As we all know, everybody’s body is different. We all have certain limits physically, and also emotionally. Some people can handle more depth than others, and that’s perfectly fine! Your uniqueness is what makes you…you. 🙂 Some people can touch their toes without any effort at all, while others feel really tight in their hamstrings or lower back. Some people need a slight bends in their knees, while others need a larger one. No worries! Some people never cry, and some can’t help but to not. And you know what? You guessed it! Either way is perfectly fine. My biggest thing is intention and awareness. You find intention from within, and awareness then follows. Your breath is your guide.
Yoga can help uncover some deep realizations both on and off the mat. That’s right, you can implement yoga throughout your everyday life and it doesn’t have to be crazy poses. When you are experiencing some anxiety, taking a moment to just stop and breathe for a few minutes can make a world of a difference. You can go from irrational to rational thinking quickly, and avoid unfavorable decisions you would have made on the fly. It is important to be more responsive and less reactive throughout life.
The STOP Method
I love the STOP method. You can implement the STOP method in your everyday life. When I first heard about this method I did this everyday on my walk into work. My job at the time was very high stress, and taking the time to do this really helped me not flip a cookie.
S: STOP whatever is going on in your brain for a moment to…
T: THINK about how you are feeling and how you are holding yourself. Is your jaw tensed? Are you clenching your hands? Are you chill? Happy? Sad? Mad? Where are you holding your shoulders? It’s good to take tabs on these things throughout your everyday life and then…
O: OBSERVE those thoughts or feelings without judgment. Try to relax your body and take a big, deep cleansing breathe. If you have time for more, definitely take advantage of that! Deep, slow, consistent breaths send signals to the nervous system that everything is fine, everything is okay, everything is chill. Continue to…
S: PROCEED with your day. Notice how you were feeling before and after doing the STOP method, and maybe switch gears depending on what came up within your awareness practice.
Feel Like You’re Going To Cry? Try This
In my yoga teacher training I had some anxiety around cuing people into a stable and anatomically aligned position for their body. After I felt like I had royally messed up, I felt anxiety. This is a familiar feeling, and I have been working on ways to cope my whole adulthood. For me, the feeling of anxiety usually shows up in my throat chakra, meaning I get a super tight chest and my throat feels constricted. Basically feeling like I just want to ball my eyes out. That day, instead of balling, I chose to take a moment for myself to lay on my back and breathe through the tight and constricted areas. I just literally let my peers know that I was feeling overwhelmed and just needed a little constructive breathing. This is what I did…
1. Lay on your back with the soles of your feet on the floor, knees bend. Place your hands lightly on your belly (option to place one hand over belly and one hand over heart.) Close your eyes if you’d like, and just breathe.
2. Take a full inhale, holding and pausing at the top for a moment.
3. With control, exhale slowly and feel that release.
4. Feel the rise and fall of your chest and diaphragm, noticing how they work opposite. As your chest rises on an inhale, your diaphragm lowers. As your chest lowers on an exhale, your diaphragm rises.
5. Pay attention to these opposites as you breathe deeply, imagining that your whole body is filling up completely on each inhale, and with that, finding a little more space within the ‘stuck’ areas of your body.
6. With each exhale, imagine letting go of whatever feelings of discomfort you are holding on to.
This yoga practice is very grounding, and if you happen to have the option to go outside and lay directly on the earth, I would highly suggest you take advantage on that! The earth is so healing, and sometimes we just need to embrace its power to give us exactly what we need. Trust it, and let go of everything else, even if it’s just for a few moments. Being outside on the grass with the trees swaying above me is definitely one of my happy places, and often a place that I take myself transcendentally (with my mind) if the outdoors isn’t as a present moment option.
If you can’t seem to just focus on the natural rise and fall your body creates with your breathe, try box breathing. You can do this in any position, but when I have anxiety, I prefer being on my back. I also do this in the car on a pretty regular basis.
Box Breathing: count ‘1, 2, 3, 4’ in your head for each part of your breathe. There are 4 parts (inhale, hold, exhale, hold)…
1. Inhale and count ‘1, 2, 3, 4’
2. Hold your inhale and count ‘1, 2, 3, 4’
3. Exhale slowly counting ‘1, 2, 3, 4’
4. Hold your exhale and count ‘1, 2, 3, 4’
Repeat until you feel a bit better. 🙂
I love how this method of breathing always give you something to focus on. I always find counting helps during times I just can’t seem to get out of my head. Once you can focus on the individual parts of your breath, you will more easily become in tune with your natural breath, and by that time, will feel much more calm and relaxed.
The Breath And The Nervous System
Breath is a major part of yoga, and in fact, I believe it was what makes yoga…yoga! (: As I mentioned before, the breath directly corresponds with the nervous system. When you take long, deep breaths, it sends calming signals to your brain, telling it that everything is all good. It chills the brain out. When you are taking short, quick breaths, it sends your brain into fight or flight mode. It puts you on edge and feeling like you’re ready to jump up out of your seat at any moment.
When we have anxiety, we aim to get ourselves out of that edgy mood. Deep breathing helps your body relax on a scientific level, and isn’t just some yoga fluff. Promise!
The Best Yoga For Anxiety
The best yoga for anxiety isn’t some crazy pose you get yourself into. That certainly helps with empowerment, but when you are having those tingling feelings, weak legs, a tight chest, or any other way your anxiety comes through, you don’t want to push yourself to your limits. You want to relax.
In yoga, breathe awareness is called Pranayama, and it so the most powerful tool I have found for grounding myself during tough times. A gentle pranayama is the best yoga for anxiety. And yes, pranayama IS yoga! 🙂