a lot of times, despite our best efforts, we get stressed out anyway. So we want to share how you can release the stress that is hiding away in your body so that you can go on to feel healthier and happier. Scan and release these five common areas.
How to Release Tension & Stress In The Body
While reading this, take a moment to scan down your face starting with the forehead. You might notice a tightness in your forehead, a crease between your eyebrows, or a purse in your lips. Your jaw may even be clenched. If you’ve noticed tension in any of those areas, you probably didn’t realize it was there until just now. That’s completely normal. A lot of the tension in our body goes unnoticed because we are so used to it, but in more extreme cases, you might be someone who finds yourself with a lot of headaches, chronic teeth grinding, or strong frown lines.
To release tension in your face, try lightly massaging your masseter with your jaw clenched for about 10 seconds and then applying light pressure in the same area and opening and closing your mouth for about 30 seconds.
The stomach is one of the most common places people hold stress. Stress in the abdomen/stomach usually manifests itself in maldigestion, changes in appetite, and even stomach pain. If you’re someone who tends to resist change or feels like you don’t have power over their life, you might hold stress in your stomach.
Luckily there is an easy way to release some tension in your stomach and gut through your breath. Simply sit in Easy Pose or in whatever position is most comfortable to you and place your hands on your stomach. As you breathe in, fill your belly with air and as you breathe out, really contract and tighten your stomach to squeeze out any stress or tension. You can also try Wind Relieving Pose to massage your small and large intestines.
3. Pelvic Floor
You might be surprised to learn that your pelvic floor can hold a lot of tension. If your pelvic floor muscles are too tight, you might experience general pelvic pain or even Dyspareunia. You will also likely experience lower back pain and tight hips if you have tight pelvic muscles, which is why stretching and breathing are essential when trying to release tension from the pelvic floor.
If you want to open up those hips, you can try poses like Happy Baby Pose, Malasana (yoga squat), and Bound Angle Pose. To release tension in your pelvic floor, you’ll want to do a reverse-kegel, which is usually more challenging to get the hang of than kegels themselves. The pelvic floors muscles are like a diaphragm, so in order to do kegels or reverse kegels, you’ll want to focus on your breath. When you breathe in, send the breath fully into your belly and relax the pelvic floor, and then when you breathe out, slow down the exhale and control the pace at which the pelvic floor muscles return to their starting position.
4. Neck & Back
If you’ve ever gotten a good back or neck massage or a realignment from a chiropractor, you know how much tension can reside in your neck and back. While neck and back pain can be caused by an old mattress, hunching over your phone or computer, or intense exercise, it can also be caused by stress.
If you want to release stress from your neck and back, a massage is one of the best ways to do so, but there are also many stretches that can provide relief. Next time you experience pain in your neck or back, try Cat-Cow Pose, Extended Triangle Pose, and Cobra Pose. Just make sure you are properly warmed up before attempting any back, neck, or spine stretches in order to avoid injury.
5. Shoulders & Chest
It’s no surprise that the phrase “weight of the world on one’s shoulder” means to carry heavy burdens or stress because the human body certainly knows how to hold stress in the shoulders and chest. Physical tension and emotional stressors tend to be held in this region of the body.
If you want to release tension from your shoulders and chest, try a few shoulder lifts and shoulder rolls before starting your day. You might also consider adding some standing arm swings into your exercise routine. Like other parts of the body, stretching your shoulders and chest is really beneficial to releasing stress. Try a chest-opening stretch like Camel Pose or Bow Pose to help release tension in both the chest and the shoulders.