Yoga for Anxiety
Belly Breathing/Abdominal Breathing
Anxiety tends to manifest itself as tension in the shoulders and abdomen, from continuous breathing mainly in the upper chest and collarbone region. Constantly breathing like this can signal to our sympathetic system that we are in stress. To counter that, try breathing into your belly, which allows the diaphragm to properly descend and expand, stimulating the parasympathetic system (our rest and digest mode!) and helps shift us into a calmer state.
Technique: Lying down, place your palms fingertips touching lightly on your belly and begin to slowly breathe through your nose. As you inhale, feel your belly rising, pause briefly then exhale, feel your belly fall and pause briefly. Try to breathe as slowly as possible without force. and then fully let it relax as you breathe. You should notice your fingers parting as your belly rises and touching at the end of the exhalation. Do this for 5 minutes. It’s a wonderful practice to calm your mind anytime and before sleep, at night if you’re finding it difficult to switch off your mind.
Some Yoga Postures for Anxiety.
Child’s Pose or Balasana in Sanskrit
Child’s pose is a deeply restful and relaxing pose. Kneel on your mat, sitting back on your heels. Supported by your hands, bring your head to the floor, or supporting it with a blanket or cushion and laying your hands alongside your feet with the palms facing up. Release through the shoulders, relax the body, and focus on the breath. If you have difficulty sitting on your heels in this pose, place a thickly folded blanket or towel under your feet allowing your toes to hang over. You can also use a bolster or thick cushion, which will be hugged in the child’s pose, making it particularly nurturing.
The bulk of our nerves run along the spine. When we calm our nervous system, the entire body relaxes. The power of yoga is that it stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system (rest and digest) and calms the fight-flight response of the Sympathetic Nervous System. The Cat/Cow pose nourishes the nervous system and instantly relaxes the body, releasing tension trapped in the spinal cord
To practice the pose, come onto all fours with your hands below the shoulders, fingers spread, and knees below the hips. Synchronizing breath and movement, inhale as you lower the belly and draw the shoulders together, opening the chest whilst looking up (Cow Pose), then arch the back up towards the ceiling as you exhale, drawing down the head to look at the navel, as you move into the Cat Pose. Repeat these movements several times making them fluid and slow, mindfully moving through it with your breath, as if you’re in a moving meditation. You can close your eyes to bring your attention more inward. Repeat approximately 8-10 times. A deeply relaxing and enjoyable sequence.
Seated Forward Bend.
Sit on the mat with your legs stretched out in front of you. Inhaling extend your arms up and exhaling reach forward towards your toes. Fold forward over your legs. Draw your shoulders away from your ears and lead with your breastbone. Use a bolster to support your head and bend your knees if you find this pose challenging or hurting your back. Stay here for a few minutes and then slowly go back to sitting.
Through Yoga, we can intentionally work on releasing stored emotions to diminish anxiety. Yoga involves mindfulness, deep breathing and focusing the mind. This can effectively help us when dealing with anxiety.
Anxiety is a broad condition that encompasses a huge range of meanings. For some people anxiety means a hint of nerves before heading into a meeting, for others, anxiety is a debilitating condition that includes worry or panic, the kind that makes it impossible to leave your home.
Many of us at different stages of our lives experience anxiety. We can face daily demands and overwhelming difficulties sometimes that can cause seemingly uncontrollable feelings of anxiety and fear. When you feel this way, it’s healing to calm yourself and to reclaim your sense of self and well-being. For centuries, yoga has offered a quiet retreat away from life’s pressures and has enabled us to reconnect to our inner peace.
Regular yoga practice has been proven to calm stress, improve concentration, and reduce the symptoms of anxiety. Before long, you’ll free yourself from the anxiety and fears that hold you back and learn to live with a more open heart and resilient mind. Just as yoga helps you feel more at home in your body, the mental and physical practices in yoga help increase our sense of contentment in life.
Anxiety can be a difficult emotion to let go of. It demands a lot of self-reflection, opening up to vulnerability, an understanding of what anxiety feels like in your body and how to move through it.
The first way to move toward acceptance is to ask “What is my anxiety trying to teach or show me?” Reflecting on this question may help us find a new perspective from anxiety being a “bad” thing that we have to get rid of, to something that gives us an opportunity for growth. This changes everything. This can give us the opportunity for growth in areas that we have not yet reached.
Most of the time when we try to resist or control something, it’s because we do not feel safe. Reminding ourselves that everything that is happening is for our personal growth and benefit, this can help us to relax a bit more and trust in the timing of our lives