This continues our previous article, 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 haven’t already, check out Yoga and Anxiety Part 1.