Yoga & breathing for anxiety

We all feel anxious from time to time but sometimes it can become overwhelming and start to interfere with our daily lives, it’s all part of being human. The human mind and body are designed to respond to stress, we’ve all heard of fight or flight which enables us to respond quickly to dangerous or challenging situations.

The problem is that sometimes we can become stuck in the fight or flight response, it becomes our go to reaction even when the situation or event does not present any tangible risk or danger. Our anxious mind loves nothing more than to analyse, ruminate and catastrophize. Everyday stress and worry is normal but over time the brain can become stuck on this anxiety rollercoaster and it can be very hard to jump off.

I have been on the anxiety ride for most of my life, for as long as I can remember really. The first panic attack that I can recall was when I was 7 years old but surprisingly, I wasn’t diagnosed with an anxiety disorder until my early 30’s. It has been my loyal and faithful companion and I could describe to you in great detail how it affects me but anxiety feels different for each individual.

Some of the common symptoms are overthinking, endless worry and fear, obsessing, fatigue, aches and pains, dizziness, numbness, breathlessness and agitation. There are many ways to target anxiety and it’s important for anxiety sufferers to find a practice that works for them. An effective tool to treat anxiety is by practicing mindfulness, and Yoga is one of the best and most accessible mindfulness techniques.

This is something that Delaney Cheal is very knowledgeable and passionate about. Delaney led our recent Yoga at the beach – targeting anxiety workshop in Yeppoon. While we listened to the waves roll in Delaney generously shared her story with us, describing how anxiety has affected her life and how she uses her yoga practice as an effective coping technique. Delaney describes yoga as a way of quietening the thinking mind and reconnecting with the body. By focusing on our breath and moving our bodies in a gentle and harmonious way we can calm the anxious minds and focus on the present. By sharing her story Delaney helps to challenge the stigma often associated with anxiety and her yoga instruction is a joy to follow.

Yoga for anxiety is not about doing headstands or complicated poses, it is simply about being present, breathing and moving our bodies gently and thoughtfully. Our workshop participants reported feeling totally blissed out, relaxed and grounded at the end of the yoga class.

So, what can you do about it? Anxiety does not discriminate when it strikes and it is not always possible to roll out the yoga mat. The 4,7,8 is my go-to breathing exercise that can be done at any-time and almost any-where. Begin by exhaling through the mouth. Then, breath in through your nose to a mental count of four. Hold the breath to a silent count of 7 and then exhale slowly through your mouth to a silent count of 8. Repeat this cycle three more times or longer if desired. By breathing deeply and slowly we fill our lungs with oxygen which is then circulated to the rest of the body, making us feel more relaxed and present. By bringing your focus back to your breath you can quieten the mind and feel more present.

We lead busy and stressful lives and anxiety can take hold from time to time. Slow down, take a minute or two to focus on your breath, stretch your body, reach for the sky with your arms and remind yourself that this too will pass.

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