How yoga, meditation, and mindfulness practices can help with anxiety.
Anxiety is among the primary conditions mentioned by people looking for help from complementary and alternative therapies, like yoga, meditation, and mindfulness practices. The use of these practices is growing, and many studies have shown that besides helping with anxiety they can also reduce the impact of stress, increase serotonin levels, and improve energy.
Through lots of practice and patience, I have found that both yoga and meditation offer the wonderful gift of ever-improving awareness as well as providing the tools to work with challenging mental states. Using the body and the breath to clear, stabilize, and strengthen the mind, the feeling of balance can eventually become a new habit.
Obtaining balance through the poses of yoga, my body becomes stronger and more flexible. My body receives more oxygen, and my blood flows more freely. Through these movements, I can identify the places in my body that are working too hard to be balanced and others that aren’t working hard enough. Moment by moment, with patience and mindful breathing, I am given the opportunity to create a sort of balance. When I practice consistently, my body and mind work and rest with more peace... when I don’t practice, anxiety, and insomnia, can set in. During the practices I am in my body, strong and centered, grounded, plugged in, and present. This stability continues off the mat with me and follows me into my daily life.
Mindful meditation has been proven to decrease the symptoms of anxiety significantly. I practice meditation to come back to a feeling of balanced attention in my mind. When anxiety is present I feel unclear and hyped up. Sometimes my mind can feel like a snow globe that is constantly being shaken up... the storm of thoughts swirl around making it hard to see and think clearly. Taking some time each day to sit, settles the “snow,” and allows more clear seeing, and clear understanding. In meditation, we can find peace and balance by focusing our attention so that everything is stable, steady, and awake.
The practice of breathing can bring my emotions and nervous system into a state of calm. Conscious mindful breathing becomes a path that connects my body and mind together. In the inhale and exhale, I see and can let go of whatever is happening in the moment. Sitting with the flow of moments, I can connect with my breath as it nourishes and relaxes my body and mind. This is so truly healing! It softens my heart and helps me to hold myself with a sense of compassion.
These practices continue to be important in my own journey. It is still important to keep in mind that although yoga and meditation are considered to be complementary to traditional therapies, they are not meant to replace existing treatments. There is a body of evidence that shows yoga and meditation practices are lovely low-risk, high impact ways to improve overall mental health and well-being. Consistent practice takes time and patience. Be kind to yourself and remember this simple mantra: “Heart up, head up, chin up...and kindness always.
Peace and Hugs