shala worsley yoga

  • Yoga for Tension Relief

    corpse pose

    Stress. What a buzz kill, right? Life can be moving along just delightfully and, suddenly, stress rears its ugly head and rains on your hunky-dory parade. It’s unfair. It’s annoying. But guess what yogis? It’s life. Stress is a part of each human experience. Maybe that’s a buzz kill, but don’t you worry. We’ll conclude this post on a high, positive note. Just stay with me.

    So, maybe you’re thinking that there are clear ways to avoid and ward off stress. I agree.

    You could definitely sit down right now and devise a plan that minimizes your current stress and potential risk for stress. In fact, I think this is a good idea. I believe that most of the stress we experience is the stress we create or choose. For example, if you have a relationship that has you in a chronically stressed out state, maybe it’s time to cut the cord on that. If your job causes you an unhealthy level of stress, maybe it’s time to reflect and redirect. It’s super important and helpful to realize all the stress in your life that you are creating/choosing. Why? Because then you have the power to choose to a different, less stressful path!

    I can only imagine all the excuses and “buts” bubbling up in your head: “But I can’t because…”, “But you don’t understand...”, “But this is all I know…” I get it. Change and letting go is messy. Here’s another buzz kill moment…that’s life! What will you choose?

    Yet, even with a solid, stress-reducing plan in the works and even if you choose all healthy, self-supporting decisions (let’s face it…we all slip up on this), stress will still show up to your party uninvited and unwarranted. Unfair! Yes. But, again, that’s life.

    There’s good news here. Again, you have a choice. You have the ability to choose how you allow that stress to effect you. Do you catastrophize the situation? Do you let that stress own you? Do you blow up in rage? Do you let it gain a strong hold on you? Do you allow it to leak into other areas of your life? Do you place blame? Do you give up? Do you tense up? Or…do you choose something different?

    If you’re like me, you want a different, less dramatic reaction to stress. You don’t want to freak out in the face of it. You don’t want to carry it around in the form of chronic tension. Instead, you want to release its strong hold, let it go, blow it off, and move on. But how?


    If you so choose, you can hit the mat to release the tension you accumulate from stress. Instead of venting to your partner, putting a hole in a wall, or pouting like a baby…hit your mat.

    Here are some yoga videos with a special focus on tension relief:

    • Shoulders, Neck and Head: A Practice to Relieve Tension with Gigi Yogini - Headaches are one of the most common ailments among American adults today. They can be due to a variety of reasons, including tension in the neck and shoulders. Practice these simple exercises in this online yoga video to loosen and relax your shoulders, neck, and head, for stress relief. (18 mins.)
    • Time to Unwind with Rolf Gates - This online vinyasa yoga class is perfect for releasing stored tension from a long, intense day. (31 mins.)
    • Wring Out the Day with Shala Worsley - Move your spine in all directions, throw off stress, and wring out tension in this online vinyasa yoga class. Burn away the unwanted layers built throughout your day and emerge calm and vibrant. This online yoga class includes backbends, hip openers, shoulder openers, inversions, and pranayama, and blends the heat building properties of vinyasa with the deep tissue release found in yin yoga. (86 mins.)
    • Yoga Nidra: Psychic Sleep Relaxation Method with Sri Dharma Mittra - Guided Relaxation removes tension and fatigue in the physical body, relieves depression and anxiety, relieves headaches, reduces cravings and desires, rejuvenates and energizes the entire system, bolsters the body's natural healing capacities, and normalizes the circulatory system's functioning. No previous experience is needed to experience this amazing online yoga practice! (45 mins.)
    • Wrists, Shoulders and Neck with Gigi Yogini - In this free online yoga video, practice some simple, restorative exercises to release tension in your wrists, shoulders and neck. These are surprisingly fun and helpful and perfect for a mid-day yoga break.
    • Chair Yoga Break: Neck Opening with Margaux Permutt - In this free online yoga video, run through some simple chair yoga exercises to release tension in your neck.

    Choose something different. Choose yoga.


  • Weekend Intention: Lengthen the Breath, Increase the Prana

    My teacher started off our practice yesterday with a discussion of prana.

    Prana…what is this? In yoga, prana is the sum total of all energy that is manifest in the universe. There is prana – energy or life force – in everything. Prana is in the concrete, in your cup of coffee, in the air you breath, in the words you read, in everything. All things consist of prana, as do you.


    The consequence of living in an urban environment is that the prana concentration is lower. Within concrete jungles, there is less room for the prana to flow freely as compared to more natural, open environments.

    Returning to my home, Yosemite National Park, I can instantly feel the higher prana concentration. Life moves at a gentle, calm pace and my movements and breath follow suit. On the flip side, when I venture to NYC from Philly, I instantly feel the much lower prana concentration. Everything is moving so quickly. Everything is more congested. As a result of less prana, I can feel my breath begin to shorten – to get caught up in the prana surrounding me.

    This is normal. We definitely get caught up in the prana surrounding us. We begin to move with the pace of the prana. If you are an urbanite like myself, you may find that your breath is always short, quick, and strained because you are constantly caught up in the prana of your environment. This is not ideal.

    The length of the breath matters. A longer breath translates to a calmer person. A longer breath in the yoga practice translates to a deeper practice. You can deepen the breath to deepen your journey, deepen the pose, and deepen your experience. A long, conscious breath keeps you rooted and fully alive in the present moment.

    You can consciously choose to lengthen the breath and, thus, increase your prana and the prana in your environment. You can breathe for the people and life around you. All you have to do is breathe longer and fuller. Easy.

    This weekend, take time to really feel your breath. Feel the beginning, the middle, and the end of the breath. Practice a 3-breath count. Inhale, 1, 2, and 3. Really savor the moment at the top of the inhale. At this point, your chest should be fully expanded and completely filled with breath. Feel it. Then, slowly exhale, 1, 2, and 3. At the bottom of the breath, feel it. Draw everything in. The bottom of the exhale is a great opportunity to activate and feel all of your bandhas working.

    On the mat, practice a 3-count breathing technique or alternate nostril breathing (nadi sodhana), keeping up with the 3-breath count. Check out these free online yoga videos demoing these highly accessible forms of pranayama.

    Alternate Nostril Breathing with Sarah Starr

    Alternate Nostril Breathing with Sarah Starr

    3-Part Breathing Technique with Shala Worsley

    Pranayama with Shala Worsley

    Don’t get caught up in the rhythm of urban prana. Use your breath to set your own gentle, relaxed rhythm.


    Photo Credit: Pranayama via

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