Anxiety is a normal reaction to stress. It helps one deal with a tense situation in the office, study harder for an exam, and keep focused on an important speech. In general, it helps one cope. But when anxiety becomes an excessive, irrational dread of everyday situations, it has become a disabling disorder. We all know what anxiety feels like. Our heart pounds before a big presentation or a tough exam. We get butterflies in our stomach during a blind date. We worry and fret over family problems or feel jittery at the prospect of asking the boss for a raise. However, if worries and fears are preventing you from living your life the way you'd like to, you may be suffering from an anxiety disorder.
The good news is, there are many anxiety treatments and self-help strategies that can help you reduce your anxiety symptoms and take back control of your life. Because the anxiety disorders are a group of related conditions rather than a single disorder, they can look very different from person to person. One individual may suffer from intense anxiety attacks that strike without warning, while another gets panicky at the thought of mingling at a party. Someone else may struggle with a disabling fear of driving or uncontrollable, intrusive thoughts. Still another may live in a constant state of tension, worrying about anything and everything.
Yoga and Anxiety
Proper breathing is essential for good health. Most people don’t realize that improper breathing can cause a lot of problems ranging from general fatigue and anxiety to heart disease and cancer. This is because cell health is dependent on sufficient oxygen supply. Shallow breathing has become a hallmark of our lifestyle. We’re actually too busy to breathe. This hightens the body’s stress response and leads to anxiety. Yoga psychology also suggests many techniques for resolving conflicts, including acknowledging and accepting the conflict in all its depth; recognizing the need for some kind of change; resisting the inclination to act out feelings or to do nothing; exploring alternatives; communicating with others without blaming them; accepting feedback from others; using discrimination in accepting or rejecting alternatives; surrendering to necessary losses; acting with determination; accepting outcomes with equanimity; working calmly on a problem even if a negative outcome, or no outcome, seems inevitable; and letting intuition suggest new possibilities. These strategies are derived from what in yoga are called the yamas and niyamas-the attitudes toward life that are the basis of all yoga practices.
Characteristically yoga is a slow paced, slow breathing exercising technique, which is in sharp contrast to the symptoms and characters of the anxiety and our reaction to it. Driven by its characteristic prolonged breathing, yoga helps dampen the causes of anxiety within ones mind. The hormonal reactions in the blood are neutralized by determined and forceful self restraint. The shortness of breath, rapid pulses and heartbeats get soothed by steady but gradual supply of oxygen and reduction in circulation due to yoga.
YOGA POSES FOR ANXIETY
Single Leg Raise Pose
This is one of the best yoga poses for anxiety. Lie down straight on your back. Raise the right leg up straight and as far as possible while inhaling. Lower it back to original position exhaling. Then repeat the same with left leg. In the next cycle hold your feet with opposite hand while in the raised position. Hold it there for a while till you took a few breaths.
This is simply the easiest of the yoga poses for anxiety. Lying flat on stomach rest your palms besides your shoulders. Holding the feet together and toes pointing away, push-up your head and chest gently off the ground with head lifted up fully. Breathing sequence is inhaling while pushing up and exhaling on the way back.
Sage Twist Pose
This is also known as ardha matsyendrasana. Start like paschimothanasana. Rest right foot on left knee clamping it there, lock it by your left armpit and support yourself by resting right palm on the floor on the right side. Bend the left knee so much as to touch your hips by left heel. Twist torso as much as is possible to right and breathe 4-5 times. Go back to original position and do it for the next leg.
This is one of the effective yoga postures to reduce stress and anxiety. Proceed from shvana asana. With knees spread fully on the floor bend forward so much as to touch your belly to thighs and forehead to ground. Keep the hands fully stretched in front of you.
Sitting in padmasana, inhale till lungs are full. Hold breath as long as possible. Exhale from left nostril by closing the right one with right thumb. In the next cycle, exhale from the right nostril, closing the left nostril this time with right index finger.
YOGA ASANAS FOR ANXIETY
Shalabha" means "locust" in Sanskrit. The final position of this asana resembles a locust when it lowers its head to eat and raises its tail. Hence, the name 'Ardha' means 'half' in Sanskrit.
- Lie on the stomach with the face down on the ground.
- Stretch both the arms beside the body and clench the fists lightly.
- The hands can also be placed under the thighs. Inhale and retain the breath till the completion of the posture. 4. Pull the body and raise either of the legs by about 30 cms off the ground. Raise the leg as high as possible. Stretch the soles of the feet.
- Hold this position for five to thirty seconds.
- Then slowly bring the leg down on the ground.
- Exhale very slowly. Repeat this exercise with the other leg.
This asana strengthens the muscles of the legs and thighs and makes them supple. It tones up the spinal nerves and helps in relieving arthritic pain. It is an excellent asana for digestion.
- Sit with legs folded backwards, heels apart, knees and toes together.
- Adjust your hips between the heels (Vajrasana). Slowly raise your arms over the head.
- While exhaling, slowly bend forward and stretch your palms on the floor with abdomen pressing against the thighs.
- Then bring your face downwards and touch the floor with the forehead without raising the buttocks. Inhaling slowly, return to an upright position, reversing the process.
It's a very comfortable yoga position in which one lies in prone position on the abdomen with the head resting on the upper limbs. This position is also a first step for another asana, the Bhujangasana.
- Lie on the abdomen in prone position.
- Keep the legs and feet straight and close with the toes pointing away so that the soles face upwards. This is almost same as Shasthangasana, the prostrating position, a complete surrender pose, commonly used by Hindus in the temples and while paying respects to holy men and elders in the society.
- In Niralambasana, the head is up, supported by both hands with the palms under the chin forming a lotus, with the elbows resting on the ground.
- While breathing normally you can lie in this position as long as you want.
This Asana has also come through tradition. It has been described widely in modern Yoga Texts. We assume a triangular form through this practice hence it is called Trikonasana.
- Stand erect with legs together, hands by the side of the thighs.
- Make two or two and half feet distance between two legs and raise both the hands towards each side, so to make a parallel line with shoulder.
- Slowly bending towards right side (lateral) touch the toe of the left leg with the forefinger and middle finger of the right hand and raise the left hand towards sky. Gaze also should be up towards left hand.
- After maintaining it for sometime, slowly return to the second position.
- Now start bending slowly lateral towards left side and touch the toe of the right leg with left hand. Keep pointing towards sky. Gaze should be towards raised right hand.
- While returning back to the original position brings down your raised hand, leave the toes and stand erect with legs together.
Makara' in Sanskrit is crocodile. This position is basically meant for relaxation after performing other asanas.
- Lie in Saashtaangasana position.
- Spread the legs apart, so that the feet are at least 18 to 24 inches from one another.
- The heels should oppose each other with the toes pointing away.
- The thighs, abdomen and chest should rest on the ground and fold your arms so that they form a triangle under the face. The palms should clasp your opposite shoulder.
- The head rests on the triangle formed by the elbows and the shoulders.
- While breathing deeply stay in this position for at least 10 to 15 minutes.
Vakrasana was taught before Ardhamatsyendrasana, 'Vakra' means 'twisted'.
- Sit in Dandasana. Bend the right leg and bring the right foot near the left knee.
- Place the right palm on the ground right behind the back, the fingers pointing backwards.
- With the left arm, kept straight, push the bent leg towards the left. If possible, place the arm on the ground near the right foot.
- Pressing against the right leg and the ground, twist the head and shoulders as far back as possible.
- While returning, first bring back the head and shoulders.
- Doing the same motions on the other side completes the asana.