How Yoga Has Helped Me Deal With My Anxiety

My story is one that has been told before and perhaps one that you may have experienced yourself but I feel it’s important to share. I’ve always been a ‘stress head’, a perfectionist to my core and with that comes a great deal of self induced pressure and anxiety of not doing enough or being enough. I don’t really know what brought this ‘need to please’ tendency on or when it even started, I just know I’ve had this in me for as long as I can remember.

Anxiety takes on many different forms and feels different for everyone but for me it’s a feeling of restlessness. It creeps up on me like a bad dream. I’ll get a little flutter in my heart like I’ve forgotten to do something important and the more I fixate on that feeling the more I can feel my heart racing and rising up inside my chest until I feel like my heart is in my throat and it becomes hard to breathe. More recently I’ve been getting headaches to go along with that which is like a lucky bonus (not!).

The thing is I really shouldn’t be feeling anxious or stressed as I came back from holiday not too long ago. I travelled to Colombia for three weeks with my mum to visit her home town, meet relatives I hadn’t met before and explore the country. I can’t even remember the last time I’ve had a three week break and while the trip was absolutely amazing and particularly meaningful to me as I got to connect with my maternal roots, I came home and instead of feeling relaxed and refreshed (which only lasted for a couple of days) I soon started to get these waves of anxiety.

As soon as I got back it dawned on me that we are quickly approaching the end of 2016 and with the countdown to Christmas upon us I feel like I haven’t achieved all the things I set out for myself this year. I’m not ready for the year to end, I haven’t done enough or accomplished enough and if I don’t do it this year then I have to add it onto my 2017 ‘to do’ list which is already pretty long and then that wave of anxiety hits me again.

So where does yoga fit into all this?

Well if there’s one thing that yoga has taught me it’s to learn how to be more present. I can’t change the past and stressing about the future has no benefit to me whatsoever so when I get my bouts of anxiety I try to bring myself into the present moment by focusing on my breath.

Have you ever been really stressed at work or at home and someone has said to you “relax, just breathe”? If you’re rolling your eyes at that statement and thinking “yeah, easier said than done!” then you’re just like me.

While you can simply relax when someone tells you there is a something you can do in moments of stress or anxiety.

Breathe.

tawny

 

When I feel anxiety creeping in I take a moment, stop what I’m doing, close my eyes and take a few deep breaths. The key word here is deep. In everyday life our breath tends to be shallow, only breathing from the top of the chest and it’s not very often that we use our diaphragm (a dome shaped balloon which inflates and deflates) at the base of our lungs.

By using our diaphragm and taking deep abdominal breaths we can slow down our breathing and ground our nervous system by switching from the sympathetic nervous system (SNS) ‘fight or flight’ to the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS) ‘rest and digest’.

TRY THIS….

Find a comfortable position either seated or lying down and bring your hands to your belly. Relax your shoulders back and down. Now close your eyes. Take a moment to bring your attention to your breath.

On your next inhale take a deep breath in through your nose and let your belly expand into your hands like a balloon being inflated. Once you’ve filled up a comfortable amount, open your mouth and exhale with a sigh.

Try it again.

Inhale through your nose. Exhale through your mouth.

Again.

Inhale through your nose. Exhale through your mouth.

Take a moment at the end of your last exhale and notice how you feel. Do you feel a little more grounded, calmer and lighter?

If you have the time, practice this technique for 2-5 minutes.

We’ve all experienced stress or anxiety at one point in our lives and while this isn’t a cure, taking a couple of minutes to breathe deeply and ground your nervous system can have a huge impact on your body, mind and spirit. I know it has for me so give it a try and see for yourself.

Namaste

Tawny

tawny the olive fox

 

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