7 Ways to Cultivate Equanimity with Yoga

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Seven Ways to Cultivate Equanimity

1. Focused Relaxation. Yoga stress management practices help reduce stress, anxiety, and depression, calm your nervous system, and quiet your mind. These practices include simple breath awareness done in a seated or reclined position, any form of Savasana done with a mental focus (see Savasana (Corpse Pose)), and formal, structured forms of guided relaxation, such as yoga nidra (see Friday Q&A: What is Yoga Nidra?).

2. Restorative Yoga. Restorative yoga was specially designed to provide deep rest and relaxation. Rather than using your muscles to hold you in the shape of a pose as you would normally, the props hold you in the pose so you can simply let your muscles relax. With your muscles completely relaxed, you can then turn your attention inward, focusing on your breath, physical sensations, or any other object of meditation, which allows the relaxation response to switch on, calming your nervous system and quieting your mind. See Restorative Yoga: An Introduction.

3. Supported Inverted Poses. Practicing supported inverted poses for stress management is an effective way to calm your nervous system and quiet your mind because all you have to do is set yourself in the pose and stay there for a while. The shape of the pose itself causes your baroreceptors to trigger the Relaxation Response. See All About Supported Inversions.

4. Mindful Asana. Practicing yoga mindfully is a very powerful tool for improving your mental and emotional health as well as your physical health. When you systematically pay attention to your body, you will learn what it is telling you—if you are stressed, anxious, angry, and so on, and be better able to take appropriate steps to bring yourself back into balance. See Practicing Yoga Mindfully.

Practicing this way also helps you cultivate your inner witness, which you can use to teach your nervous system to react more calmly to stressful situations See Changing the Brain's Stressful Habits.

5. Meditation. Meditation is an effective way to trigger the Relaxation Response, calming your nervous system and quieting your mind. But more importantly it allows you to study your mind and gain more control over it. See Is Meditation an Essential Part of Yoga Practice?.

6. Pranayama. Practicing pranayama is a good way to take your mind off regrets about the past, worries about the future, or negative reactions to the present. You can also use specific practices to stimulate, calm, or balance your nervous system. See Pranayama: A Powerful Key to Your Nervous System.

7. Yoga Philosophy. Studying yoga philosophy provides you with an alternative way of thinking about your life, enabling you to be more content with what you have and what you don’t have, and to become more comfortable with change. The scriptures also provide useful insights into the nature of the mind, which can use to help change your mental habits and behavioral patterns. See Why You Should Study Yoga Philosophy and The Power of Svadhyaya (Self Study), Part 2.

According to a recent scientific study, these seven techniques are complementary tools that enable you to increase self-regulation (see Self-Regulation, Psychological Health, and Yoga). Behaviorally, self-regulation is the ability to act in your long-term interest, consistent with your deepest values. Emotionally, self-regulation is the ability and to calm yourself down and cheer yourself up. Naturally, being able to self-regulate, rather than reacting impulsively as a result of emotions such as anger or fear, contributes to your overall equanimity.