Brahma Mudra - a little stress relief

It has been a big week for me.  Since this time last weekend, I was bitten by a stray dog, I attended a traditional ceremony that included animal sacrifice and the President getting tipsy on moonshine, I worked all weekend (interspersed with some quick yoga practices and a great brunch with friends) and now I'm straight back into a working week.

I'm working on a big project right now, and still teaching my regular classes, and my yoga practice is suffering drastically - and that is making me cranky and even more stressed!!  The cycle of stress is just astounding - high stress = no sleep = no yoga = high stress.  Etc.  Working at a computer a lot also really gets into my shoulders and my lower back where my scoliosis is - I hardly ever feel it when I am more active but chair marathons just make it ache.

Anyway, here is one of my favourite little yoga tricks that is quick and gives instant stress relief.  It's also excellent for headaches and neck tension.

Brahma Mudra

Precede with 10-20 rounds of a calming pranayama, such as Nadi Shodana (alternate nostril breathing) or Chandra Bedhana (breathing in through the left nostril, out through the right).  Sit in easy pose, with your eyes open and focusing into the distance.  Ground through the sitting bones and from the foundation allow your spine to lengthen up, and then soften your shoulders back and down.  Establish a smooth rythym with the breath.

Step 1
As you inhale, look all the way to the right hand side with your eyes, and then let your head follow, turning all the way to the right.  As you exhale gaze to the tip of your nose, and bring your head back to centre.  Repeat on the left hand side.

Step 2
As you inhale, look all the way down with your eyes and then gently lift your head up.  Keep looking down as you lift the chin all the way up.  Exhale, come back to centre.  Inhale, look all the way up and then gently bring your chin to your chest. Exhale, come back to centre.  [NB - I have also seen this with eyes up - look up, eyes down - look down.  I was taught this way.]

Repeat 3 times.  Follow by closing the eyes, or for maximum effect, with Savasana or tratak (candle-gazing cleansing).

I like to include brahma mudra at the end of my morning pranayama, but these days it's all I can do to sneak in a downward facing dog during the day, so it works well on its own!

What do you do to relieve stress?