Over the last couple of weeks, at least 5 different people have brought up the issue of anxiety during our casual conversation. I thought it was interesting given that we have just started Spring. As the seasons change, I often find the energy changes as well, sending people into a bit of a frenzy. What I had chalked up to be Spring Fever, could very well be a form of anxiety.
Anxiety and stress are the two reasons I started practicing years ago. I had heard that the breathing and poses help to relax the body and the mind. Fast forward 7 years, 6 of those working in an office environment, I decided to take the practice more seriously and become a yoga instructor. Yes, to help others, but mainly to help myself with stress management and to gain a more positive outlook on life.
So now that it’s over and I’m an instructor does that mean I’m constantly happy with no worries? No, not quite. While I still get stressed, disappointed, angry, and anxious from time to time, the way yoga helps is in the recovery time. I no longer worry about things for days, months (even years in some cases). With my yoga practice, I’ve learned to acknowledge my thoughts in a healthy manner and let go of those which are no longer serving me.
Insane in the Membrane
Some of us have this image of someone suffering from anxiety as a mental patient – scared to death about something – wearing straight jack in a padded room, but it is quite likely that you have suffered from at least one symptom of anxiety during your lifetime. While fear, excessive worry and panic attacks are all common (and extreme) symptoms, here are some others you might not be as familiar with, keep in mind the list below only scratches the surface:
- Muscle tension
- Decreased concentration
While there isn’t always an explanation, the factors that can trigger anxiety also vary, and the list is equally long:
- Drugs: OTC, prescription & recreational
- Unhealthy eating habits and lack of exercise
- Change – good or bad
- Stress in personal/work life
Forward Fold to Calm the Mind
Anxiety definitely begins in the mind, however its effects can become quite physical as it activates the body’s flight or fight response. Increased heart rate, nausea, dizziness are all associated with anxiety. If left untreated, anxiety can cause serious health consequences.
I firmly believe that regular yoga practice is the way to combat a busy mind, but you can’t always pull out your yoga mat when anxious feelings begin to creep up. Whether seated or standing, Forward Folds are a good choice in the moment because the head rests below the heart, sending a good supply of blood to the brain. Conscious breath while in the pose helps to calm the nervous system down and allow you to come back to a grounded state.
Standing Forward Fold
1) Stand with your feet together
2) Gently fold forward, bending from the hips
3) Bend your knees as much as you need to feel comfortable in the pose
4) When you’ve reached your edge, inhale deeply through your nose, let your belly expand onto your knees. Then exhale, bringing your belly button toward your back
5) Stay in this position for several breaths. As negative thoughts enter into your mind, acknowledge them but don’t dwell, go back to focusing on your breath.
Whether it’s just Spring Fever or anxiety, this pose is great for grounding and bringing you back to the present moment.