Anxiety is something we all experience. It usually comes in the form of mildly annoying thoughts of worry or concern about future events. This is a normal reaction to modern life. These thoughts and feelings often come along with the racing heart and sweaty palms. For some, those thoughts and accompanying sensations can become quite persistent and overwhelming and can seriously impact daily life.
There was a period of time that I was embarrassed and scared to talk about being anxious. Then I realised; it is normal and everyone goes through it. So I am writing this to let you know some simple methods that helped me manage through some sticky situations and grey clouds.
The trouble with anxiety and stress is that not many know how to work with it. I believe in the healing powers of yoga and meditation as a way of both coping with and overcoming anxiety. My practice gave me a much deeper level of awareness as well as tools that helped me lessen the impact anxiety had and has on my life.
So here it is peeps – the four key areas of yoga that can help with anxiety:
1. Start breathing – The breath (pranayama) is the best place to start as it has the ability to calm us down – quickly. Anxious thoughts can cause rapid and shallow breathing which can actually increase anxiety and make us feel more wired. Give this form of simple breath awareness a try;
Simply becoming aware of your breath and noticing how it is flowing whilst trying to focus on the flow without trying to influence it. This simple act of focusing the mind will eventually slow it down and you will also start to develop a greater awareness of how you are breathing day to day. Then take your focus to your abdomen.as you inhale, feel your abdomen and lower ribs expand outwards and as you exhale, feel them contract. The chest and shoulders should remain still and there should be no strain at all. Try to make the inhalation and exhalation equal in length.
2) Get on your mat! – With anxiety comes tension and stress which can accumulate in our body. The physical practise of yoga (asana) will help us to release that tension through the practice of asana and relaxation. There are many postures that are beneficial, however it is the way we practice that can be of most benefit. Try to soften and surrender as you perform each asana and maintain breath awareness to keep the mind focused. Asana can also help us shift energy in the physical body and a few rounds of sun salutations will be beneficial to sooth and nurture.
3) Be still – An anxious mind is usually over active and easily agitated. Meditation helps to slow down the mind, which has a calming effect on the entire mind-body complex. A regular practice will help you become familiar with your minds particular patterns and triggers and you can begin to reduce the impact your thoughts have on you. I often tell students, start with five minutes a day. Everyone has time for five minutes. Slowly you’ll start to build it up to longer sittings. It really is easier than you think!
4) Feed me – Just like petrol in a car, you need to fuel your body with the right stuff. Lifestyle choices can have a part to play in anxiety and obviously things like alcohol, caffeine and stress can amplify negative sensations.
Yoga teaches us to become more loving and understanding of ourselves and the world around us, and it also encourages us to respect and nurture our bodies with healthy, nutritious food that supports and balances us. Not to say you need to follow a vegetarian diet, but eating and living in a mindful and loving way will go a long way in helping to ease anxiety.
Isn’t it ironic that the times that we need to be still and take that time to reflect in moments of tension, is the time we try so hard to stray from our calming practises? We don’t get to class, we don’t take that five minutes out of our day to reflect, we start to snack on things we probably shouldn’t. Our mind and ego will play tricks on us and encourage self-sabotaging patterns. Know that you have the power to challenge the ego mind and rise above those thoughts.
Make it your effort, especially when it’s the last thing you want to do and show up to yourself, set yourself onto your healing path and don’t let those roadblocks sink you deeper.
I am not suggesting that these steps are a miracle cure in freeing yourself from stress and anxiety. But let me tell you, from my prior experience it will change the way you think about yourself, the way in which you deal with sinking thoughts and feelings, and most importantly the way in which you cope and handle anxious thoughts and sensations.
Please note that while yoga can certainly help to reduce anxiety it may not be appropriate as a sole source of treatment. The ideas in this article are based on my experiences with yoga and anxiety and should in no way interfere with the opinion of a medical professional.
Now go ahead a make your world great.