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.
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.
- 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.
- 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/