Using yoga to ease anxiety
Derived from the ancient Indian language of Sanskrit, the term yoga means “to yoke” or “unite.” Yoga practice involves a joining of the body, mind, and spirit. Through breath work, meditation, movements, and relaxation, yoga can help restore a sense of personal balance.
Numerous non-exercise aspects of yoga, such as breathing exercises and meditation, can help calm a busy mind and assist in letting go of stress. Given the many stress reducing benefits of yoga, it is not surprising that yoga can also be helpful in managing fears, panic, and anxiety.
Here are my favourite poses when it comes to stress, worry and anxiety.
This is a simple posture that can deliver dramatic benefits. Relax on your stomach with arms folded on the floor above your head. Similar to Savasana (Corpse Pose), in which you lie face-up, Crocodile Pose allows you to release all of your tension, but because it puts your belly and face to the ground, it can make a socially anxious person feel less exposed and vulnerable. In Crocodile Pose, you can practice yogic breathing (consciously using your diaphragm), which feels both calming and empowering.
Seated twists are powerful anxiety relievers. They teach you to relax even when you find yourself in a tight spot. Nerves run along the spine so you are also calming the nervous system with this gentle massage to the spine. Once a deep twist has been achieved, focus on the breath. You’ll soon discover that breathing relieves the anxiety and discomfort of the pose. Next, you can apply this insight to other life situations—stress after hearing negative news, sitting in a meeting while trying to keep kids busy, or any situation that makes you feel anxious. It’s very easy to do inconspicuously anywhere.
Legs up the Wall:
This is great before bed. Place your buttocks as close as possible to the wall. It is easier if you curl to your side first, pressing your hip to the wall and then turn when you can stretch your legs straight against the wall.
Relax your arms by your side with your palms facing up.
Close your eyes or use an eye pad (scented is great). Clear your mind by focusing on your breath.
Take deep breaths here: 6 counts to inhale, 8 counts to exhale. Allow yourself to release tension here as you hold this pose for as long as you like. Your heart rate typically slows down immediately here.
Forward Bends (on floor or standing)
Do this whenever your mind is racing. The blood flow to your head will allow tension to leave your body and your mind to relax. Keep fit together and bend forward for as long as you can with a straight back. Then, allow your head to drop towards your knees. Bend your knees slightly. Breath in through your nose and out through your nose. Focus on your breathing and encourage your muscles to soften and release by taking your focus to the ‘tight’ spots.
Never underestimate the power of a simple pose or deep yogic breath. It can literally change calm you down in seconds.
Linda Ljucovic, Holistic Nutritionist and Yoga Teacher, Oakville