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How yoga can help with stress and anxiety by Izzy Ixer
April 04th, 2019
It’s stress awareness week and as a yoga teacher, I’m often asked how can yoga can help.
Yoga was developed in India over 5000 years ago. It includes a number of techniques which are intended to bring you to a state of quiet attentiveness. A classical Hatha yoga technique includes postures (asanas), breath work (pranayama) and relaxation (savasana). By practising this combination of techniques you feel calmer during the session and in your daily life.
So how can it help with managing stress and anxiety in our daily life?
The most important thing we need to understand is that we can’t control the behaviour of others. We are not able to control every situation as we might wish and that an unexpected event can cause us to become anxious and stressed. These things won’t change.
What we can do is change the way we react to these uncontrollable aspects of our life and I’d like to share with you the yoga way of doing this. The ancient sanskrit words describe some key stages.
Ahimsa – the yoga concept of liking yourself
Be kind to yourself – be comfortable with the fact that things will happen which are beyond your control and don’t punish yourself if things aren’t going according to plan.
Asana – develop body awareness through the practice of postures
Learn how you feel when anxiety creeps up on you – maybe the short breath, the sweaty palms and the feeling of sickness are signs you can start to recognise and feel less threatened by them.
Pratyahara – withdrawing the senses
Be firm with these signs of stress – look them in the face and tell them you know exactly what they are up to. In yoga we call this acceptance and this process helps you to be more at ease with your instinctive fight/flight/stay reactions.
Pranayama – the power of the breath
A full yoga practice includes learning how to breathe well and to control your breathing. At its simplest you learn to slow down the breath, which helps you to manage and control the short, shallow breathing which usually accompanies anxiety. Lengthening the breath out is the first step to breath control and a ratio of 4 for the out breath and 2 for the in breath is a helpful way of calming down. In yoga we usually breathe through our nose.
Savasana – relaxation
Relaxation in yoga is about maintaining a quiet and focussed mind while your body rests. Relaxation is different from sleep because your mind is held steady by techniques such as focussing on the breath, being aware of your body or a through a guided visualisation exercise. A deep relaxation is truly refreshing and at the end of a yoga practice this is the thing that most people really look forward to!
Izzy Ixer BWY DIP MCMI
If you’d like to learn more about how yoga techniques can help you to manage stress and anxiety in your life, do get in touch with Izzy Ixer, our experienced British Wheel of Yoga qualified teacher and coach. She’d love to meet you and have a chat about yoga!
Izzy Ixer MCMI BWY DIP
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