Beginner's Guide to Discovering the Calm of Yoga

While it is beautiful to have a full life, with meaningful work and relationships, it can be increasingly more difficult to manage if we don’t have an efficient way to be in a relationship with our time and energy.  

With the increasing desire to connect and to be connected at all times through digital media and devices, it can be that much more difficult to find clarity with all the push notifications, calendar invites, reminders, and a never-ending inbox. 

These commitments that make up our beautiful, full lives can easily and quickly turn into an obligation, where we find plans and events stressful rather than enjoyable. 

When not managed properly, stress can become anxiety– a series of unpleasant feelings that include but are not limited to nervousness, fear, apprehension, and worrying.

Roughly around 18 percent of Americans age 18 and over suffer from anxiety, making it the most common mental health concern in the country. 

These clinical diagnoses do not exclude all of us who experience stress, tension, and anxiety in our everyday lives.

While there are many solutions to solving the “anxiety-problem,” such as taking medications, massage therapy for stress relief. Yoga, an ancient spiritual practice widely practiced in the US, can help train your body to respond differently to stressful situations. It can also be a way to manage the unpleasant symptoms of anxiety and depression.  

A consistent yoga practice will create a pattern of rest and digest in our parasympathetic nervous system. This makes us less reactive to all the things we perceive as stressful in our everyday life. By transferring our focus and attention to our breath and our body, we effectively temper the sensations of nervousness, stress and worry while simultaneously releasing physical tension.

If you are someone who is sensitive to depression and anxiety, one of the most profound things to discover in your yoga practice is the ability to manage these sensations. 

Research studies show that through breath, intentions and meeting yourself at the mat, you will able to discover a calmness that transcended over your body, mind, and spirit.

Neon Breath in Plants

Breath

How this works: Deep breathing is the opposite of shallow breathing. And while that may seem obvious, what is not always evident to us is the short relationship breath has to our anxiety or panic.

The practice of deep breathing stimulates our parasympathetic nervous system (PNS) which responsible for activities that occur when our body is at rest. It is the opposite of the sympathetic nervous system which manages the fight-or-flight response.

Intention

How this works: The body listens to the thoughts you think. One of the most straightforward ways of becoming more aware of your thoughts is by setting an intention. Maybe the purpose is to be more curious or to judge the self-less. 

By setting the intention, you are permitting yourself to be more aware of your thoughts because you can check in and see if you are aligned with your intention. 

Often when we are feeling intense feelings of fear, it is because we have not yet given yourself the space to think differently. 

Once we are in the habit of recognizing our thoughts, we can start to see very clearly which thoughts are not supporting us, and return our intention.

Meeting yourself where you are in your body

How it works: This is grace and gratitude. It is a practice of self-love and appreciation no matter what the day looked like. It is an acknowledgment that you are a being who is continually evolving. It is also a commitment to the process of transformation and discovery.

Asana Practice

Additionally, here are a few yoga asanas (poses) that are known since ancient time to help with anxiety that you can do at home.

Balasana (Child’s pose)

This is the resting pose that is often the one we take when we have had one too many chatarungas (down-facing dog.) It also promotes relaxation by encouraging steady conscious breathing, which is particularly great for anxiety relief. We know that breath calms our nervous system. 

Additionally, Balasana helps to release tension in the back, neck, and shoulders, which are all areas where most people hold a lot of their stress without knowing it.

Viparita Karani (Legs up the Wall)

This is a good one for all levels because it doesn’t require flexibility or strength. This is a restorative pose that relaxes the body and calmly supports the nervous system.

Salamba Sirsasana (Supported Headstand) 

Since this pose reverses the blood flow in your body it effectively allows you to focus more attention on your breath. 

We know that the breath calms the nervous system, so you have your attention there rather than your anxiety or discomfort. 

What also happens in this pose is that we increase and stimulate blood flow to our head.

The significant benefit of this is we begin to detoxify of our adrenals, which decreases sensations of fear, worry, anxiety, and depression.

Savasana (Corpse Pose) 

Savasana is the final pose of a yoga sequence. Any time you are feeling overwhelmed (whether in class or life), try taking corpse pose. Lay flat on your back with your arms at our sides, palms facing upward. 

It is easy to examine the breath in this poses, so if you need something to focus on, remember that you can always watch your belly rise and fall.

It’s so relaxing that sometimes we can hear our fellow yogis snoring on a neighboring mat.

Go For It!

Through breath, intentions and meeting yourself at the mat, you will able to discover a calmness that can soothe your body, mind, and spirit. Creating yoga routine that's right for you may just help take the edge off of a full and, sometimes stressful lifestyle. Enjoy!