Managing Stress and Anxiety with Yoga
Yoga is an amazing tool for relaxing and reducing stress but what happens when you step off the mat and leave the studio? Maybe sometimes you might try some of what you did in class but for the most part there is a distinct separation between ‘relaxed yoga time’ and the ‘real world’.
I started Yoga for Stress and Anxiety with the intention of creating a class focused on the specific aspects of Yoga that can help to manage feelings of stress and anxiety and to also provide tools each week that could be taken beyond the mat and into everyday life.
Every week we explore breathing techniques, yoga movement and flow, meditation, guided relaxations and yoga nidra throughout the class. It allows time to switch off and calm down the nervous system creating a feeling of being rested and more grounded, as well as the opportunity to take something away.
An hour’s class is great but a workshop, even better! This weekend I hosted a workshop so we could go deeper and start to build up an effective ‘toolkit’ to help manage stress and anxiety beyond the mat.
These are some of the tools we explored and options for you to take these into your daily life:
1. Mindfulness & Meditation
It is awesome to see the term mindfulness has become so mainstream. The whole basis of Yoga is about becoming more mindful, not necessarily in the way you hear mindfulness described, with the use of your senses, but more an internal withdrawing away from the senses and becoming mindful of sensations and breath as you move through your yoga practice.
This is a tool you can take into your day by introducing a meditation practice. Even just a few minutes a day to create some space for you to breathe and become mindful can have a measured effect. Be aware that is called a ‘practice’ for a reason though and it may take time to settle in to what works for you. Some like silence, others work with mantra, music and focusing on different aspects within like breathing, chakras or physical sensation in the body.
Remember the goal is not to clear your mind or give yourself grief for not staying present. Be kind to yourself and let your intention be just to notice what happens, maybe allow there to be more space. As you start to focus on your breath you may notice that the mind slows down creating more space between your thoughts.
There are so many great breathing exercises that can be used to help to calm the nervous system. During the workshop we used box breathing, find out more about why and how to do it here.
This and other breathing techniques can be done anywhere and anytime to help manage anything from stress all the way through to panic attacks
3. Flow state
The reason I teach flow Yoga is because of the benefits of flow state. Getting into flow can get you fully in the moment and is referred to as pure happiness by psychologists. The flow state is created when you are immersed in an activity that requires your full attention but is easy enough that is doesn’t cause stress or strain, things like dancing, colouring and even bricklaying. Repeating sequences in Yoga enough times so you start to know what you are doing but not so much that you can move your body whilst simultaneously planning your dinner. That is why the sequence changes slightly as the class goes on.
Getting into flow is probably the most fun so find what you love and add it into your week. Dance, colour, draw, create. Find your flow.
4. Self-love & Self Massage
As often as I can I will give self-massage options in class. It is not always possible to take time out for a full body massage, but you can always make time to give yourself a little foot rub. Even just taking more time in the shower or after the shower, rather than just washing or putting moisturiser on with no attention to what you are doing try taking your time and massage yourself. Give your body the love it deserves.
5. Yoga Nidra
A 20-minute yoga Nidra is said to be the equivalent effect on the body as 3 hours sleep. It is a great way to calm your nervous system and be an effective tool to help with sleep. YouTube has so many options, search and play the person’s voice before you start to make sure that their tone and any background noise works for you. Find out more here.
I have been using scents to manage panic attacks and anxiety for the last 2 years. I decided that I wanted to manage my mental health in a natural way and so discovering this worked for me. That doesn’t mean it will work for everyone but nice smells in your house can’t be a bad thing!
I was using a blend of orange, lavender, rosemary, and ginger from Arbonne in the workshop this weekend in a diffuser and as an ingredient in the moisturiser I made for the face massage.
Here are a few other aromatherapy scents that have been used to elicit relaxation and decrease negative emotions:
Lavender: Known for its soothing effects, lavender oil is often used to help relax and unwind. The smell of lavender is believed to help boost mood and reduce feelings of nervousness. This scent can be used any time of day to facilitate a calming effect. It can be especially beneficial to use before bed to promote restful sleep. Lavender oil has also been found to relieve headaches and migraines, which are common co-occurring conditions for people with panic disorder
Lemon: This essential oil is thought to reduce feelings of sluggishness, fatigue, and sadness. The scent of lemon oil is believed to help uplift mood, improve concentration, reduce fearful thinking, and relieve stress.
Bergamot: The smell of bergamot oil can help you feel refreshed and energized. This essential oil may also help in coping with panic disorder symptoms, as it is believed to help stabilize fearful thinking, lower anxious feelings, and bring about deep relaxation.
Ylang-ylang: helps relieve tension, sadness, and worry. It is also thought to boost mood and attitude.
I get my essential oils from Starchild plastic free and pure. A lot of essential oils are watered down especially the cheaper ones. I find these ones to be really good quality
As you explore your Yoga practice beyond the mat you will start to create the go to tools that work best for you. We are all different and so different things work better for others. Share what you find on Facebook and Instagram
Yoga for Stress and Anxiety is Tuesdays 6pm at Revitalise Brighton. For those who want a more personal approach private sessions can be a useful way to go deeper, get in touch for more information.