The Practice: 5 Yoga Poses to Calm Your Mind
In today’s world, where people are prone to stress, anxiety, and depression, it’s more important than ever to search for ways to relax your mind. Relationships, work, school, and/or financial worries all take a toll on our bodies and minds, and yoga can be a welcome break from the pressures of everyday life. According to one study, a regular yoga practice may help you fight stress, anxiety, and depression. While yoga overall is very useful for calming the mind, we’ve selected five poses, which, when practiced mindfully, can make a big difference in your overall stress levels.
This pose stretches your lower back and hips, which can be very relaxing and help decrease fatigue. To try out this pose, first sit on your heels, leaving a gap between your thighs. Then, extend your upper body on the floor, your midsection resting between your thighs, and your arms fully extended on the floor. Take several long, deep breaths in this position. This position can be held for up to five minutes, or longer if you wish.
This pose is challenging, but it’s very effective at the same time. It enhances your energy level and mood, and strengthens your back. For the cobra pose, lie face down, position your palms on the floor shoulder width apart. Keep your lower body and pelvis grounded at all times, then inhale and lift your chest off the floor, while your lower body stays in place. Keep your attention on lifting from your core, rather than simply resting on your arms. You can hold the pose for a number of long, deep breaths, then let your body rest on the floor as you exhale.
There are three warrior poses. Warrior II Pose is a simple yoga pose, which can help release stress and tension. When doing this pose, let yourself be reminded of your inner strength and ability to stand strong against the challenges of life.
This is a cool yoga pose, and it’s not only for dancers. Anyone can implement this pose into their yoga routine. It’s a beautiful pose that symbolizes grace and elegance. You can do this pose with a light and happy feeling, as though you were a dancer. Not only can it release stress, but it also opens up the chest.
This is a very effective pose, but it’s not an easy pose to try. Although it takes some time to master the crow pose, you will be proud of yourself when you finally get the hang of it. This pose can enhance your focus, strength, and concentration. When doing this pose, let the mind be happy and calm. In Sanskrit, this state of mind is called prasanna chetana, a pleasant, relaxed awareness. Having a strong mind can also help you overcome the symptoms of depression.
Mental and emotional health is just as important as physical health. When ignored, stress can affect our physical well-being, as well as our mental peace. Making yoga a regular part of your life can help you manage stress and lower the risk of stress-related health problems.
Sophie Addison is a blogger and skincare expert, and is passionate about sharing her knowledge. She has written about everything from wrinkles to joint pain treatment, weight loss, and fitness news. She loves to garden and listen to music. Contact Sophie on Facebook or Pinterest.
Interested in learning more about the programs at the Art of Living Retreat Center? Check out our annual catalog here!
Walking the Path: 10 Reasons Why Spirituality Matters
The word “spirituality” means different things for different people. For some, spirituality is associated with religion and is tied to concrete rites and rituals. For others, meaningful activities like swimming, making art, and walking through the woods brings on a spiritual experience. For the most part, though, the word spirituality has become as ambiguous and vague as the word “the,” and is often stigmatized by associations to “hippy-dippy” new-age philosophies, patchouli, dreadlocks, and yoga pants.
Spirituality seems to have become confused with religion, as it is common to now associate as “spiritual” or “not spiritual”. However, at its core, spirituality is a sense of connection to something bigger than ourselves, and is not an ideology to believe or not believe in. Spirituality is, in fact, what gives life a sense of meaning and purpose.
Discovering a Pain Free Life: Millie’s Story
After struggling with PTSD for 15 years, and chronic pain that was triggered by multiple auto accidents, I decided to come here to participate in the Happiness Program and learn how to practice yoga. I wanted to find a way to exercise my body and cope with the pain emotionally and physically.
I am a biologist that does research that requires a lot of tenacity. In my field you never know what you’re going to get. One needs passion and fire in their soul to keep after those questions they have been asking, to try to find answers and solutions to real world problems. This course has empowered me to have the confidence in myself to go that extra mile, do those late night experiments, and solve those problems.
When I came here I was taking pain medicine for my back, I was unable to drive from fear of another accident, I had anxiety, and was riddled with depression and fear. I also had fear, coming here, that I would not improve, because many other methods had not worked for me.
During my stay here I had various treatments at the spa and participated in yoga and the Happiness Program. While having an open mind and heart and receiving care and love during my treatment I discovered that my lower back pain is gone. I have learned tangible tools to keep myself calm through any situation. I’m not waiting for my next pain pill, and I feel a greater sense of inner peace, calm, and victory over the things that were making my life closed and small.
I’ve also had insomnia for about 15 years, and with the techniques that we learned in the Happiness course I am now able to sleep soundly through the night without getting up and disturbing that precious REM sleep that restores the body and the spirit. I feel invigorated, confident, and excited to go back and do the things I enjoy without fear, anxiety, and the things that take away from everyday experiences.
One thing I could say to anyone who has post traumatic stress disorder, any kind of emotional dis-regulation, who is struggling and feeling that they can’t do the things they want in their lives, is that my experience here has changed my life.
Anyone who isn’t struggling with an emotional imbalance would love it because it gives one a sense of community, spirituality,and connectivity with nature and others.
Everyone should come here and immerse themselves in healing and peace because it will give you a new lease on life and empower you. It is something so invaluable that will carry me, happily, through the rest of my life.
Interested in learning more about programs at the Art of Living Retreat Center? Check out our annual catalog here.
Yoga and Anxiety, Part 2
This article continues from last week’s Yoga and Anxiety, Part 1. Regular yoga practice can help you stay calm and relaxed in daily life. Yoga also gives you the the strength to face events as they come, without losing your center. Yoga practice ideally includes the complete package of:
- Asanas (body postures)
- Pranayamas (breathing techniques)
- Ancient yoga philosophy
All have helped persons with anxiety recover and face life with new positivity and strength. The following yoga techniques can help calm an unsettled mind.
1. Practice asanas (yoga postures)
These yoga postures can help you achieve a happy and healthy mind and body. Asanas help release tension and negativity from the system. Particularly useful are:
◦ Bow Pose
◦ Fish Pose
◦ One-Legged Forward Bend
◦ Bridge Pose
◦ Cat Stretch
◦ Two-Legged Forward Bend
◦ Standing Forward Bend
◦ Downward Facing Dog
◦ Corpse Pose
Note: At the end of the yoga posture session, lay down in corpse pose to give your mind and body a few minutes of thorough relaxation. The technique is helpful in flushing out body toxins, a primary cause of stress, from the system. I use the CD by Art of Living, in which Sri Sri Ravi Shankar guides us into Yoga Nidra in his soothing voice and prayerful chants.
2. Practice pranayamas (breathing techniques)
Giving some attention to the breath will work wonders. Taking deeper, slower breaths can help free the mind of the unnecessary clutter of thoughts that breed anxiety. Try the following breathing practices:
◦ Deep Yogic Breaths
◦ Alternate Nostril Breathing (where the exhalation is longer than the inhalation)
◦ Bee Breath (Bhramari)
3. Meditate to enjoy the gift of a relaxed mind
Meditation can be an excellent technique to relax a distracted mind and give you a sense of calm and peace. Meditation also allows you to observe the tendencies of your own mind. Observing how your mind tends to stick to small, petty things gives you freedom from them. Similarly, meditation can help you not worry too much or get anxious about the unknown future.
4. Apply yoga philosophy in your life
Knowing and applying the ancient yoga knowledge in daily life can be the secret to happy and healthy living. Some simple yet profound principles of yoga (yamas and niyamas), directly address anxiety.
For instance, the Santosha principle (niyama) teaches the value of contentment. The Aprigraha principle can help us overcome greed, often a reason for stress and anxiety. Also, the Shaucha principle talks about cleanliness of the mind and body. This rule can particularly help if you tend to get too anxious about your health.
The yamas and niyamas of yoga also help us eat nutritious food and live a healthy lifestyle. Both aide in overcoming anxiety and stress. To understand the yoga philosophy, you may consider listening to Sri Sri Ravi Shankar’s Commentary on Patanjali Yoga Sutras.
5. Pray, keep faith and smile!
Prayer is the best form of reassurance and support to keep you anxiety-free. Developing habits of daily prayer, chanting ancient mantras, or singing devotional songs fills you with positive energy and helps calm the mind. They also instill a sense of deep faith that all happens for the best and there is a higher power that takes care. Moreover, make a conscious effort to smile more and more. It will instill confidence, calmness and positive vibrations instantaneously. Try it out right now!
6. Engage in some service for others
When we constantly remain stuck in ‘me and mine,’ it makes room for stress and anxiety. We keep worrying about what will happen to us. Rather, if we shift our attention to how we can be of some use to others around us and engage our self with some voluntary activities, we can experience deep satisfaction and immense joy.
7. Know the impermanence of the world
When this realization sets in that everything around us is temporary and changing, we become relaxed and settled from within. A feeling of ‘this too will pass and not remain forever’ arises in us and frees us from anxiety.
8. Remember a similar past situation in which we overcame anxiety
Recall how we have felt this anxiety in so many situations in the past, yet each time you have made it through the situation and became stronger having done so. This fills us with immense courage that we can overcome the current situation. Remember your capacity and know that the universe gives us only those situations or problems that we can handle.
9. Keep positive company around
When we spend more time with positive-minded people, we are influenced by similar thoughts, which reflect in our attitude to life. In the company of a positive person, joy, peace and relaxation arise in our own mind.
It’s important to note that yoga is more than a one-time activity. It is a way of living. While an allopathic doctor helps you understand the type of anxiety disorder you may have, a yoga teacher will guide you to handle your life with a broader perspective.
Although yoga can positively impact one’s health, it is not a substitute for medicine. It is important to learn and practice yoga postures under the supervision of a yoga teacher. In case of any medical condition, practice yoga postures after consulting a doctor and a trained yoga teacher.
If you are interested in trying out #1 today, click the button below.
If you haven’t already, check out Yoga and Anxiety Part 1.
Interested in learning more about programs at the Art of Living Retreat Center? Check out our annual catalog here.
Yoga and Anxiety, Part 1
40 million U.S. adults suffer from anxiety (that’s around 18 percent of Americans age 18 and over), making it the most common mental illness in the country. This number is gradually increasing; even those who have not been diagnosed are prone to experience stress, tension and anxiety in their day-to-day life. Today, many are anxious about how to deal with their anxiety!
Stress, fear, anxiety – if we start counting all those instances in life when we have experienced these emotions, we may lose count! Anxiety and nervousness over passing an important exam like the SAT, or our parent’s reaction to our report card, or a first date or a job interview– we have all lived through moments like these.
A little bit of fear is normal. In fact, just like salt in food, some small amounts of fear can be good, helping us stay disciplined, focused and dynamic.
The problem starts when fear becomes so persistently intimidating that it interferes with our everyday life. Everyone suffers mild anxiety from time to time, but chronic anxiety takes a tremendous toll on our body, draining our energy and leaving the body in constant stress. These effects are magnified when combined with an unhealthy lifestyle, which can result in:
· Muscle tension.
· Constricted breathing.
· A mind whirling in a swirl of thoughts that feed the problem.
Eventually, it can become an anxiety disorder, a state of excessive, chronic uneasiness, worry, or fear of the unknown. This is where techniques for managing the mind can help.
Techniques to Manage Anxiety
Here are some ways you can manage anxiety:
· Sing, dance and celebrate. The very intention to celebrate will pull you towards a harmonious state.
· Have faith and let go to the universe, or higher power. Know that the universe loves you and accepts you totally. A sense of security comes with the feeling of belongingness.
· Remind yourself of the big picture and commit to a greater goal. Just look at the sky and see how small your problems appear. At the same time, know you are one of a kind.
· Do something spontaneous. Anxiety grows from thinking too much about some anticipated action.
· Be ready to face the worst. This will bring stability to your mind.
· Finally, I recommend practicing yoga and, in particular, Sudarshan Kriya. This is a powerful breathing technique that uses specific, natural rhythms of breath to get you unstuck from stress. Sudarshan Kriya is a time-tested technique that millions of people across globe practice. One of its many benefits is a tension-free mind. 6 years ago, I learned this technique at an Art of Living Happiness Program. Every day since, I have been practicing it because it helps me to de-stress and recharge.
Yoga and Anxiety
Yoga is not just asanas, the physical body postures. The full tradition of yoga includes meditation, pranayama (breath-work), and ancient wisdom. Whether we know it or not, many of us have actually practiced yoga to calm our mind. For instance, have you ever told yourself or a friend in a difficult situation to just take a deep breath? That is using the rhythm of our breath to affect our mind, a practice of yoga. It is the ancient “chill pill.”
Humans have an innate ability to heal; what stops that healing is the stress and tension of daily life. Yoga calms our entire system. Today yoga is synonymous with peace of mind, relaxation and stress reduction. Through it, we can manage anxiety and release physical tension by moving our attention to the concrete reality of our body and breath.
You may have heard the phrase “adrenaline rush.” An adrenaline rush happens when we get stressed about a potential threat. Faced with such fear, the level of adrenaline rises, causing our heart to beat faster, muscles to tense and the body to sweat profusely. Scientific research shows that regular yoga practice can help significantly to reduce the level of this stress hormone.
For practical tips on how to incorporate yoga into your life, check out my next blog article, “9 Yoga Tips to Overcome Anxiety Disorder.” And of course, I do recommend also looking into the Art of Living Happiness Program!
One thing I mention in my next post is how beneficial it can be to lay in corpse pose at the end of your yoga session. Taking time for this asana gives your mind and body a few minutes of thorough relaxation. The technique is helpful in flushing out toxins, a primary cause of stress, from the system. I use the CD by Art of Living, in which Sri Sri Ravi Shankar guides listeners into Yoga Nidra in his soothing voice and prayerful chants. Click the button below to test it out for yourself!
For more on Yoga and Anxiety, check out Part 2.