Yoga To Help You Befriend Your Anxiety

Inhale. Exhale.

And again. Keep going.

Slow it down.

Good. You are a warrior.

And on the outside, we all like to play warrior. Using our bodies as armour, a shield, a barrier… To what’s really going on underneath.

It’s almost become an inverted new trend that everyone gets sucked into – But… No one actually wants it. Yet most of us have it on some level.

ANXIETY. The millennials’ malady.

Anxiety

So, how do we deal with it?

On doing a little research, there are literally hundreds of articles out there about ‘top yoga moves to reduce anxiety’. Crazy idea time… What if we stop looking for ways to reduce anxiety, and start working on ways to befriend it? Hear me out.

‘Why would I want to befriend my anxiety?’ I hear you cry.

For the simple fact that, by denying our shadow, or trying to push it away, or treating it like an enemy, it ends up creating lot more shade in our life than it does light.

Through our yoga practice, here are my five ways that we can become chums with our anxiety first, which might just result in paving its exit route:

  • Set an intention before you begin that will bring your anxiety to the forefront. Rather than use your practice to escape from negative feelings, use your practice to get to know them better. Put anxiety in the spotlight. Say ‘it is my intention to embrace my anxiety and allow my shadow to become my light’. Watch and feel what happens.
  • Forward folds. Yoga classes feature a lot of forward folds, which are not only great for aiding digestion and toning your abs (woohoo!), but they’re a great opportunity to revisit your intention and go inside. Use this time to close your eyes, block out the external world and bring your focus back to the feelings you’re scared of. Start an internal conversation with your anxiety. Say hello to it. Invite it to silently sit there with you as you breathe with it. Treat it like your friend, and feel it calmly dissolve with each breath.

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  • Inversions are scary! Like anxiety is scary. It’s about learning to find comfort in the fear. Get upside down, fall over as many times as you can, and learn to love it each time, knowing that every single one is making you stronger and better. Look at the world from a different perspective, literally. Similarly, try to see your anxiety as an ally, a partner, a sword helping you through the battle. On the physical side, inversions also help to calm the nervous system, sending the blood flow the opposite direction, allowing us to focus more upon our breathing than our thoughts. Handstands, headstands, pincha, you pick… Just get upside down and after a while, you might just start to see straight.
  • Child’s pose. This is a safety position. When you need a break, come into child’s pose and start to connect with your inner child. Visualise a time in your childhood when you felt safe and happy. Remember that you can choose to feel that way whenever you like – anxiety might have weaved its way into your adulthood, but ultimately, you are always in control of how you feel. Anxiety is just your adult invisible friend. Just let it know that you’re the one holding the reins.

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  • Lastly, breathe. Anxiety causes shallow breathing from the chest, so breathe into your abdomen and notice the difference. Take deep, conscious breaths right into your belly, feeling your sides and back expand with each inhale. Connect with your breath rather than your thoughts. Go one step further – on an inhale say to yourself ‘thank you anxiety’ and on an exhale: ‘for helping me grow’. Because pain is growth, and us humans are all about the growth.

Despite how awful it can feel, perhaps we shouldn’t be looking at anxiety as the enemy. Maybe it’s not something that needs to be conquered. It could be about time we take the higher road, put down our defenses and shake its hand. By pushing things we don’t want away, we really only draw them closer. Practice yoga to offer new perspectives. Inhale, exhale. Learn to embrace the shadows of your inner warrior, not just the light, and feel the shifts start to happen.

You got this!

 

Article featured in Elle Magazine, July 2016: http://www.elleuk.com/life-and-culture/elle-fit/articles/a31163/yoga-for-anxiety/

 

I Vote John Lennon

It’s been a week of massive change. On the day of the referendum, I was moving into my new flat in Brixton. I was on top of the world, or actually I was on top of the roof looking out over the world… A world which feels, to me, like it’s gone totally mad. I spent the weekend with some mates, letting go and laughing hard, and as we randomly took to chanting at our lawyer-come-comedy-actress friend in the making – ‘Alice! Alice! Who the f**k is Alice!’, it occurred to me that we are all Alice. And we’re all following a load of rabbits down a black hole to a wonderland gone wrong.

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I’m just gonna say it: we need better leaders.

People only ever act out of love or fear, and it’s my belief that the majority of the leaders of this world do not act out of love. That’s where we’re going so, so off key. Power, greed and money take preference over peace, empathy, compassion. We’re governed by people who march forward with their egos, not their souls, and use their status to convince everyone that their way is the right way. We’re programmed to believe that our soldiers are brave and honourable for fighting the enemy. As they charge towards one another, don’t their shields resemble mirrors?

The brave are not fighters. The brave are those who put their armour at their feet, stare their enemy in the face, and shake hands. No one wants to fight. No one wants to hurt. Ultimately, we all want peace… But currently, fear is in the lead.

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Not only do we need better leaders, we need better THINKERS – thinkers who don’t need followers to walk behind them, but want the whole world to walk beside them as one, because they GET it. Get that we’re all just energy, all made of the same stuff, all connected in this matrix field, and all, at the very depth of it, made of love. LOVE IS THE ANSWER. I’m aware that I sound like a weed-smoking hippy in the 60s with flowers in her hair. But I believe it’s the deepest truth that’s just washed over as if it’s only a fairytale, and we need to find our way back to it. Just listen to all the greatest songs ever written. There are so many clues, and the goosebumps you get when you listen is that truth coming to the surface.

 

Imagine there’s no countries,

It isn’t hard to do.

Nothing to kill or die for,

And no religion, too.

Imagine all the people,

Living life in peace…

 

You may say I’m a dreamer,

But I’m not the only one.

I hope someday you’ll join us,

And the world will be as one.

 

I don’t profess to know anything about politics, and I have no idea how to change the world. Admittedly, I feel scared to post this! But I’m staying true to what I’m writing about, going for love over fear, hoping it makes even a small shift somewhere. Now, as I sit here again on my roof, looking out over this mad world with all its grey clouds in the distance, I’m thinking, maybe for now, all this rain isn’t so bad… The planet needs rain in order to grow and nourish, just as we need tears and pain to release and start over. Maybe the storm the evening before the referendum marked a cry for growth, a plea for change. Maybe things need to get worse before they get better. Life’s a circle, and I’ve got faith the sun’s coming back round to give us a wonderland back on earth some day… We all just need to do our bit to move it in the right direction, choose to act with love, and not chase rabbits down holes.

I’d vote John Lennon any day.

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