Certain Yoga Asanas (Poses) are beneficial in the management of Anxiety which manifests itself as an imbalance in mental and physical states of health.
“Too much in the head”, thinking too much, ruminating on worrying thoughts, regrets, memories or just restlessness, boredom, and lack of stimulation triggers a physical stress response and feeds back into the mental anxiety loop.
It is important to “get out of the head” and get into the body, ground to the earth, and to move the stuck mental energy.
The Chakra System is an energy system which is a great visualizing tool during Yoga and Meditation. Studying the Chakra’s colour, mantra, and traits can intensify our Yoga practice and train our mind to divert from our troubling thoughts.
A Mantra is used as a sound vibration and a concentration tool when the mind wanders. The Mantra has a meaning which when repeated allows the brain to reset itself and stop the mental cycling of the anxiety loop.
A daily Yoga and Meditationroutine is a useful Anxiety Interruptor and well-being enhancer and is recommended in most therapeutic programs by professional well-being practitioners worldwide and in some cultures has been practiced for at least 5000 years (recorded).
We already know all that so lets get on with practicing this art and science for ourselves.
It can’t hurt us, can it?
Well actually one can hurt oneself in Yoga by pushing, resisting and exerting too much ego power into the mix.
Yoga is about exploring your own body, mind and spirit.
Yoga is present moment consciousness and that’s why it helps.
Yoga condenses the moment to Here and Now. Yep the Cliché.
Cliché is just that, a truth that is generalised.
So here it is, Yoga works.
Root chakra—Mūlādhāra is the chakra of stability, security, and our basic needs. The root chakra is comprised of whatever grounds you to stability in your life. This includes your basic needs such as food, water, shelter, safety, as well as your emotional needs of interconnection, and being fearless. When these needs are met, you feel grounded and safe. It is the most important Chakra as this is the Fundamental (or Mool) Chakra.
I AM GROUNDED
I AM SAFE
Benefits: Warrior I strengthens the legs, opens the hips and chest and stretches the arms and legs. Warrior I develops concentration, balance and groundedness. This pose improves circulation and respiration and energizes the entire body.
Contraindications: Recent or chronic injury to the hips, knees, back or shoulders.
Improves posture by increasing energy, awareness, and opening the chest area.
Alleviate tension, tiredness, and anxiety.
Relives stiffness of the neck and shoulders.
Relieves backache, sciatica, rheumatism, and general stiffness in the shoulders and neck.
Alleviates cramps in the legs and makes the leg muscles supple.
Precautions and Contraindications:
Serious neck or shoulder problems.
Opens the rib cage and chest
Enhances digestion and elimination
Stimulates the liver and kidneys
Energizes the spine
Stretches the shoulders, hips, back, and neck
Back pain and/or injury
There are squillions of apps, online classes, courses, websites available to the masses now that Yoga is in its shiniest hour but let us always beware of the shadow that co-exists.
We all need to be discerning and note where our ego, our expectations and our intentions are when practising Yoga for self and when choosing a particular course or teacher.
Lets take advantage of this giant wave of magic and practise this mystical wonder that is Yoga..
Today, at the end of the second decade of the 21st century, the word “mindfulness” is omnipresent in all the western contemporary literature concerning well-being. The word was once, during the last few decades of the 20th century, “meditation” but only hippies, new agers, yogis, buddhist monks and the beatles used it or were associated with it.
Now the new name” mindfulness” is on the lips of many mainstream conservative and hardcore medical model practitioners and in tons of their research journals. The latter are now publishing hundreds of studies which show positive result after positive result as to its efficacy for managing anxiety, depression, stress and a horde of other psychological and physical ailments. (check the links below of field specific research journals)
The world just cant get enough of mindfulness by whatever means possible. There’s a squillion apps, books, videos, programs, courses, certificates, niknaks and in fact a billion dollar a year industry has emerged from making meditation a highly profitable product over the past 40 years.
How did the western rebranding of meditation to mindfulness come about?
Changing the product’s name is a very common strategy in branding and marketing. In this case it was a phenomenal coup which came about in the early 80s.
The new name mindfulness was better accepted in scholarly research programs and more reachable to the mainstream population.
Psychology patients accepted this terminology of meditation more easily and it stuck. The technique grew in popularity and now mindfulness also called “mindfulness meditation” is fully known globally.
My postgraduate research thesis in Psychology in the late 90’s was titled ‘Mindfulness meditation and anxiety in women” and I was the first and only student in the department interested in this subject back then. Because of my yoga teaching background and positive personal experience I wanted to explore what science if any existed on meditation as a technique in psychological treatment.
Conducting my study offered me the opportunity to research thoroughly all the scientific literature on meditation available from around the world at the time. Most of the studies from the 60’s to the 80’s focused on Transcendental Meditation (TM) which is repeating a mantra during meditation. The studies were published in mostly Indian, some British and French as well as in very few american science journals. Many of these studies had serious internal validity issues. As for Buddhist meditation, or Zen meditation it was only written about in eastern religion journals and not mentioned in any western medicine or psychology journals.
Meditation in all its forms at the time especially the buddhist mindfulness meditation technique which is breathing and observing thoughts was a brand new seed of what is now a gigantic tree of scientific research.
That seed, named the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction program (MBSR)was planted at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center by Jon Kabat-Zin with a formal, well funded and carried out plan to explore the benefits of Mindfulness as a useful technique to manage stress. The researcher removed the buddhist framework but utilized the teachings and the concepts of mindfulness. No Mantras, no yogis, no hippies.
Stress in the 90’s was the new big societal disease, the modern day plague, and was accused of being the cause of everything gone wrong in the body and mind and everybody wanted a cure. Hence the creation of the billion dollar industry “stress management”.
Kabat-Zin’s and other such programs experienced a roaring success and influenced, initiated, and inspired an entire field of Psychology in stress management where mindfulness is still the prominent technique recommended and taught.
My thesis ended up being a recap of Kabat-Zin’s research articles which created the framework for my study. Positive results were also shown in my experiment for practicing mindfulness to manage anxiety.
On a personal note, I certainly would not be who I am today, professionally and personally without mindfulness meditation and feel very grateful to Psychologists such as Dr Kabat-Zin who early in my career as a therapist inspired me.
So that was a very brief and somewhat mono view of the origin of Mindfulness in the west. Now why do it?
Why do it?
Because it works. Simple as that. Science shows it.
The Harvard Gazette published a great article about the science of Mindfulness with great research links if you need further nudging in terms of evidence.
Your self-care routine
Like with any good habit forming and/or modification it begins with THE decision.
Decide you want to practice a form of meditation daily for 10 minutes minimum and it becomes like brushing your teeth. After a disciplined first month it becomes routine. And boom in a few weeks you are meditating daily, you are less stressed, more peaceful, more aware, more “mindful”.
Why not try one of the squillions apps or ubiquitous videos and podcasts. No need to spend any money. However if you do want to spend money on fancy podcasts, videos and apps by wonderful teachers out there do it! spoil yourself. Better then spending on addictive, health destroying crap.
It becomes that bit of time just for you to close your eyes and recalibrate the brain. Regulate the emotions, even out the moods. Let the thoughts go by and detach. It’s only 10 minutes a day.
It’s worth it because it works. It’s easy and it’s free.
You just need to close your eyes and breathe. Observe the thoughts without judgment. Relax your body in the process.
Why not also use some of that time to (or not) pray to your god/power/universe/inner self.
End your meditation time by finding 3 things in your life that you are grateful for and say thankyou to yourself, your god etc.
That time of mindfulness is yours. It’s allocated. It’s the routine.
Self-care means prioritizing time for self in solitude and retreat from the external world to resource, to relax, to be still.
Try this 5 minutes guided Relaxation for stress release;
When dealing with hot flashes and hormonal shifts, try a yoga-for-menopause pose to relieve symptoms.
Practice this Asana/pose for a 7 day self challenge and practice mindfully or intentionally for 5 to 10 minutes daily. Your body will start craving it and it will become habitual.
On days when Menopausal symptoms are intense your body will remind you to practice Yoga to assist in alleviating them.
The poses will become an integral part of your self-care routine.
Healing Meditation for Menopause:
# During the Asana practice Close eyes and Meditate focusing your intent, your relaxation, your breathing your healing energy to the pelvic region.
# Imagine a bright white light filling your pelvic region and then filling your entire body.
# Use positive compassionate thoughts about your pelvis and your entire body for example:
“My pelvic region, my whole body and my hormones are in perfect harmony”
“My body, my mind and my soul are in perfect harmony”
“My body is strong and flexible during change”
“I accept change. My body accepts change. My mind accepts change”
Add your own mantras, thoughts, prayers during your practice.
Bridge Pose can be whatever you need—energizing, rejuvenating, or luxuriously restorative.
(SET-too BAHN-dah) setu = dam, dike, or bridge bandha = lock
Stretches the chest, neck, and spine
Calms the brain and helps alleviate stress and mild depression
Stimulates abdominal organs, lungs, and thyroid
Rejuvenates tired legs
Helps relieve the symptoms of menopause
Relieves menstrual discomfort when done supported
Reduces anxiety, fatigue, backache, headache, and insomnia
Therapeutic for asthma, high blood pressure, osteoporosis, and sinusitis
Bridge Pose: Step-by-Step Instructions
Lie supine on the floor, and if necessary, place a thickly folded blanket under your shoulders to protect your neck. Bend your knees and set your feet on the floor, heels as close to the sitting bones as possible.
Exhale and, pressing your inner feet and arms actively into the floor, push your tailbone upward toward the pubis, firming (but not hardening) the buttocks, and lift the buttocks off the floor. Keep your thighs and inner feet parallel. Clasp the hands below your pelvis and extend through the arms to help you stay on the tops of your shoulders.
Lift your buttocks until the thighs are about parallel to the floor. Keep your knees directly over the heels, but push them forward, away from the hips, and lengthen the tailbone toward the backs of the knees. Lift the pubis toward the navel.
Lift your chin slightly away from the sternum and, firming the shoulder blades against your back, press the top of the sternum toward the chin. Firm the outer arms, broaden the shoulder blades, and try to lift the space between them at the base of the neck (where it’s resting on the blanket) up into the torso.
You can go up and down slowly using the breath in the beginning to warm up the spine and legs.
Breathe in UP
Breathe out DOWN
After a few raises or when you are ready then Stay in the pose anywhere from 30 seconds to 1 minute.
Release with an exhalation, rolling the spine slowly down onto the floor.
Setu Bandha Sarvangasana
Contraindications and Cautions
Neck injury: avoid this pose unless you are practicing under the supervision of an experienced teacher.
Modifications and Props
If you have difficulty supporting the lift of the pelvis in this pose after taking it away from the floor, slide a block or bolster under your sacrum and rest the pelvis on this support.
Deepen the Pose
Once in the pose, lift your heels off the floor and push your tailbone up, a little closer to the pubis. Then from the lift of the tail, stretch the heels back to the floor again.