Anxiety has become one of the most annoying modern-day maladies. It negatively affects our lives in so many ways. We can’t think straight, we become so stressed that we forget to follow our dreams, and we even stop ourselves from maintaining and cultivating intimate relationships. Anxiety plagues the best of us, but the good news is that we have our yoga practice to turn to. Here are three ways to naturally stop anxiety:
Stress-Busting Bedtime Asanas
Sleep deprivation is a proven cause of anxiety. Our yoga practice can help us get better, longer and deeper sleep. Yoga and Ayurveda teach us how to get on a regular sleep schedule and maintain our circadian rhythms to become more attuned to Mother Nature. Keeping our circadian rhythms balanced helps lower cortisol (a stress hormone) levels and boosts adrenal health. The following yoga asanas done before bed will help ensure you get a good night's sleep. (Learn more about why Sleep is a Treasure.)
Seated Straddle Pose
This is a fun pose to do in bed, especially if you have a yoga bolster. All you need to do is spread out on your bed and place your legs into a seated straddle position. If you don’t have a bolster, take your pillow and place it horizontally in front of your torso so that you can fold forward to rest upon it. From here, let your legs sink into the bed as your upper body relaxes onto the pillow. Breathe slowly and deeply, melting the tension of the day away.
Legs-up-the-wall pose relaxes almost everyone who does it. It also helps to calm the mind, which helps you fall asleep more quickly. Also a good pose for the bed, place your pillow up against the headboard, then put your bottom against the headboard and lie down so that your legs are vertically up against the headboard and/or wall behind it. Allow your torso to relax into the bed, breathing deeply for five to 10 minutes.
Corpse pose, or savasana, is the perfect relaxing pose to do just before falling to sleep. You probably know how it’s done, but if you don’t, simply lie on your back. If you have one, use an eye pillow covering your eyes and let your legs and arms splay gently apart. Allow your belly to rise and fall while breathing deeply. With every inhalation and exhalation, melt deeper into relaxation, eventually falling off to sleep. (Read more about Restorative Yoga: Relax and Recharge.)
Boost Your Pranayama Practice
Your body holds onto stress and anxiety until you release it through your yoga practice. Using pranayama to breathe deeply, we can move our prana to parts of the body that are holding onto stress. There are many pranayama techniques to choose from and most of them stop anxiety in its tracks! They are miracle workers for preventing anxiety and panic attacks because they activate your parasympathetic nervous system (PNS) which puts your body into relaxation mode. In times of anxiety, work with deep breathing, nadi shodhana pranayama, and complete breathing. Try the practice of inhaling for a count of four, then retaining the breath for a count of four, and then exhaling for a count of four. Repeat this several times until you feel calm and peaceful. (Learn more in The Practice of Pranayama.)
Prep Your Mind for Meditation
If you don’t already have a regular meditation practice, this is the natural next step! To stop anxiety, you’ll want to commit to a regular practice right away. The art of meditation works to stop anxiety because it’s like an anti-anxiety workout for your brain. Meditation trains your brain not to react to stress and even turn off the stress response. Like pranayama, there are endless styles of meditation, and all have a profound effect on your ability to stop anxiety. There’s guided visualizations, primordial sound meditation, mindfulness meditation and many others. Each have powerful methods of calming the mind and stopping anxiety. They help us become less reactive and more intelligently responsive. Our yoga practice helps prepare the body and mind to go deeper into a regular meditation practice, which is key to stopping anxiety. (Read more on The Art of Mindfulness.)
These three tips are here to point you in the right direction as you learn to stop anxiety the natural way. Anxiety will probably never go away completely, but the more you do yoga, and the more you intend to stop anxiety with the techniques listed above, the more you will train your body and mind to live from a place of ease and relaxation.