Have you ever been stressed out? Silly question; of course you have! We have all felt stressed out or anxious at some point or another. Unfortunately, there are a lot of us who feel like this on a daily basis. We spoke to London-based Psychiatrist, Dr Mark Silvert about anxiety and stress. "In 2015 we are a bunch of stressed out people," says Dr Silvert. "When we are at work, we work. When we are not at work, our phones buzz and light up with work emails. We can’t switch off easily. My highly functioning patients are stressed and anxious all of the time. It is relentless. Even the thought of finding the time to find time to access helpful ways to de-stress, stresses them!
We are time poor, anxiety-riddled but with the knowledge that there is help out there if only we could make time to make time. Yoga is an excellent way to take time out from the rat race of city life and use it to de-stress and reduce anxiety levels, incorporating physical movement and mindfulness techniques all in one." Well, we didn't need anymore convincing; bring on the yoga to de-stress us!
Here are 9 tried and tested stress-relieving yoga poses that aim to make you feel serene, lifting the anxiety to reveal a calmer, lighter and hopefully happier, you. (The poses are sequenced to follow on one after the other giving you the option to do them all together.)
Get into a Child's Pose when you need to switch off from the world, keeping the eyes closed and breathing deeply, allowing gravity to pull the upper body down towards the floor.
Standing up, bend forward keeping the knees bent and relaxing the upper body completely, gently rocking it side to side and up and down, keeping the head loose and heavy.
Walk the hands forward until you are in Downward Facing Dog. Push the floor with the hands and stretch your bottom up towards the ceiling. Close the eyes, and concentrate on the breath.
From Downward Facing Dog, lift the right leg in the air as far as it will go, bend the raised leg at the knee and turn the upper body and gaze under the right armpit. Hold for a couple of breaths then do the same with the left leg and left side.
From Downward Dog, lift the right leg in the air behind you then bring the right knee forward in between the arms and place it on the floor, bringing the body down to sit. Fall forward over the right knee and stretch the hands out in front of you, bringing the head down. Close the eyes and hold for 5-10 breaths. To come out of the pose, put the hands on the floor either side of the right knee, tuck the back foot under and push back into One-Legged Dog Pose. Repeat for the other leg.
Walk the feet towards the hands in Downward Dog and then sit down on the mat. Stretch the legs out in front of you, stretch the spine towards the ceiling and fold forward at the waist. Keeping the knees bent until the belly touches the thighs, this is a great pose to just close your eyes and focus on the breath.
If you know headstand, this is a great pose to de-stress (plus you get to see thigs from a different perspective for a while). If your headstand is not where you'd like it to be, grab a cushion and try a lovely Legs up the Wall Pose, close your eyes, and enjoy.
Used by yogis for centuries, Padmasana is the ultimate meditative pose. Sit in Lotus Pose, Half Lotus or even a simple seated position with the hands in a mudra or on the knees, keeping the eyes closed, focusing solely on the breath and guess what... you're meditating, you yogi, you.
Need we say more? Get into Savasana after a long, stress-filled day, grab a blanket and anything else you need to be completely comfortable, relax the body and let all the stresses and tensions of the day just melt away.
When faced with a problem, we here at Lots of Yoga like knowing exactly what we're dealing with so we asked Dr Silvert some anxiety-related questions to get a better understanding of this beast.
So, what exactly is anxiety?
"Anxiety is a natural and normal response to a perceived danger. A once useful emotion to tell our sympathetic nervous system to get into top gear; enabling us to run away from the predatory animal that was chasing us in the monolithic era. Now however we get anxious when we have missed a deadline and we fear the boss wrath or can’t cope with the pressures of daily life. Our brains sense danger for whatever the reason may be and we send a signal to our adrenal glands to kick out some adrenaline, blood pressure goes up, heart rate goes up, respiratory rate increases and the next thing we know we are fighting off a full blown panic attack."
When can anxiety become a serious problem?
"We all get anxious and it’s a good thing to or we would never hand in our homework or wait for the traffic light to go green before speeding off! But sometimes we overreact to things. We feel anxious most of the time when the reality is there is no threat around us. We can find that anxiety turns into panic and we are disabled by it. That is when you may need to seek help, when our alert system is misfiring."
How can yoga help with Anxiety?
"More and more academic researchers are looking into the ways that yoga and movement based therapies are able to heal our bodies and minds. It improves emotional regulation, as we attempt to relax our minds away from our computers and tablets and phones we are increasing the body’s ability to cope with anxiety and depression. The mind will relax, release endorphins in response to exercise and blood pressure and heart rate will decrease. As a psychiatrist, I love the fact that traditional yet modern yoga can help heal us without the use of medications or allopathic intervention." It's important to take time out of our busy days to just stop and focus on ourselves. When you manage to make some time, here are three yoga for anxiety videos for you to try out.
"Anxiety does not empty tomorrow of its sorrows, but only empties today of its strength." - Charles SpurgeonDo you have any yogic methods which you have found helpful in treating anxiety or stress? Please share with us; we would love to hear from you!