Yoga for Anxiety
Written by: Jenny Tanis, LMSW, RYT 200
Anxiety is a normal reaction to stress. It can be a beneficial stress response in some situations, however for millions of people anxiety can be debilitating making daily life activities insurmountable. Our culture does not help. We live in a world where busy lives filled with multitasking and never-ending to-do lists are the norm. When we catch up with friends over coffee, we often talk about how busy or overwhelmed we are. We are inundated with news of crisis, disaster, death, and controversy. Our individual level of stress has elevated due to rising collective stress on the local, national, and global level. This is just how we live. We are beginning to normalize feelings of overwhelm caused by anxiety and stress.
Despite what our culture is screaming at us, this does not have to be your normal. We have been given tools and skills to manage stress and alleviate anxiety. One of the many tools available for individuals struggling with anxiety is yoga. A regular yoga practice has been proven to calm stress, enhance concentration, and reduce anxiety symptoms. Through intentional breathing and mindful movements, you have the ability to take control of your anxiety and lessen the influence it has on your everyday life.
First, it is important to understand what is anxiety. In their book Yoga for Anxiety, Mary and Rick NurrieStearns explain that, “your experience of anxiety is the result of a looping dialogue among a mind preoccupied with safety, nerve cells that interpret life in the present moment as being more dangerous than it is, and a body that revs up to run away or stand its ground.” Many who struggle with anxiety feel exhausted from this exact dialogue; living on high-alert from perceived threats and navigating a constant fight-flight-freeze response.
I talk with my clients a lot about the concept of “noticing”. We must pause and take time to notice our thoughts, emotions, physical sensations, behaviors, etc. We cannot change anything if we do not stop and notice it first. You can pause right now from reading this to notice: Notice the colors, objects, and textures around you. What sounds do you hear? What do you smell? Notice yourself. How are you breathing? What are you thinking about? What is your posture like? Where do you feel your heart beat?
After you pause to notice, you have the ability to make conscious decisions as a response. Maybe you noticed that you were breathing quite quickly and your shoulders were tense. Now, pause. Focus your awareness on your breath. As you draw air in through your nose, feel it move through your nasal passages and notice your belly rise as your lungs become full of air. Then slowly release your exhale, emptying your lungs and as you do this, maybe you notice your shoulders relax as your belly falls. See, focused breathing helps relax our physical body.
Breathing is one of many ways yoga can help release the grip of anxiety in your world. Yoga can allow you the safe space to encounter your body and mind with care and compassion. Yoga can empower you to make active and intentional change in your thought and behavioral patterns. Yoga can free you from subconscious limits and boundaries you have unknowingly placed on yourself.
The path to healing is not linear. Some days we feel like we have made tremendous progress and others feel like an impossible backslide. The practice of yoga teaches us to have grace with ourselves, meet ourselves where we are, and move forward one breath at a time.
I will be holding a Yoga for Community event focused on Anxiety on Monday, October 9th at 7PM. Tickets must be bought in advance and are only $10. Come join us and learn how you can incorporate yoga to free yourself from the constant worry-cycle, racing thoughts, and symptoms of anxiety that have been ruling your life and relationships.
**Disclaimer: Practicing yoga is not meant to replace or substitute counseling or necessary medical intervention. Studies have shown that yoga has tremendous benefits when practice alongside of other professional services such as counseling.**
Please join Jenny Tanis, LMSW, RYT 200 for her Yoga for Community: Anxiety event taking place at Grand Rapids Natural Health Monday October 9th, 7:00-8:00pm.