(This post contains affiliate links.) Life is stressful. Fact. And it seems to me that it gets ever more so as technology progresses. Just look – yes, actually look up from your smartphone – at the abundance of frowns and worry lines on those around you. But what is society’s treatment of choice? Botox perhaps… but, more commonly, medication. In other words, we put a Band-Aid on the problem rather than addressing the root cause.
The general consensus among psychiatrists is that between 10% and 30% of the population is likely to suffer from an anxiety disorder at any one time… Anxiety disorders are painfully debilitating… Those who fail to seek treatment – and many still do – are at a higher risk of committing suicide. – Rachel Cooke, for The Guardian
Far from being simply the airy-fairy pastime of choice for hippies, yoga can provide very real benefits for those dealing with mental health issues, including anxiety. Indeed, for thousands of years, yoga’s asanas (postures), pranayama (breathwork) and meditation have been used to relieve stress and create a calm state of mind. I think – at least I hope – that anyone who has ever attended a yoga class will attest to the fact you invariably leave feeling like a lighter more Zen-like version of your pre-class stressed self.
With regular practice, these benefits can become longer lasting. Whilst anxiety is almost always focused on the future – often on the fear of the ‘worst case scenario’ – our focus when practicing yoga and meditation is very much on the ‘now’. This mental shift is obviously very helpful but, beyond this, whilst practicing we are also cultivating presence and patience, and learning to control our reactions and emotions. As we carry these skills over into our everyday lives, they enable us to meet potentially stressful situations with equanimity (or at least something approaching it)!
Below are my favourite yoga videos to help you move from anxiety and stress to a place of calm, surrender and relaxation.
I can also personally recommend The Dance Between Joy and Pain, an amazing little book in which Rita Goswami and Mansukh Patel take us through the 13 primary painful emotions and teach us how to transform them, quickly and effectively, into their positives and thus truly master our emotions. Anxiety, for example, can be transformed into courage. The techniques provided are all based on Dru Yoga and include practical movements, breathing exercises, hand gestures and simple visualizations.