Anxiety and Stress: Beyond Asanas

An  asana practice can help deal with the effects of anxiety and stress and improve coping skills. But it is important to look at factors/triggers that cause anxiety and stress in the first place. That means simplifying life; getting rid of wants and focusing on needs; changing stubborn inflexible thinking; and reducing the negative-ego that creates an inflated sense of I. Less is more in every way for a peaceful existence.

Taking a good, objective look at one’s life is the first step. Declutter life (that is what spring cleaning is all about). What is really essential and what is not? Sometimes we have to rethink what is essential. What relationships give joy and are positive and which ones are not? What is going on in the mind? What thoughts occupy the mind?

It may be helpful to change perspective on certain issues that cause tremendous anxiety but just have to be dealt with–aging parents, a sick child, a loss of job, divorce, chronic illness, etc. Where a situation cannot change, we can try changing our perspective and reactions to it. What bothers us the most is often our thoughts and reactions regarding the situation more than the situation.

Just as we build physical strength and immunity, we can build emotional and mental strength and immunity.

The breathing techniques of pranayama (done after asanas) can be quite effective. The mind learns to calm down. reactions become less intense and less frequent.

Candle flame trataka is another calming practice (can be done after pranayama or on its own). Seeing the light within is a powerful symbol of a peaceful strength.

Meditation, both mindfulness and yoga meditation, can be enormously helpful. Over the years, nothing in my experience has been more loved and effective than the Yoga Nidras based on the Satyananda method. There are four available to help sort out and declutter the mental space, examine relationships, observe the content of the mind, and learning to shed an enormous amount of unnecessary baggage we all carry. More will be added in the future for specific issues.

Meditation gives an objective view. The mind learns not to react. It stays balanced through ups and downs, unaffected by both. That is peace beyond any understanding.

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