Anxiety can only take hold if you let it. You can take control by becoming knowledgeable on some methods that can help you. Keep reading to discover a toolkit of practices that hugely benefits your physical and mental well-being.
Part 1: Movements and Grounding
Mindfulness is the act of paying attention on purpose to present a moment of experience without judgement of what that experience is. As you practice, notice how you feel before and after all practices, it will develop the parts of your brain responsible for rationalising, paying attention and being aware of your well-being and help to downgrade that barking dog, the amygdala. Bodyscans are an excellent way to introduce mindfulness.
Relax your belly so the diaphragm can move down properly and the lower blood rich part of our lungs fills. This oxygenates our bodies more efficiently which can help to keep us in rest and digest and relaxed. Our psoas is the first muscle to engage if we go into fight and flight; anxiety may cause this to turn on when we don't want it to be. Check throughout the day that you are not holding your belly in or breathing in a shallow fashion.
If you are feeling anxious there is a good chance there is excess cortisol (stress hormone) in your body. It can be difficult to relax or be mindful if we have too much cortisol in the system. Therefore before going into a relaxation practice. Try the following:
- Sun salutations
- Chair posture (hands down)
- Warriors 1 and 2 (hands down)
- Spiralling movements help to undo tension at the pelvis and the psoas
- Neck rolls, stretches
- Suboccipital stretch by placing the head on a block and dropping chin to chest, hold here for a while and you are feeding back to your nervous system that you are not hyper alert and it may help you to relax the physical body.
- Breath of joy is excellent for lifting the spirits and the nervous system. Good posture and an open heart tell the body that we don't feel threatened.
- Side stretches to open intercostal muscles, this will help us breathe more easily.
- Holding seated forward bends for a while is also useful. It can help to relax the nervous system.
Coming out of our head, where anxious thoughts exists, and into our bodies in the present can help us relax the physical body. Our thoughts usually pertain to the past (things we can't change) or the future (hasn't happened). We must come into the present moment to realise that we are okay.
Feeling the touch of the ground where it is making contact with our bodies can be a great way to let go of physically held tension. When the brain understands that we are supported by the ground we can let go of muscular tension that we don’t need. This relaxation amongst other things, leads to a deeper breath, unlike a tense body's shallow breath.
Sit comfortably on the ground, and use props if you need to. Try to make sure the spine is erect. Notice the touch of the ground underneath your body. Notice how the touch feels in your body. Notice your breath. Deepen the breath slightly; on the inhale, imagine breathing up from the ground to the lungs; on the exhale, breathe from the lungs back down to the ground. Practice this for a few minutes. With every exhale, try to release tension present in the body.
For more details about yoga for mental well-being, you can contact YogaJo's here!
Joanne runs an advanced 300 Hour training for qualified yoga teachers which will build your skills as a yoga teacher to allow you to work skilfully and appropriately in both group and 1:1 sessions with those who may be suffering with their mental health.