Jan. 2, 2009 — There are many tools within reach to help deal with stress, and massage therapy, yoga and meditation are some of them.

Unlike jogging on a treadmill while watching television, yoga is a set of practices designed to integrate body, mind and spirit.

“Yoga gave me immediate relief from depression,” said Vickie Aldridge, owner of Boise Yoga Center, who has a family history of the illness. “I felt lighter, I felt energetic, I felt good about myself It made me want to practice.”

The human nervous system isn’t designed to handle the kind of high voltage that runs through many people’s lives, often leading to a meltdown.

“It really builds up in the body like a pressure cooker, and it can lead to disease – in our organs our immune system,” Aldridge said. “We have to give ourselves time. We tend to see it as wasted time, but there’s a healing process within us that’s supposed to work but is overwhelmed.”

“A lot of people don’t know what it’s like to find stillness within themselves,” said Missy Cory, a nationally licensed massage therapist who practices at Massage Central in Boise. “That’s when the body heals, in stillness.”

Massage therapy is an ancient practice that reduces stress and improves circulation. While massage therapists are experts at getting rid of stress, there’s a lot people can do before their backs start aching or their necks get stiff.

“It may mean arriving five minutes early for that appointment, reclining the front seat and taking 10 deep breaths,” she said.

Cory recommends starting the day with a few deep breaths and recognizing the level of calm you’d like to keep throughout the day.

“It’s important to get back to that core that doesn’t change no matter what’s going on in the world,” Cory said. “It’s a practice, and the more we practice, the easier it is to get back there.”

There are many different approaches to meditation, and not all require sitting on a special cushion and hmmm-ing.

If you want to start paying attention to your body, you can start by paying attention to your breath, said Elizabeth Clarke, who teaches Pilates, gyrotonic and yoga at Range in Motion movement studio in Boise.

Clarke has a daily meditation practice. It takes four minutes.

“Your breath is the link between your mind and your body,” Clarke said. “You have to release the tension in the body before you can learn anything new.”

One of the first things people find when attempting to meditate is that they are not their thoughts, Clarke said.

“You may find a lot of ugly noise and chatter in your brain,” Clarke said. “Can you observe your thoughts objectively and not be affected by them? Then you can look at life objectively, and that brings you back to the breath.”

SOURCE: IdahoStatesman.com