As a previously self-confessed worrier, I speak from the heart when I say Yoga can help tackle anxiety. Learning from a highly accomplished teacher, over many years, I have experienced a transformation beyond the realms of my expectations. Like many do, I discovered that Yoga is not simply a practice for the mat, it's training for Life ...
So what lessons do we learn on the mat that can also hold true in every day life?
1. Be Engaged with Life, but Maintain your Ease
In Yoga, we learn universal principles of alignment that help us root our bodies to the ground and engage fully with every single part of the body in order to fully inhabit the yoga posture. At the same time, we learn to simultaneously find our ease (or sukha) in the pose and maintain a steady breath. Developed over time and through on-going consistent practice, this balance of releasing nervous tension through the breath whilst simultaneously maintaining the active engagement of the body is masterful both on and off the mat. Effectively, we learn to engage fully with all that life throws at us, the good and the bad, in whatever position or posture we find ourselves, whilst remembering that we have the capacity to breathe through it all and maintain our ease. How emboldening might it be to be able to approach everything in our lives from a place of ease?
2. Let Go
One of the most essential tools of yoga is the pulse action (or spanda), whereby we learn to use the pulse of the breath to ease through layers of tension. There is a natural receiving and releasing through the inhalation and exhalation, not a holding. Even in long hold postures, we continue to pulse, for like nature itself, nothing in life is static. Where we hold rather than release, the energy becomes blocked and stagnant. This principle of receiving and releasing is just as applicable off the mat, where we can have a tendency to hold on and grip rather than let go. This holding can be to the tension in our body, the thoughts in our mind, to the people around us or to our emotions and fears. Imagine, if you can, like a balloon released into the air, what it might feel like to let go - for a moment - to your to -do list, your negative thoughts, your failures, your guilt, your worries, your fears.
3. Slow Everything Down
The incredibly simple practice of slowing down has many benefits both on and off the mat. When we slow down on the mat, our movements become more conscious. In life, conscious actions release ourselves from the fog of autopilot, where we go about life as if we were not present. When we slow down on the mat, we connect more easily to our own inner intelligence, which prevents us from 'doing' a posture to get something (i.e. the perfect downward dog) rather than feeling into and inhabiting the posture from where we are right now. A slower, less hurried breath is also sustaining and nourishing for our bodies, and helps us to slow down from the inside out. Being tranquil on the inside doesn't make us any less able to cope with the pace of life. Indeed, we are empowered to meet it!
Written by Christopher Purnell for
YOU Massage, Southampton Yoga