Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Yoga and Anxiety

I have had requests from a few Brogis for this post, and I am super excited to be presenting it because a. I really believe yoga can be a major help in this area and b. I am living proof of this, so it is a subject dear to my heart!

A great description of anxiety is that is a real physiological response to an imagined threat. Meaning the things we are anxious about are not necessarily happening or coming true, but we respond to them are as if they are happening right here, right now.

Most biological responses triggered by anxiety - such as increased heart rate, shallow breathing and sweaty hands - serve a biological purpose in preparing our bodies to "fight or flight". This is a useful response in a genuine life-threatening situation, however when these responses are triggered by a situation which does not, objectively speaking, contain a threat to our physical safety (for example someone with social anxiety may have this response to a party) it becomes problematic.

Unchecked, anxiety can lead to many problems with our health and general wellbeing, including sleep disorders, stomach problems, headaches, depression... the list goes on. It is really important to start working out a plan to start managing anxiety if this is something that you are affected by - and yoga is an excellent addition to your anxiety managing tool box (if you don't believe little old me, my friends at HARVARD UNIVERSITY have my back)

Yoga works to turn off the sympathetic nervous system activated by fight-or-flight responses, instead activating the parasympathetic nervous system by mimicing the slower breath and movements experienced in this more relaxed state. By consciously re-creating the physical actions of the body while in this state, we are "tricked" into actually relaxing and calming down.

Any yoga practiced with conscious awareness of the breath can assist you with this. A strong, fast practice can help with burning up the excess nervous energy created by being in a constant flight-or-fight state and relax us, but if you are feeling absolutely overwhelmed and exhausted a more slow restorative practice will be more what you need. Be aware of your state of mind, and treat yourself kindly in which practice you choose.

In an upcoming post I will be going through some specific exercises to add to your routine to help manage anxiety and get help switch you from fight-or-flight mode into a more relaxed state of being. In the meantime here are some resources which may be helpful:

Yoga moves to help overcome anxiety here.

Vimeo discussion breaking down the effects of yoga on anxiety here. Goes through some exercise you can do also.

Yoga video to burn excess nervous energy and ground and settle the body and mind here.

Interesting article on the effects of yoga on US troops suffering from PTSD here.

Hope this helps Brogis! Look forward to sharing more with you in the some upcoming posts :)