You need to be able to turn to some go-to techniques to calm down whenever you start to feel that panicky feeling creeping up on you, or get out of bed on the anxious side. One of the ways I have been dealing with my own morning anxiety is by learning about and practicing Yoga – it may be a cliche, but there’s a reason it’s so popular…
Yoga, of course, is well known for its use in relaxation and mindfulness. In fact, Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) programs include Yoga as a technique to reduce stress. Studies have found that groups treated with Yoga report significantly reduced stress compared to control groups. It also showed positive effects on sleep and anxiety. All good things in my view!
So why can yoga be a helpful technique to calm down?
Yoga can be – although this is a slight simplification – broken down into three main areas: asanas (the poses we see being performed, particularly popular on Instagram!), pranayamas (or breathing techniques), and meditation or mindfulness. These three strands form the package of Yoga.
The breathing aspect of Yoga helps relax the body by encouraging the release of tension from muscle groups, as well as providing an increase of oxygen flow to the body and brain. There are a variety of different breathing techniques associated with Yoga, and each has its own place and purpose. For example, Shavasana, or corpse pose, is perfect for practicing deep, rhythmic breathing from the diaphragm.
By focusing on the way we are breathing as well as the pose we are holding with our bodies, we can relax and be more aware of ourselves – away from the constant flood of anxious thoughts. Yoga can help teach us to be “in the moment”, or rather to take ourselves out of the overwhelm and to simply think about our bodies and our breath.
This combination of movement, awareness of the body and focus on breathing techniques is what helps to calm overactive minds. We shift the focus off our thoughts and onto the physical acts of moving and breathing. If you’re interested in finding out more about breathing techniques, I’ve written a blog post on one of my favourites, here.
It’s easy to dismiss Yoga as not for you because you find it hard to keep your mind still and in the moment. We’ve all experienced the wandering mind – mine usually tells me things like, “I don’t think we looked the car”! But that’s okay. It’s all about practice. If you do start to feel those thoughts creep in, put them to one side again and focus on the way your breath is moving in and out of your lungs.
Like anything, Yoga and mindfulness meditation become easier with practice – although I am still learning! However, that’s exactly what is so good about it as one of our techniques to calm down. Our brains need to learn how to control our responses and reactions. So, if we can teach ourselves to do so in a relaxed environment, it should help us confront those anxious thoughts in everyday life.
Ready to give it a try? Here are 5 of the best Yoga poses to help you relax:
Try each pose for about 1 minute. Can’t do one of the poses? Don’t worry, do the ones you are comfortable with a create a sequence that works for you.
Child’s Pose Balasana
This is a resting posture. It can help quiet the mind; easing stress and anxiety whilst also gently stretching the back.
Corpse Pose Shavasana
Most yoga practices end with several minutes spent in Savasana, it is easily the most relaxing of all the poses.
Legs-Up-The-Wall Pose Viparita Karani
This posture allows your blood to flow around your body. It helps calm anxiety as well as relieve symptoms of mild depression and insomnia
Cat Pose Marjaryasana
The cat pose is great to stretch the lower back. It relieves stress while gently massaging the spine. Try arching and rounding the back a few times in a row, breathing deeply.
Lotus Pose Padmasana
Lotus Pose is one of the poses we most associate with Yoga. The positioning is meant to allow you to feel that your body is both grounded and open to the energy of the universe. It also permits deep breathing, which is great for relaxing both mind and body.
Have you ever tried yoga to help with anxiety? How did you find it? Where did you practice? I’d love to hear your experiences!
Interested but don’t know where to start? Try Bad Yogi – she does weekly free yoga classes online as well as guided meditations. I highly recommend! Plus I love her philosophy towards life in general. Find her stuff here, and sign up to receive the classes in your inbox.