Racing heart rate, sweaty palms, shallow breaths, muscles that are so tense they feel like violin strings…
All of these are physical symptoms of anxiety and worry.
Add to this restlessness, an inability to concentrate and even to fall asleep, and you can see how anxiety and worry can really affect your life!
Now, being anxious or worried happens to most of us at some point and is perfectly normal.
On the other hand, it needs addressing when these worried thoughts creep up in your mind every day or every night.
Yoga and anxiety
Anxiety starts in our thoughts. The root of anxiety comes from projecting oneself into a future that we don’t think we can handle.
Take a moment to think of one thing that you are anxious about. It is very likely something to do with a negative projection of yourself in the future.
The good news is that, as much as our thoughts influence our body in all the wonderful ways we saw above, our body can influence our thoughts.
And that is where yoga comes in.
Yoga directly works on releasing the physical manifestations of anxiety.
Through the sequences and poses, the muscles get stretched and can release the tension they are holding.
By bringing awareness to the breath, it becomes slower and deeper.
And breathing slowly and calmly helps to reduce your heart rate.
Yoga and the mind
But yoga goes further than just releasing the physical tension.
During a yoga class, your mind is constantly called back to your body, your breath and whichever movement you are doing.
That constant calling back of your attention stops your mind from wandering away into a negative, anxious spiral.
And with your mind focused on what you are doing (most of the time anyway!), you can use empowering affirmations and visualisations that will help you change your mind away from worry and to a more positive place.
How to make the most of your yoga practice if you want to relax?
Be kind to yourself.
Let’s get something straight: you are not doing yoga to keep telling yourself that you’re not flexible enough and that you can’t do anything right!
We can all be so hard on ourselves can’t we?
So, for however long your yoga practice is, make a deal with yourself that you will not criticise yourself.
Do your yoga and accept where you are on this journey.
If you can’t touch the floor, so what? You’re still getting the stretch.
If you can’t still your mind for more than 30 seconds, at least you are now noticing it rather than going along with your train of thoughts.
It all starts with the breath
Notice your breath and move with it.
Your breath is always there for you and you can use it as an anchor to stop your mind from going places that you’d rather it didn’t investigate.
As much as you can, try and time your movements to the breath. And, still as much as you can, when you notice that your mind has wandered off, bring it back to the breath. Gently, and without criticising (remember point 1).
Accept the affirmations
Not everybody is a fan of affirmations but when it comes to overcoming stress and anxiety, they can really help.
Anxiety is based on negative thoughts and you can choose to replace these thoughts by positive ones.
So, even if it doesn’t ring quite true to you yet, give them a try.
If you are invited to affirm that you are strong and have a purpose for example, and that it doesn’t quite sound right yet, try it for size. It might resonate with a part of you and spark something really precious.
Negative thoughts have got you feeling anxious and worried, maybe positive thoughts – even if somewhat forced at the beginning – are the way out.
Let yourself relax
When I first started going to yoga, I used to find the relaxation at the end of the class a waste of time!
Little did I know that it is possibly THE most important part of the class. It is when your body gets a chance to really let go, your mind gets to switch off and all the good things you have done during the class can settle down in your body.
So if you are like me and think that the 15-20 minutes at the end are torture because you’d rather be moving, still give it a try. You might be surprised by how good it makes you feel!
And if you really can’t bear to lie down for that length of time, you can always do the relaxation sitting down if that feels more comfortable.
Yoga is really powerful against anxiety and worry. The keys are to accept where you are in your yoga journey, to be kind to yourself and to open to the possibility of a calmer and more relaxed you.
To start your yoga journey right now, click on the image below to access my seated relaxation that will help you get in touch with the calmer and more relaxed version of you: