What is Anxiety?
If you are feeling anxious, know that you are not alone. Everybody will experience anxiety at sometime; it’s a normal human emotion. Saying that, the speed at which we are living and the speed our brains and nervous systems are accessing information has greatly increased. This means anxiety has become a bigger deal.
Looking through the lens of Ayurveda, anxiety is a Vata imbalance. This is an excess of the Ether and Air elements. This means that certain body types are more prone to becoming affected by anxiety and certain activities can increase anxiety.
How does yoga help
When we feel anxious the energy in the body rises upwards and we tend to shallow breath, we may experience dizziness, nausea, heart palpitations, insomnia and digestive issues. If you have extreme anxiety it may also lead to panic attacks. Slow hatha yoga where we focus on grounding is a great panacea for anxiety.
On a mental level anxious thoughts are future focused. Yoga, mindfulness meditation, breath work can help bring us back into the present moment.
3 steps to calm Anxiety
Step 1 – Awareness
Recognise that you are feeling anxious, acknowledge that anxiety is occurring, and it’s nothing to be ashamed of.
Step 2 – Allow
Allow it to be there, to feel it. Try not to resist the anxiety but instead, notice where in the body you are feeling the effects of this emotion and notice the intensity. When we name anxiety for what it is, a temporary emotion that comes and goes, it takes away its power.
Step 2 – Action (Choose a way to respond)
Choose how to move forward, below are 5 ways you can do this through Yoga. Different approaches work for different people, choose what works for you.
‘Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms — to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way’ — Viktor Frankl
5 ways to calm Anxiety using Yoga
Bring your awareness into the body and out of the mind. You can do this through, slow yoga focusing on the connection between your feet and the earth, walking barefoot on the grass, earth or sand, giving yourself a foot massage.
Foot massage before bed, here is a video that shows an ayurvedic foot massage.
Focus on the Breath
When we feel anxious, we tend to shallow breathe taking some deeper breaths into our belly can help us feel calmer.
Focus on Senses
Our senses are connected to our sympathetic nervous system our ‘fight, flight and freeze’ response. When our senses are alerted and our attention is outwardly focused, the sympathetic nervous system is switched on and the cortisol is pumping around our body, in this state we are ready for action, we are not relaxed and may feel anxious.
When we relax our senses and move our attention to feeling from the inside out we start to access our parasympathetic and enteric nervous systems. This is the place where true relaxation takes place. This is sometimes called the ‘rest and digest’ response.
Turn your attention inwards, notice the sensations of the body, notice the air on the skin, or the seat you are sitting on notice what you can hear, what can you smell? Walking in nature with awareness on our senses is very soothing to the nervous system.
Certain foods and beverages increase anxiety for example light, dry, cold and raw foods will aggravate anxiety. Caffeine and other stimulants all increase the ether and air elements in the body. Warm nourishing meals help us feel more grounded. Eating at regular mealtimes is also soothing for anxiety.
Massage is the oldest healing modality on the planet. In the ancient science of Ayurveda there is a practice of self-massage that helps to ground and nourish us. It is ‘Self Abhyanga’ or ‘Self Warm Oil Massage’ (massaging the body with large amounts of warm oil).
I really encourage you to try this as not only will it keep you feeling warm and looking young, it is also a delicious, calming and relaxing experience. It is a simple self-care exercise that you can introduce into your weekly or even daily routine.
For instructions on how to do this, visit this page.
For some people daily meditation is very helpful to keep anxiety at bay. However, there are many types of meditation. Mindfulness meditation where you focus on the sensations of the body and present moment awareness is the most effective. Meditation where you focus on vast expansive spaces and emptiness can actually increase anxiety. Therefore choose a meditation to suit your current emotional state.
For customized Yoga Therapy plans to manage anxiety email: Justine@triveda.com.au