Stress, fear, anxiety – if we start counting all those instances in life when we experienced these emotions, we may just lose count! Anxiety about the result of a Board exam or the reaction of our parents to the report card; nervousness about the first date or a job interview – we all would have lived through these moments. A little bit of fear is normal; in fact, just like salt in the food, it is needed so that we remain disciplined, focused and dynamic.
The problem starts when this fear becomes persistent and so intimidating as to start interfering with our everyday life. Then it becomes an anxiety disorder, a state of excessive uneasiness, worry, or fear of the unknown, which needs to be treated, and this is where yoga can help.
It’s also good to know that yoga alone should not be considered as the only treatment option. It should complement proper medication after consultation with a doctor or specialist. The doctor would guide you on the condition better and help you understand the type of anxiety disorder you may have – Panic Disorder, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, Social Anxiety Disorder, or Generalized Anxiety Disorder, to name a few.
Note: Allopathic medicines may have side effects; you may consider alternate lines of treatment such as Homoeopathy and Ayurveda.
How to know if you have anxiety disorder?
You feel unusually panicky, scared and uneasy.
You tend to get uncontrolled, obsessive thoughts of past traumatic experiences.
You wake up from frequent nightmares.
You tend to repeatedly wash your hands.
You have problems sleeping.
Your hands and feet stay unusually sweaty.
You get frequent palpitations.
How can yoga help get over anxiety?
Regular yoga practice can help you stay calm and relaxed in daily life and can also give you the strength to face events as they come without getting restless. Yoga practice ideally includes the complete package of asanas (body postures), pranayamas (breathing techniques), meditation, and the ancient yoga philosophy, all of which has helped several anxiety patients recover and face life with new positivity and strength.
Shares Sushama Goyal, homemaker, “I would always remain tense and worried about little things in life. Every small or big event would shake me up. My husband decided to consult a doctor who told us that I had generalized anxiety disorder. I underwent treatment for the same, along with regular practice of yoga and meditation for about six months. And today I feel I have got a new birth. My thinking has changed, I feel much settled from within, and I have faith that whatever will happen will be for the good. I’m not scared of the future anymore! Yoga gave me this strength.”
Like Sushama, even you can say hello to a positive, fear-free life with yoga. The following yoga techniques can help calm an unsettled mind.
#1: Move your body and relieve your mind of stress with asanas.
Note:At the end of the yoga posture session, lie down inYoga Nidra to give your mind and body a few minutes of through relaxation. The technique is helpful in flushing out body toxins, a primary cause of stress, from the system.
#2: Breathe right with pranayamas to relieve anxiety
Taking your attention to the breath can help free the mind of the unnecessary clutter of thoughts that breed anxiety. Try the following breathing practices:
Kapal Bhati Pranayama (Skull-Shining Breathing Technique)
Nadi Shodhan Pranayama (Alternate Nostril Breathing) – effective in releasing stress from the system (where the exhalation is longer than the inhalation)
Bhramari Pranayama (Bee Breath)
#3: Meditate to enjoy the gift of a relaxed mind
Meditation can be an excellent technique to relax a distracted mind, give you a sense of calm and peace, and also observe with daily practice how your mind works to keep you involved in small, petty things around. It can also help you not worry too much or get anxious of the unknown future.
You might have often heard the term ‘adrenalin rush’. This happens when we get too anxious about a potential threat. For instance, while taking an adventure ride. At such a time, the level of adrenalin hormone goes higher, leading our heart to beat faster, making the muscles tense and our body sweat profusely. Scientific research has shown that regular meditation practice can help significantly reduce the level of this stress hormone.
#4: Apply yoga philosophy in your life; stay happy and enjoy every moment
Knowing and applying the ancient yoga knowledge in daily life, which talks about some simple yet profound principles (yamas and niyamas) of yoga, can be the secret to happy and healthy living. For instance, the Santosha principle (niyama) teaches the value of contentment. The Aprigraha principle can help us overcome greediness or the desire to keep possessing more, which can be a reason for stress and anxiety. Also, the Shaucha principle talks about cleanliness of the mind and body. This rule can particularly help if you tend to get too anxious about catching infectious diseases.
The yamas and niyamas of yoga will also help us eat nutritious food and live a healthy lifestyle which greatly helps to overcome anxiety and stress. To understand the yoga philosophy, you may consider reading Sri Sri Ravi Shankar’s Commentary on Patanjali Yoga Sutras.
#5: Pray, keep faith and smile!
Prayer is the best form of reassurance and support to keep you anxiety-free. Developing habits of daily prayer, chanting or singing bhajans (devotional songs) fill you with positive energy and also help still the mind. They also instill a sense of deep faith that all happens for the best and that there is a higher divine power that takes care. Moreover, make a conscious effort to smile more and more. It will instill confidence, calmness and positivity instantaneously. Try it out right now!
#6: Think about what you can do for others
When we constantly remain stuck in ‘me and mine’, it makes room for stress and anxiety. We keep worrying about what will happen to us. Rather, shift your attention to how you can be of some use to others around you. Energizing yourself with some service activity can give you deep satisfaction and immense joy.
#7: Know the impermanence of the world
When this realization sets in that everything around us is temporary and would change, we become relaxed and settled from within. A feeling of ‘this too shall pass and not remain forever’ arises in us and frees us from anxiety. Meditation can help us see this founding principle of life.
#8: Remember a similar past situation when you could overcome anxiety
This fills you with immense courage that you can pass even this situation. Keep reminding this to yourself often.
#9: Keep positive company around you
When you spend more time with positive-minded people, you are influenced by similar thoughts, which reflects in your overall attitude to life. Only a positive mind can breed joy, peace and relaxation.
(Written by Pritika Nair based on inputs by Dr. Sejal Shah, Sri Sri Yoga teacher.)