Yoga is uniquely positioned to be very effective for dealing with anxiety because it addresses the symptoms and sources of anxiety on multiple levels of our systems. Our yoga practice can help us shift our attention from the mind to the body, discharge excess nervous energy, balance our sympathetic nervous system, become more aware of our mental loops, and invoke a sense of curiosity about our inner state. The four yoga practices below target different aspects of anxiety and give us tools to discharge, examine, and reframe our anxious thoughts.
Drain anxious energy to feel calm and stable
According to the yoga tradition, anxious thoughts and feelings of restlessness arise from the high concentration of erratic energy in your head. In this short yoga practice, we use simple movement, breath, and directed attention to discharge your mind of excess nervous energy and direct your energy downward into the body and then toward the earth. This helps us “ventilate” the body on the inside and anchor our energy to feel more calm, stable, and vital. This is a simple 15-minute practice that can be done anywhere, anytime. The only thing you need for the practice is a stable chair.
Strengthen your “awareness muscles” and tag your thoughts
In this yoga practice, we will use mismatched movements to focus our minds, grounding breath to help us feel more settled, and Tag your thoughts meditation to become aware of our mental activities. We will sort the thoughts into four different categories: past, present, future, and suspended in time to step out of our mental chatter and get a better understanding of which time period we prefer to hang out in. We will pay attention to different aspects of our experience (body, breath, energy, and mind) to train our “awareness muscles” and help us change the unconscious patterns of the mind.
Get curious and discover your inner wonders
Curiosity is an innate quality that we all share. The psychologists Jordan Litman and Paul Silva describe two main flavors of curiosity: I-curiosity, which stands for interest, and D-curiosity, which stands for Deprivation. Deprivation curiosity makes you feel tense and restless; it’s an itch you need to scratch, a nagging sensation of missing out on something; the same curiosity killed the proverbial cat. On the other hand, interest curiosity represents the wide-eyed wonder of discovery; it is piqued when we are engaged and interested in learning more about something. Interest curiosity makes us feel spacious and connected. Interest curiosity is our superpower because it keeps us engaged with the world, pulls us out of our habitual behaviors, deepens our self-awareness, and fills our lives with wonder. In this yoga practice, we will experiment with both curiosity types, Deprivation and Interest curiosity, and experience them within our bodies. Then we will bring Interest curiosity to our movements and breathing to marvel at our bodies and their abilities. We will try to sense the feeling-tone of our energy to see if it feels like a musical instrument and what kind of tune we are playing on the inside.
Release head tension and lighten your load
In this yoga practice, we focus on familiarizing ourselves with our headache patterns to better understand where it hurts and in what way. Oftentimes simply shining the light of awareness on our sensations helps us release chronically held tensions and settle our nervous system. In this practice, we will use very simple movements done close to the ground, specific gaze positioning, prolonged exhalation, and directed attention to release mental and physical tension from your head and lighten your literal and metaphorical load. For this practice, we will need a rolled-up hand towel to support the curve of the neck and another small towel or eye pillow to cover the eyes. Please feel free to skip any movements or techniques that feel inappropriate for your situation.
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Editable sequences of all practices are available to Sequence Wiz members. Just copy them to My Sequences, make any changes you wish, and send them to your students.