Sanctuary Living by THE YOGA SCHOOL

Body / Wellbeing

Want less stress? Gaze at a fish…

By The Yoga School / February 11, 2019

Calm down quickly with this celeb trick and other anxiety-beating fixes

Relax like the stars do and indulge in “fish gazing”.

Jessica Alba, Mariah Carey and Gwyneth Paltrow are fans of this activity – which simply involves sitting comfortably in front of a fish tank and observing the activities inside for 15 minutes. This creates a hypnotic effect which helps you to disconnect from stressful situations. A study by Purdue University in the US found that patients who watched a tropical tank before their operation, had lower blood pressure and muscle tension (two classic symptoms of stress) than those who didn’t. In fact, they were found to be as relaxed as a group that had been hypnotised. Professor Alan Beck, the director of the Center for the Human-Animal Bond at Purdue University, explains,  “The importance of viewing nature, especially animals, appears to be deep-seated into the human psyche,” he adds, “Viewing nature in the form of aquarium fish is nature on demand.”

Don’t have a fish-filled aquarium nearby to gaze into? Try these other great stress-busters:


There’s a saying that goes, “people come into your life for a reason, a season, or a lifetime”, the trick lies in recognising which friends fall into which category. It might sound a little harsh, but there are health benefits to the occasional pruning of your social circle.

As we go through the different stages of our lives, the dynamics in our relationships with others evolve as well. More friends doesn’t necessarily equate to more happiness – in fact, the opposite happens if you find yourself still holding on to friendships that have turned toxic or that have run their course for any reason. When it comes to having fulfilling friendships, it’s a case of quality over quantity.

If you think it’s time to take stock of your relationships, dig a little deeper about why you’re still friends with the people in your life – and if there’re any who are still around despite the fact that you’ve grown apart, consider if this is simply because your friendship with them has become a habit?

“These are relationships we should invest less emotion into,” says Mark Vernon, philosopher and author of The Meaning of Friendship. “You don’t have to delete their phone numbers, but putting them in a different category liberates you from commitment and you can spend more time on friends whose companionship you enjoy.”


Here’s what you need to do: place two table tennis balls in a tied-up sock to keep under your work desk. According to reflexologist Jane Holt, “Rolling the balls with the bottom of your bare feet hits 7,000 nerve endings in your soles, triggering an instant, anxiety-beating endorphin rush.”

Alternatively, Restorative Yoga teacher, Adeline Tien, recommends therapy balls like the ones from Yoga Tune Up which she uses in her self-care workshops. “They’re wonderful tools which help to release tension not just from your feet, but anywhere else on your body that could use some relief.” Made of latex and with just the right density, these massage balls gently grip skin and muscle, making them highly effective for easing bodily aches. “These balls are light and pliable. I bring them with me everywhere I go – they’re like on-demand self-care tools!”


Stretching has been shown to stimulate receptors in the nervous system that decrease the production of stress hormones. Stress often causes the subconscious tightening of muscles, so if you’ve been hunching over your work desk all day, try eliminating muscle tension with some simple yoga stretches, head rolls, or shoulder shrugs.

Better still, exercise self-care by practicing yoga consistently. A study published by Oxford University Press discovered that yoga could be an effective intervention for reducing stress and back pain at work. Participants who practiced yoga for 50 minutes weekly for a period of eight weeks, reported significantly lower stress, back pain, and sadness (as compared to the control group of participants who received no form of intervention).

Yoga trains your parasympathetic system (the body’s natural counter-stress response system), enabling you to enjoy the health benefits that come with lowered levels of stress hormones. Other studies have also shown that just a few sessions of yoga is sufficient to see an increase in heart rate variability (which is a measure of your ability to tolerate stress).

Yoga classes are wonderful for beginners and experienced practitioners alike. The Yoga School offers a variety of yoga styles and healing therapies, come try them for yourself and discover what works best for you.


The Yoga School’s measures to safeguard your well-being on the mat. Download PDF