Getting clear, calm and collected in 7 Yoga steps to stop anxiety.
Yeah!! It’s finally spring for those in the northen hemisphere and autumn in the southern. My favourite seasons. The seasons of change and renewal. Also the seasons of increased Vata. Last weeks article was about emotions and how we can transform them through Yoga and meditation. This week we’ll be looking at anxiety from Ayurvedic eyes and what we can do specific to empower ourselves if we feel overwhelmed.
- Understand what causes anxiety
- Learn how you can change your nervous system with Yogic practices
- Use your diet and daily routine to balance your emotions and mind
- Enjoy self care that will calm and centre your body, emotions and mind
Most of my teen and adult life I struggled with anxiety. Most who know me wouldn’t know it, because I was really good at acting like I was fine. I think a lot of us live our lives that way.
You probably experience bouts of doubts, worry, anxiety, panic attacks, emotions changing for no real reason. Or maybe You’re feeling stuck in flight or flight response and want to manage or even master this feeling.
Do feel like you have become a different person compared to how You used to feel?
I know I have many times…
And You want Yoga practice and knowledge to become resilient and confident again. That’s exactly what I wanted and didn’t know how or what. But after years of trial and error, I have some tools that can make a huge difference. To do that let’s dive into what causes anxiety to better understand how we can remedy.
Anxiety and it’s Causes
Medically, anxiety is the nervous system stuck in fight/flight response. The fight/flight response occurs when there is any stress, whether the threat is physical, mental or emotional. It releases adrenaline, a stress hormone, preparing our physiology to escape or fight. It diverts the blood away from the internal organs of digestion, regulation and growth, to motor muscles. If our body is flooded with adrenaline we can get stuck in this alert and ready f/f mode.
(If stress is chronic and consistent over long periods of time, our adrenals become exhausted, medically called Adrenal Fatigue, better known as Burnout.)
Ayurvedically, anxiety is excessive Vata dosha in the nervous system. Vata dosha is the psychobiological function of movement within the body/mind complex. Vata is like Wind; movement, breath, life changes. Too much wind becomes erratic, cold and drying movement of our energy and emotional states and quality of our living.
Vata when balanced is expressed as positive mental and emotional states like creativity, joy, intuition, expansiveness and deep spiritual understanding. When imbalance due to excess, Vata creates nervousness, doubts, worry, restlessness, just like too much wind will do to your skin. Because like increases like, opposite decreases. Therefore, to remedy excessive Vata, we need to increase the qualities of rhythm, warmth and moisture and the heavy quality of oils, sweet foods and anything that is not light, cold and erratic.
How to Change Gears of the Nervous System with Yoga
Advice is all too often, ‘Minimise stress’. But when our nervous system is stuck in the fight/flight gear, it can be really hard to switch to the rest/digest response. Luckily Ayurvedic principles applied to Yoga is powerful and effective.
Therefore, like winds’ irregular movement causing waves on the lake’s surface, the mind becomes erratic when we lack routine, rhythm and regularity. This affects our sense of clarity, our energy levels swing and our emotions become unreliable. Now imagine a movement that is soft, smooth, rhythmic within your body, breath and mind. This is the pattern we want to teach our breath, nervous system and mental fluctuations. Because this will affect our body, energy, emotions and mind. So the key is to go slow, smooth and softly in our day, practice, daily routine and any movement.
The 7 Simple Steps to Overcome Anxiety
The first 5 steps are to calm the nerves. The last one is to strengthen the nervous system.
Or download my Free PDF Yoga for a Calm Mind
1 Routine & Regularity– Eat regularly, wake up & go to sleep consistently, meditate, exercise and relax regularly. Find a rhythm that works well for You and stick to it. Prediction immediately calms the nervous system. Even symmetry and a clean and clear home will create a collected and centred feeling.
2 Stay Warm– Eat warm, oily food, dress warm so nerves are not constantly stimulated by chills. Warming the nerves engages the relaxation response, slows down the mind and grounds our emotional state. It switches us from fight/flight response to rest and digest response.
3 Breathe Out Slow– Slow breathing calms the nervous system, but the out breath activate the parasympathetic nervous system- the part responsible for the relaxation response. So breathe in for 5 breathe out for 10, do up to 10 rounds. Don’t do retentions, they might trigger nervousness.
4 Grounding Yoga Poses– Any poses that are close to the ground, bringing the energy inward and down will ground the nervous system. Any open and spacious movement will only create more anxiety. So forward bends such as cat/cow, child’s pose, wind relieving pose, forward fold, and garland pose. Even just lying on the floor, and hugging the knees, is very beneficial and centering.
5 Self Care– Self care can’t be overstated for anxiety, we tend to worry and spend too much time in our head. The most grounding practices are a warm bath, oil massage and touch. After a warm bath with essential oils such as Jasmin, Rose or any sweet smelling oils, oil yourself with a warming oil such as mustard, sesame or almond and nourish the soul, through touch. Touch is major healer of nervous sytem disregulation and anxiety. What every mother knows, when a child or baby cries nothing is more effective than holding, hugging to call the fears and sense of loneliness. More hugs and hand holding activates the relax response. Getting an oil massage its vital in calming the nerves. Also watch a funny film, allow yourself to indulge in an activity that will literally cheer you up.
6 Physical Exercise– This is huge! As a Yoga teacher for a long time I thought this was irrelevant for me, but human body is meant to run, walk and climb. Since 2 million years we have evolved to do just this. Therefore, when we do vigourous exercise our bodies are used to their full potential and that enlivens and awakens the natural intelligence of our bodies. Once the above routine calms your system, start jogging or doing a physical exercise that strengthens the entire body.
7 Proactivity– Being proactive means we do things to progress, not to perfection. Perfectionism causes paralysis and procrastination, cutting confidence. So its opposite is take action, see the fear and do it anyway. Anxiety is also associated to thoughts of the future, whereas depression is to do with the past. So act on those thoughts of the future, don’t ruminate or become paralysed, just act. Don’t worry if you make a mistake, or someone doesn’t like you for what you do. You can’t please all the people all the time. We are human, not supernatural. Accept yourself and You will believe others are more accepting of You.
Now it’s time to turn ideas and insight into action. Write down in the comments below what You do to contribute to your anxiety and which steps you can take right now to remedy it.
Namaste, with Love,