Take Notes: How 7 Philly Yoga Pros Smash Stress

Yes, even yoga teachers get stressed out sometimes. Here's how they deal.

I don’t know about you, but it’s incredibly likely that I will still be checking my e-mail at 9 p.m. tonight. And, let’s be honest, probably taking a peek at my Slack work channel, just to make sure nothing is going on, too. Needless to say, this feeling of worry interferes with me really getting to my place of after-work, stress-free calm while watching Chef’s Table and drinking red wine.

When you’re constantly busy and feel like you’re working 24/7 — which so many of us do nowadays — it can be hard to turn off (both mentally, and to literally shut down your phone and laptop) and de-stress. (As a baby step, you can try  turning off your phone’s vibration so you’ll stop compulsively checking it, or start mandating no-screen time before bed.)

With addict-like technology and work habits running rampant, it comes as no surprise that, in a 2015 study by the American Psychological Association, 75 percent of adults reported experiencing moderate to high levels of stress, and nearly half reported that their stress had increased in the past year. Then there’s the whole competing for “most busy” prize that happens at work, which just adds to stress.

So the question: How the heck can we de-stress?

“It’s so easy to be too busy,” says Mariel Freeman, yoga teacher and owner of Three Queens Yoga. “I used to think that life was supposed to be ‘full.’ I eventually realized that was an excuse for being addicted to being too busy, over-committed, and stretching myself in different directions — beyond the point of what is healthy. Now I take the less-is-more approach and I make it habit not to over-commit. It’s challenging to resist saying yes to everyone and everything, but better boundaries have given me way more energy and way less stress.”

For more hints at how to de-stress and chill out (it’s possible!), we turned to the Philly’s yoga teachers — arguably masters of chilling out — to find out how they de-stress after a long, hard day. After all, despite their om-filled careers, they still experience plenty of stress themselves. (Like getting into Bird of Paradise pose without wobbling.)

Because let’s face it: Never being stressed probably isn’t a super-realistic goal. So the key is figuring out how to deal with stress. Below, how seven Philly yoga teachers deal. Read up, then steal a habit or two. (They won’t mind.)

Unplug (at least for a few minutes).
“My personal way to de-stress is 30 minutes a day with no technology. No phone, no computer, no TV. I go for a walk outside, list three things I’m thankful for, and just enjoy the day. If time allows, I get a latte at Good Karma.” — Kristen King, owner, Priya Hot Yoga

Go to a yin class, then order in.
When I feel like I’m holding a lot of stress in my body, I take a yin or restorative yoga class. After 75 minutes of deep, passive stretching, candlelight and mellow tunes, I’m useless … in the best way possible.

“I’d also be lying if I didn’t mention that I like to eat my favorite comfort foods when I’ve hit my max. Takeout from Ekta (best Indian ever!), pizza, or pasta always does the trick.” — Jen Wendowski, owner, Yoga Habit

Roll out with some tennis balls, and keep good company.
“I am lucky that I have learned to manage mental stress with yoga, meditation and lifestyle choices, so I do not often feel overwhelmed or over-stressed. But for someone who does a lot of yoga, it amazes me how stress still hides and lives in my body. About a year and half ago I started my love affair with tennis balls. I roll my upper back, quads, and skull with tennis balls on a regular basis and we do this in most of my classes. It helps release tension and reflects to me how ‘stressed’ I really am, no matter how resilient my mind may be. As my BFF, yoga teacher Alexandra Holmes taught me, the body doesn’t lie.

“You are the company you keep, so keep good company. It’s important to have people to talk to, to listen to, to share perspective with. Make it a habit to maintain the best inner circle. My husband, my sister and a few best friends are the keepers of my sanity when all else fails. Talk to each other, listen to each other and be there for each other. This is the best antidote to the real deal stress that life will surely offer.” — Mariel Freeman, owner, Three Queens Yoga

Turn on some classical music and start cooking!
“I’m obsessed with classical music. It really is the only thing that relaxes me. Cooking is a close second, but when I cook, I’m obviously listening to classical music.” — Lisa O’Rear, yoga teacher at Philly Power Yoga, Priya Hot Yoga, and Three Queens Yoga

Create morning and evening routines of self-care. And when all else fails, dance it out.
“As I’ve been exploring my own relationship with stress, I have found that if I create rhythms throughout my day that support me in feeling grounded and connected to my body and breath, I’m cultivating more time and space to live in this sense of calm and steady.

“In the morning: After I scrape my tongue, I sip a big cup of warm water with lime juice and a touch of raw honey while reading something that inspires me, or I sit and listen to the birds outside my window. Then I’ll warm up some body oil (I am in love with the seasonal blends from Lilavati of Aromabliss) and massage my body with the oil and let it sit for about 30 to 45 minutes while I meditate or do a yoga nidra practice. I find that with these morning rituals, I start my day feeling relaxed, connected, and inspired, and I carry that energy with me throughout the day.

“After a day of running around, I can often feel ungrounded, tired, or craving something sweet, and I have found that the best way to work through this tendency is to lie on my belly in crocodile pose for about five minutes and take long and slow belly breaths. Or I’ll throw my legs up the wall for five to 10 minutes to give my body and mind that time to transition from my workday to my evening. Or if I’ve had a particularly intense day and have some mental energy to move, I’ll put on some Tinariwen or Gotan Project and dance it out.” — Meg Townsend, co-founder Aluna Adventures yoga retreats and teacher at Amrita and Yoga Garden Narberth

Meditate, yoga, and a movie.
“First, prayer and meditation. My go-to prayer is the serenity prayer. My go-to meditation is the technique of watching my thoughts. Then, I go to yoga class, because any movement and action helps. The last thing is to watch a good movie — what a great escape from reality.” — Steve Gold, owner, Philly Power Yoga

Do some laughing meditation and treat yourself to a bath.
I try to remind myself that stress is not bad, it’s the way we react to stress that can make a positive or negative impact in our life. I try to do a laughing meditation: laugh seven different ways. It’s even better to do with a friend and make eye-contact (Laughing is contagious, be careful!). The breath practice of laughing works the abdominal muscles stimulating the release of endorphins as well as boosting the immune system and reducing stress. I also love a bath: mix equal parts epsom salt, baking soda, and apple cider vinegar. Add a few drops of lavender oil and let all tension, stress, and heaviness dissolve.” Daphne Lyon, teacher, Amrita

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