This past week has been the Mental Health Awareness Week. However, mental health is obviously not an issue just for one week a year, just like a good mental health is more than just absence of a mental health problem.
Stress and anxiety for instance are issues that touch all of us at least some point in our lives: school or university exams, professional demands and relationship challenges are unavoidable but luckily there are way s to ease their toll on us. It widely recognised through clinical studies that yoga can be an effective way to help us during tough times. Here’s how.
1. The power of breath – pranayama – brings calm and relieves anxiety. There are various breathing exercises available and you can find few of them here. If you prefer keeping things simple, just focusing on lengthening inhales and exhales, whilst breathing through the nose, is a very effective way to bring stillness to the mind. You can try counting during inhales and exhales to help to keep the rhythm even, with the added bonus that when you count quietly in your mind, it is pretty hard to have other thoughts disturbing you.
2. Yoga postures – the asanas – relief physical tension and can help the mind to refocus. Some of the asanas that are especially recommended for relieving anxiety are hastapadasana (standing forward fold), adho mukha svanasana (downward facing dog), setubandasana (bridge pose) and of course, savasana (corpse pose.) Even a ten minute practise a day, done regularly, can have a huge positive impact.
3. It is said that well planned is half done and preparation is the key. If you are reading this the night before a deadline you might find this annoying but take the lesson and next time plan ahead. Carving out the time to preparing in advance and making a plan will help manage both the situation at hand and our reactions, even if things end up not going to that plan (and do they ever?) If we are disciplined with our yoga practise, we can be disciplined with other aspects in our lives.
4. Find an affirmation that works for you to start the day. For instance, making a conscious decision every day to act with best of our abilities means we are less likely to have regrets and more peace of mind.
5. One of the reoccurring themes in yoga is that everything – absolutely everything – is temporary. Things will pass. It might not always feel like and it can be annoying to be reminded of this when the feeling is everything but. But things will pass.
6. Meditation, with help of an app or without, does not need to take more than few moments. It is always helpful to check in with ourselves to inquire how we are REALLY feeling and why, even more so if we have a chance to remove ourselves temporarily from a taxing situation. Noticing what triggers our worries and concerns might take some time initially but will pay itself generously back once we learn to take preventative actions.
7. Feeling like going all the way with a lifestyle change? Always best to introduce changes slowly in order to make them stick but if you are ready to go for it, check out my post about yamas and niyamas for some inspiration.