ANXIETY is the pits. It’s certainly something I’ve had more than a few ropey moments with over the years. Whenever I’m anxious, stressed or feeling a bit emotionally off-balance, my yoga mat has saved me. Ironically, it’s when we’re like this that we feel least like doing anything active, but this is when we need yoga most.
The Asanas of your practice are designed as a series of moves to prepare the body and mind for meditation. Concentration and breathing through the poses will slow down a tense body and, as we slow down physically, the mind also settles and calms…
Try this little ten minute sequence to soothe frazzled nerves and mood swings. Start off lying on your tummy, resting the side of your face on your palms. Take your mind away from the external and focus on the inner being, simply surveying the body and breath. Thoughts will come and go through your practice — imagine yourself in a cloud of light — you choose the colour. Imagine the thoughts bouncing off the cloud and floating away.
Now come up to stand at the edge of your mat, taking a small jump to connect with the earth. Start with a Moon Salutation, raising the hands and interlacing them. Start standing straight, taking some Ocean Breaths — slow and deep in through the nose, violent and throaty out. Then twist over to the right for a few breaths (top left), then the right, then finishing straight with palms interlaced.
Move onto Padangusthasana (top right), leaning forward either to grab toes or shins, never forcing it, then holding the pose for five Ocean Breaths. The breath is crucial here — do your Ocean Breath when you’re holding poses and it will heat up your core, making you more flexible and completely relaxing your nervous system. Come out of Padangusthasana on a normal, inward breath, raising the arms in a lovely salutation.
Flow into Parvottanasana (bottom left), a lovely soothing pose. Right foot forward, left foot slightly forward, slightly to the side, not a wide gap. Palms meeting in Reverse Prayer (if you don’t like this, just clasp the hands at the back). Breathe in, then as you breathe out normally, move forward as far as feels comfortable. Drishti, your gaze, is on your toe. Now take at least five Ocean Breaths, breathe in normally as you come up, twist and do it to the other side.
Come down into Pigeon Pose (bottom middle) — bend the left knee to the side, right foot and leg flat along the ground. Either lean forward onto the elbows or stretch completely forward with arms flat. Breathe into the hip opener. All negative emotion is stored in the hips so Ocean Breath in this pose will help you literally breathe away anguish and trauma. Repeat it at the other side.
Finish in Pose Of A Child (bottom right), knees wide, sitting on heels, stretching as far forward as feels comfortable. Imagine your Ocean Breath reaching the tips of your fingers and toes. Now complete your practice where you started, lying on the tummy, resting your cheek on your hands. No more Ocean Breath, just take a few moments to be still, survey the body and connect with the earth.
Don’t wait to practise yoga for anxiety until your nerves are frayed and you really need it — commit to ten minutes a day, morning or evening — and this little moving meditation will work its magic and make a huge difference to your wellbeing.