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Using yoga therapy in the treatment of stress and anxiety

Updated: Jun 13, 2018

Anxiety is a pervasive emotional problem. There is hardly anyone who hasn't suffered from some level of it at some point in their life. Whether it is just a bit of nervousness or out of control panic attack the related symptoms cause a disturbance to our system and we tend to experience a level of discomfort. Some of the common symptoms are obsessive thinking, excessive worrying, insomnia, dizziness, shortness of breath, heart palpitation, insomnia, migraines, intestinal problems etc

Yoga offers a set of techniques that help reduce such symptoms by going inwards into a state that is beyond the anxiety, and help us establish a different relationship with the stress that is causing it. We learn to acknowledge the causes of stress, the habitual behaviours and patters that trigger it and give us tools to shift our responses.

Breath is one of the main tools that is used to tune in to that inwards state. For example focusing on our breath. When anxious our breath becomes quick and rigid, and we use the neck and chest muscles to breath. Rapid breath activate the sympathetic nervous system, which is in charge of the release of stress hormones and causes expelling more carbon dioxide leading into agitation. Taking over an automatic function of the breath by inviting our attention to it with the intention to lengthen and deepen it provides us with an opportunity to control the breath, hence giving us an entry point to calm down an overactive stress response system and promote calmness of the mind.

Try this practice:

Lie flat on your back in Savansana (hands by your sides, feet rolls out)

Take few conscious breaths just noticing your natural spontaneous breath

flow in- feel the breath filling you up

flow out- feel the breath empty

breath in feel how the body expands

breath out feel the body contracts back

Every inhalation is an opportunity for nourishment and restoring energy

Every exhale allows you to release tension and let go

Slowly starts to lengthen you inhalation and exhalation (it could be just 1-2 counts more), perhaps establishing an equal rhythm, a soothing breath that is even in flow and out flow (do few rounds of that breath)

While doing so maybe you can start noticing a slight pause at the end of the inhale or at the end of the exhale? In that pause there is no movement and no effort, that peaceful moment in between inhale and exhale is called kumbhaka, maybe you can slowly increase the length of the kumbhaka and feel the effect of this practice on you mind and body.

After few rounds, let go of the administration of the breath and go back to your natural breath and take few moments to notice how you feel. Taking a moment at the end of the practice is crucial in signalling the mind body connection and the nervous system in particular that there is this new state available and giving it an opportunity to establish it self.

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