Weekly Practice Nov 8-14: Healing the Anxious Mind
If you're like me, you know too well what it's like to be bogged down by Anxiety, Fear & Unnecessary Worry. For me Anxiety & Fear typically come up when things are going seemingly well. It is almost as if my brain cannot comprehend the possibility of everything going awesomely. So, as a result it creates reasons to be worried. For years, I thought this was just the way my brain worked and that I needed to accept that half of my reality is not quite... real. Due to anxiety and fear I've passed up and self sabotaged my way out of many, many great opportunities and experiences.
My experience with fear and anxiety has inspired me to really pay attention to the ways I can prevent and care for this reaction within myself. It was very important to me to figure out a way to ease this reoccurring difficulty without using prescription drugs, street drugs, alcohol and comfort foods. It is my hope that through this week's in class practice and through the suggestions in this post, an awareness of how to create desired effects or chemical reactions (that we hope to gain from drugs, alcohol and the like) from asana, healthy activities and more. It is my belief that if we understand that our yoga practice is not just exercise but actually intended as a prescriptive healing modality, we can start to become aware of its importance and necessity in regular self care.
Why Drugs, Alcohol and Emotional Eating Don't Work:
I've found that taking in these sorts of things when feeling anxious is actually just another way to self sabotage. We've all observed people who have anxious minds who will as a result drink too much at a social gathering, binge eat instead of going out or participating or get so high that they are hardly functional in a social setting. We can also see people who self medicate in this way often start having difficulties in their daily lives. These difficulties can include relationship issues, problems keeping a job and much more. Their attempt of making themselves feel better actually ends up giving themselves more reason to worry and therefore self treat. When we take the time to think about it we can acknowledge that if we are using substances to ease our mind, we are also giving up control of our mind and body in some way. I assure you that there are other ways.
Now if you have found that prescription drugs truly help you and your anxiety, great! Please keep using them! If you decide you want to ever stop, please work with your doctor to come off of them safely. Please feel empowered about what works for you.
How to Create Similar Effects in your Body/Mind Experience without Substances:
It is my hope that if you are experiencing consistent anxiety, you will try some of or all of the practices listed below. If you find that they help maybe you will be able to avoid going down the path of needing prescription drugs and even avoid the need for street drugs, alcohol & emotional eating as methods for alleviating anxiety and excess worry.
10 Daily Yogic Practices to help Prevent and Treat Anxiety, Unnecessary Fear and Worry
1. Child's Pose over Pillows or a Bolster
Take 10 deep breaths with one ear down, switch and do the same on the other side.
I recommend this pose for a lot of things. I honestly find it to be something that often instantly makes me feel at ease. However, if you are new to yoga you will need a lot of support to be comfy, so maybe try it in bed or with lots of blankets under your legs and in between your heals and sits-bones. The pressure on your belly from the pillow or bolster is key to easing the anxious feeling we often feel in our gut and stomach. This pose actually also helps to cleanse the gut, helping us to better sense and process things.
2. Standing Forward Fold
You can do this anywhere! In the bathroom, a train stop, in the corner at a party! Stay for 5-10 long breaths
There are lots of different ways you can place your arms for this. I like this variation when I'm feeling anxious because it relieves some chest tension. I also really like having my arms relaxed down by my ears and grabbing opposite elbows. Google other variations and experiment!
3. Tree Pose, Eagle Pose & Half Moon Pose
Balancing poses help to focus the mind and eliminate unnecessary thoughts. Try any or all of these for 5 deep, long breaths on each side!
These are listed in order of difficulty. When I am anxious I like to play with all three. In class this week we are doing all three of these poses because they all have their own benefits. Personally, Eagle Pose is incredible for me when I'm anxious because in the forward fold you are putting pressure on your tummy and the binding of the legs is an instant release of stress. I also love Half Moon because of its incredible side opening that leaves me taking deeper and fuller breaths. Flowing from these poses is a lot of fun!
4. Janu Sirsana, Baddha Konasana & Paschimottanasana
Hold any or all three of these for 5-20 Breaths (janu sirsana make sure to do each leg)
Seated forward folds with the head rested are amazing and theraputic when feeling anxious or stressed. However, I recommend doing them after a couple standing poses! Resting your head on a block or pillow can be really helpful for quieting the mind. Also, the long deep breaths will help to calm and ease the nervous system. Great before bed or even as a start to you day!
5. Supine Twists
Hold for 5 long breaths on each side.
There are tons of different twists you can do however, this one is a sure relief for stress and anxiety. I love the support for your shoulders. I recommend putting a blanket in between or under your knees especially if you want to hold it longer!
6. Bridge Pose
Hold for 5 Long Breaths
When we are feeling fearful or anxious we often feel tension in our stumach and chest. This is a great pose to relieve both.
7. Legs up the wall, Headstand & Shoulder-stand
Stay for 10-20 breaths!
Inversions have an amazing impact on the nervous system and help to quiet and focus the mind! But warning, holding headstand too long can have the same effect as drinking too much coffee! Should-stand and plow pose have an amazingly calm yet energizing effect on the body. However, if you are new to yoga or just really in need of sweetness I really recommend for anyone and everyone to take time with your legs up the wall! It's so therapeutic and relaxing!
8. Corpse Pose
Often newer yogi's, especially the more anxious one's, will attempt to skip this pose at the end of class. However, this posture allows the body to process and recieve the practice. It also allows for a more easeful transition back into the real world. Take time to set yourself up with support and blankets so you can really soak up and appreicate this time for yourself.
9. Nadi Shodhana (Alternate Nostril Breathing)********
Repeat for 5-10 Cycles or more ***MOST HELPFUL!***
Sit tall with your eyes closed. Make a fist with your right hand and release your thumb, ring and pinky finger. Then take a deep breath in, cover your right nostril with your thumb and exhale out of the left. Breathe in through left nostril, cover it with your ring finger and then exhale out of right. Repeat 5-10 times or more. Honestly, this is the key to the calming of the anxious mind practice. If I could get all my anxious yogi's to do one thing daily it would be this. This practice has transformed my life!
10. Meditation with Gyan Mudra
Sit with legs crossed. Bring pointer finger and thumb to touch on both hands while resting back of hands on lap. Stay with mind focused at heart center and breath for 5-20 minutes. Use support, like a pillow or folded blanket under seat for comfort.
I find that the use of asana, followed by Pranayama and then meditation has an almost blissful and calming effect on my body and mind. Try it!
Keep in mind: This is a practice, which means it is intended to be used over time. It will make you feel better today, but in order for it to work tomorrow as well, you will need to keep doing it!
Other tools to support and ease Anxiety and Stress:
1. Running or Jogging
Yes! This is an incredible way to clear the mind and let the body release some of its pent up anxiety, fear and stress! Try it, even a mile makes a big difference!
2. Listening to Calming Music
Wow, music has such a healing and transformation impact on our body and mind! I absolutely recommend you get a music app on your phone and take time to make yourself relaxing playlists if you are an anxious or stress prone person.
3. Aquamarine Gem Stones or Healing Jewelry
Yeah, I know, kind of weird. However, carrying around or meditating while holding an aquamarine stone has incredible calming effects on the body and mind. It is also helpful for strengthening your throat chakra. A lot of time my personal fear and anxiety is centered around being misunderstood or staying the wrong things. This stone has been incredibly helpful. When shopping for any healing stone try and do it in person. You want to feel the stone and choose one that feels right for you!
Mantra is the repetition of a sentence or word (usually in sanskrit) that helps to focus the mind on one point. This can be incredibly helpful to those of us who get caught in worry filled thought loops. You can research different mantras online, they all have different intentions. Currently the mantra I've been using (recommended to me by a friend) is: "om kleem shreem brzee." I have found it very helpful and easy to say which makes me more likely to use it.
5. Essential Oils
For years, Lavender oil was my go to oil when I was feeling anxious. Lately, I've started using rose oil and many others. www.SnowLotus.com makes two oil blends that I recommend highly: Calm Mind & Lift Mind. Either one should work great. Lift mind is more for obsessive thoughts. Calm Mind is pretty self explanatory.
6. A Good Book
A lot of the time when we are experiencing anxiety we are a little too caught up in our personal experience. A good book can be a wonderful remedy to this. I've found that "The Big Leap" by Gay Hendricks is one of the best books to explain to me where my unnecessary worry comes from and how to get past it!
I really hope that you have found some of this information helpful and are able to incorporate it in your daily practices. We will be touching on all of these practices in class this week. Every week I will be posting a new topic with accompanied practices for your Healing and Growth. In the coming weeks I hope to have a video to go with them. The hope is that by coming to class each week or by checking in on this blog for my long distance yogi's we will all cultivate a set of yogic tools to go to in times of need! If in the mean time you need support please do not hesitate to email me, to set up a private session or to attend one of my classes.
With Light & Love,
Nicole Lynne Hooley
Yoga, Reiki & Intuitive Healing
Brooklyn based Yoga Instructor & Reiki Healer, Nicole specializes in teaching Personal Empowerment & Self Healing inspired Yoga Classes, Workshops & Reiki Trainings throughout Brooklyn. Her Reiki & Intuitive Healing sessions have been called "an hour of unconditional love". Nicole has been highlighted by Huffington Post and YogaCityNYC.
Easy Moon Salutations & Good Mood Yoga: