Impact of Stress on my Hatha Yoga Practice
– Experience report by Romana, Arhanta Yoga graduate and volunteer
My yoga journey started when I was searching for an activity to help release the impact of stress on my body. My stressful and highly demanding working environment affected my physical shape and hormonal balance directly. Simple sport activities like running, riding bicycle or swimming were not helping me; on the contrary, they increased pain and tension in my tightly locked joints and spine. I started to practice Hatha Yoga and Iyengar Yoga and started to see very promising improvement of my condition after several weeks already. My body felt better but my mind was still struggling with restless activity, which was making it difficult for me to be calm during my practice. After several months of taking yoga classes, my Hatha Yoga classes got cancelled so I continued practicing only Iyengar yoga. Iyengar yoga was working perfectly on my physical body but I was missing the positive effects of the calm Hatha Yoga practice, like proper stimulation and deep massage of glands and organs.
When I decided to follow the 200 hours TTC by Arhanta Yoga, I was really curious how big the effect on my body would be compared to my previous experience with Hatha Yoga. During the intensive course I felt particular changes every day and also my mind started to find its way to calmer waters. The stress was still present at a certain level, but the whole educational program, in combination with the calm environment and the very warm-hearted vibes of the whole group (teachers, volunteers and students) were minimizing its impact on me. After this enriching yoga experience I decided to register for 2 months of volunteering program for Arhanta in the Netherlands.
During my volunteering program I had the unique chance to observe the influence of stress on my own practice. The volunteer’s work in the ashram is intense but in an adequate level. The schedule is designed in such a manner that you still have enough time for your own practice, self study or rest.
During my first month as a volunteer, the team of volunteers was experiencing some tensions with each other, somehow we just were not matching very well. As a result I again encountered some stress and tension and I started to feel similar to how I felt during my stressful job. I decided to focus my energy from outside to inside to stay calm and positive and to create a better atmosphere for all of us. Through my internal resolution to stay calm and the regular practices, I was able to handle the sometime stressful situations, however I did start to feel the impact on my yoga and meditation practice. I struggled more than usual with the breathing exercises and also noticed a dip in my strength and flexibility.
The second month as a volunteer, with another team of volunteers, started in a completely different way. The work went easier, the communication went smoothly and all problems could be solved easily and in a friendly way. Also the new group of students was mirroring this nice atmosphere among the staff members, which resulted in a much warmer relationship between staff and students from the beginning. Together with this relaxed atmosphere, also my body started to be more relaxed and my level of practice improved to a whole new level in only 14 days time. More relaxed intercostal muscles allowed me to go much deeper into the breathing exercises than ever before and I could also meditate again. The most surprising to me was the progress I made in my asana practice. My level had literally doubled in only two weeks (for example my Pincha Mayurasana jumped from 0 to 40 seconds hold).
This experience has helped me to understand the significant impact stress can have on my practice. I strongly believe that regular Hatha Yoga practice can help to overcome short periods of intense stress and bring mental and physical power needed to resolve these situations. However, I have also realized that it is not enough to simply practice harder and try to overlook the source of the stress completely, eventually the source of stress needs to be addressed and removed actively.