A Yoga Teacher’s Top 5 Ways to Reduce Stress


So, I’ve got to tell you – I get stressed. Everyone tells me: “you must have such a handle on stress being a yoga teacher” and I reply, “I hide it well.” If it’s not worrying about self-employment taxes and liability insurance, it’s criticizing my own teaching and wishing I had said or done something differently. The tips below are those that I come back to again and again, because, for the most part, they are things that can be done with just a little time and attention AND they have had a big impact for me personally.


Notice Your Breath.

Your breath is one of a few bodily activities that can be described as both involuntary (happens without thought – like the heart beating) AND voluntary (happens with conscious effort, like deciding to sing or speak). What this means is that you can cultivate and have an impact on something that your body naturally does over 20,000 times each day. Research has shown that consciously deciding to deepen your breath can trigger the parasympathetic nervous system, which slows the heart rate, relaxes the muscles and stimulates circulation and digestion.

 Find Stillness in Your Day.

Stress has been defined as the feeling experienced when you perceive that demands upon you exceed your ability to handle them.  In other words, stress can feel a lot like being overwhelmed (information overload) and out of control (things are moving too fast).  It’s no coincidence that sleep is seen as a way to reset our stress level – you lay down and turn off. When you can’t rest, take time to appreciate stillness – even if you are stuck in traffic. Combine this with noticing your breath.

 Drink a Hot Tea Slowly.

I choose hot tea for several reasons. Firstly, heated liquid is REALLY good for the tissues in your body and easier for your body to digest compared to iced beverages. Secondly, tea carries a relatively low caffeine content compared to coffee and/or sodas and energy drinks – this means that you do not experience the “crash” that comes with other beverages. Thirdly, tea has traditionally been a beverage that you sip slowly, this gives you time to enjoy its flavor and perhaps to share the beverage and light-hearted conversation with a friend.

 Take a Hot Bath.

There is no question that water has a healing effect for the body. Medical professionals recommend drinking six to eight glasses a day to keep hydrated and also tout water exercises (swimming, water aerobics) as a therapeutic way to rebuild strength and stamina in the body without taxing areas of injury. A hot bath is a ritual you can do to bring stillness into your life (combine it with noticing your breath and drinking tea and you’ll have quite a nourishing experience)!

 Move Your Body.

As a yoga instructor and a former dancer, as well as someone who loves to walk, I guess I am biased toward this last tip. There is something about bringing your attention down to your body (read: OUT OF YOUR HEAD) that helps to relieve the feelings of being out of control and overwhelmed. By being present with the feelings in your body and how they shift as your body shifts, you can start to let go of the thoughts that brought you stress earlier in your day and/or worry for things yet to come. Whether you choose running, yoga, hiking, dancing, walking your dog or jumping rope – moving is key.


Hannah Leatherbury (RYT-200) believes that yoga guides people home. In addition to teaching postures for physical strength and flexibility, she enjoys sharing breathing and meditation strategies for letting go of stress and promoting healing. Hannah makes her home in Silver Spring, MD with her fiancé and her tennis-ball-crazed terrier. She teaches regular yoga classes and one-on-one sessions throughout the metro-DC area.

 My Mental Health Day Thanks:
Hannah Leatherbury, RYT-200

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