Stress relief goes beyond the yoga mat

(by Stephanie Ip, 24 Hours)


The West Coast is known for being laid back and carefree, but in spite of being a yoga mecca we are apparently becoming more stressed.


According to recent Statistics Canada data, around850,000 British Columbians reported experiencing “quite a lot” of stress, a number that has been growing since 2007.


“People think – because we have beautiful mountains, waters, beach – that this is somehow a much more relaxing city,” said clinical psychologist Joti Samra. “The reality is we are a large urban centre and all the stresses like the cost of living are really high and that increases other stress factors independent of the environment we’re in.”


According to Samra, even those hoping to relax at a yoga class or at the gym can face increased stress.


“We really need to start paring down the expectations of what we do,” she said.


Yogi Marie-Eve Boudreau admits some of those who take up Living Your Moksha — a seven-week challenge starting Tuesday at Moksha Yoga, in East Vancouver — will lose sight of the program’s goals while stressing over minor details.


Studio co-owner and instructor Boudreau said many people forget yoga is as much about tuning in to your body as toning it.


“We all have an understanding in North America that our health is physical — but health is not just the physical aspect,” she said. “It’s also the social. It’s also our mind. It’s our relationships and that’s what we start seeing when you start practicing.”


As part of the course, Living Your Moksha participants are given a new challenge each week that’s intended to bring them peace, such as spending one hour in silence each day for a week, something Boudreau said even she has difficulty following.


“I will do 10 minutes and be very proud of myself,” she said, noting it’s important for people to adapt the challenges to their fit their own lives instead of stressing.


“(Yoga) is more than just the practice in the hot room of the postures,” Boudreau said. “Moksha, the word, means ‘freedom.’”


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