How can yoga and meditation help with anxiety? Often stress and anxiety go hand-in-hand. Sometimes they join hands with depression. However, everyone who is anxious and stressed does not have to be clinically depressed.
Yoga asanas may be very helpful in dealing with anxiety, stress, and depression as shown by the Harvard and Bangalore studies written up in previous blog posts. Instead of passively holding positions, a dynamic practice is suggested. A vinyasa flow such as surya namaskar, or sun salutations, is a wonderful dynamic practice. In the perfect sequencing, one position flows into the other with the breath (vinyasa flow).
There are numerous ways of doing surya namaskar. Highly energetic ways incorporate leaping from one position to another. Some move rapidly, some flow slowly. Many of you really love doing several rounds with surya mantras, moving slowly for a few rounds, then quicker with bija mantras, and then slowing down again. For seniors, we have chair sun salutations that are adapted for their needs (high blood pressure, bad knees, replaced hips). It is a popular sequence. So everyone can move at their own comfort level. The important point is to form the discipline to move regularly for about 45 minutes, if possible. Vary the sun salutations with other yoga movements and sequences of asanas.
Gentle, dynamic movements such as those given for the upper and lower body on www.mahasriyoga.com are good additions for seniors and those who prefer gentler yoga. You don’t have to be leaping and twisting!
The endorphins released by physical movements help alleviate anxiety, stress, and depression. So any form of exercise may be helpful. Synchronizing the breath with physical movement may be particularly helpful.
In cases of high blood pressure and other medical conditions, physical movement should not be done when the pressure is high, or if there is any pain or discomfort in the body. Consult your doctor!
There are other suggestions as well that will be in the next blog post.