• Yoga for Stress and Anxiety by Sigrid Matthews


    Remember that when you are in the grips of anxiety that your mind is racing, you are usually dwelling on “what ifs?” and how to control your outer environment. Living with a pattern (both real or imagined) of stress stimulates the nervous system to operate continuously in fight or flight mode, sending messages to the body to produce more adrenaline, increase the heart rate, and decrease the breathing rate, all of which keeps you in the vicious cycle of anxiety you are hoping to break.

    When we learn to relax we turn on the parasympathetic nervous system, which promotes the rest and digest response. The more we can operate out of this state of being, the physically easier it is for us to move towards a state of equanimity. It can even be helpful to rehearse scenarios that make us anxious, unsettled, and stressed-out while in deeper states of relaxation to re-wire the body’s response to those things that make us feel out of control. True empowerment comes from mastering techniques which help us to turn our stress state into something we can work with and ultimately grow from.

    Below are some yoga tips to help you fine-tune your ability to move into a deeper connection to your source of well-being and live more freely in the moment - healthy and emotionally-balanced.

    • Practice daily “checking in" and 1:2 breathing ratio. Find a comfortable place (sitting, lying down, or even legs elevated (multi-tasking with an inversion)) and begin to turn your attention on how you’re feeling at this moment. Be as impartial as possible. Witness, make notes without a lot of judgment about whether it’s good or bad. After you’ve got a sense of the state of your emotions, where your thoughts are, energy level, etc., begin to observe your breath. Count the number of beats it takes for your inhale. Gradually increase your exhalation by a few beats.  Work yourself towards an exhalation that is double the length of your inhalation. If it is leaving you breathless or anxious to double the exhale, simply stick with breathing out a few extra beats more than you inhale. Do this breathing for 3 to 5 minutes, or count out a full 10 rounds if that’s easier. When you’ve come to a completion of the breathing exercise check in again and notice changes (if any). If there has been a shift, acknowledge it and note that states of mind and emotion are temporary and that you’ve managed (at least during the breathing exercise) to shift yourself.
    • If you are having a particularly stressful event or find yourself anxiously turning something over and over in your mind, take some time out to practice the 1:2 breathing exercise. Once you’ve established a nice rhythm, bring your mind back to your current situation and see if you can witness it while keeping the 1:2 breathing ratio. What happens?
    • Spend 5 minutes a day in a restorative inversion. Try legs up the wall or legs on a chair with a slightly rolled blanket or towel supporting the neck. This is a nice time to practice the breath and check in.
    • Spend 5 to 10 minutes in a restorative yoga posture (more if you have time). This is great to do daily or anytime you feel you need a break - especially if you feel you don’t have time for a break! See if you can break the cycle of feeling that you can’t relax until everything is done. A forward fold like supported childs pose is great. If you have time, pair this with a gentle backbend like supported bridge pose, legs elevated, and another forward folding pose like supported badha konasana (bound angle/butterfly) pose, upavistha konasana (wide-legged forward fold), or paschimottanasana (seated forward fold). End with an 8 breath savasana.
    • Take a bath with 8 to 10 drops of lavender essential oil.*
    • Drink a cup of herbal tea (like chamomile, or rose).
    • Take a brisk 10 to 15 minute walk.
    • Call or visit someone who could use a friend to listen to them (especially when you feel no one is listening to you!)
    • Sitali (shee-ahh-lee) Breath (10 rounds*).

    For an online yoga practice focused on stress and anxiety relief, tune into this restorative practice. Experience a deeper sense of peace, comfort, and relaxation by tapping into your parasympathetic nervous system. This online yoga class promotes well-being, overall health, healing, and boosts immunity. With regular practice of this online yoga video, you'll find it's easier to create "calm" off the mat.

    how to deal with stress

    *Essential oils have very small molecules that can pass through your skin and through the nose via the olfactory bulb to the limbic system where they stimulate the Hypothalamus. This area of the brain is where the fight/flight response lives and the soothing/calming nature of plant oils like lavender, chamomile, sandalwood, rose, and clary sage (stress/irritation from hormonal changes) can be profound. Essential oils are really nice to add to a warm bath just before going to bed to help ease insomnia and calm “monkey” (restless) mind.

    *Sitali or “cooling breath” = inhaling either through puckered lips or a rolled tongue and exhaling through the nostrils with a slight pause at the end of the exhale. This breath is thought to remove fever, still hunger, quench thirst, and alleviate diseases of the spleen. At the least, it is thought to be one of the more langhana (restful, stress-reducing) pranayamas (breathing exercises).

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