What to do with this Anxiety – Part I

I’ve been thinking about anxiety a lot lately and about how to deal with it – it can be so overpowering at times! The following are my thoughts and suggestions on how to get control of this troubling mental state.

Sometimes anxiety is just a big hairy beast that sits on your chest. Nothing will make it go away – it is too big and ominous. What to do? In this situation, the best you can do is to just accept it. It just is what it is. Get present in THIS moment and just acknowledge it. Okay, I’m anxious. This is anxiety. Fine, I’m anxious. Then breathe. Notice exactly what anxiety feels like in the body. Observe it like a scientist, without judgment. From there continue to investigate the present moment. Tune into your senses: look at your environment, notice the sounds, smell the smells, notices textures and temperatures. This is the present moment. Does your anxiety have to do with this exact moment? Acknowledge that you are doing the best you can. Try some diaphragmatic breathing which is good for these anxiety beasts. Know that before long, the situation will change. Everything changes.

The Benefits of a Regular Practice

So it’s great that you’ve been going to class once or twice a week and you love how you feel afterward. You like the changes that have been happening, but now you’d like to have that after-yoga feeling more often. So how do you establish a regular home practice? Here are some tips:

Decide how much time you can allot and how many times a week to practice. Keep it short and achievable!

Decide on your content. Again, keep it achievable. Many times in class I’ve suggested that you find your “gateway pose.” This is a pose or movement that you love to do – it feels really good and you want to do it. So start with that (unless a warm up is needed to get to that!). Many people like cat/cow.

That’s it – give it a try! Even a short home practice can set you up for the day, establishing a pleasant mood and creating a small buffer between you and the chaos of the world.

Here are a few of the benefits of a home practice:

  • increased flexibility
  • improved posture
  • fuller, deeper breath
  • improved sleep patterns
  • relief from anxiety
  • ability to see change/growth

What is exciting is that with this steady practice you will be able to notice changes. My students have come to class saying things like, “my feet are more flexible,” “I’m having fewer migraines,” “my back pain is gone,” “I’m standing up straighter without effort,” “that breathing technique is helping me fall asleep!”

As for me, my morning practice has developed over the course of about ten years and it definitely has waxed and waned. I’ve come now to see this waxing and waning as natural and organic so I don’t get discouraged when it seems to drop off. I do my best to keep something of the practice going – a few hip stretches or a couple of my favorite standing poses, maybe a few minutes of meditation and breathing  – and know that I will move back into my full practice as soon as I am able.