Stress isn’t always bad. Stress can actually improve your performance, when you use it effectively and attentively. The important factor is often, whether we maintain a sense of control. Because stress, that we can control, even helps to deal with the stress, that we can’t control. What happens is that we train our resilience, our endurance and ability to remain clear headed in challenging situations.

Observe your level of control

Consider the yoga practice on the mat as an exercise to improve your resilience against stress. Bring yourself consciously into challenging situations, that you can control, to observe how you deal with them. It doesn’t have to be a free-standing handstand, sometimes Utkatasana (chair pose) is already more than enough, when we hold it for a little while. Every day we can test different situations, that challenge us physically or mentally, because they are uncomfortable. The decisive factor: We can control them. We can leave the pose or make it easier at any time we want. And that allows us to remain calm in the mind and in the breath.

Shift the focus

Perhaps the important factor is that through this practice we get a better sense for what’s in our control and what isn’t, so that we have a better idea how we can react. A situation in which I am completely helpless and powerless is all the more stressful, than a situation in which I may not be able to do much. But at least I can do something. With time the practice steers the focus towards actions that are possible and not towards what’s not possible.

Next time you find yourself in a stressful situation, consider what you can do to alleviate or change it. And consciously search out challenging situations in which you do have a lot of control. Like weird asanas on your yoga mat.