Updated: Aug 13
Yoga in the United States has been continually gaining popularity in the fitness industry and for good reason. There are many benefits from yoga that expands beyond one's physical health; it enhances core stability and muscle flexibility, all while improving postural control. Another phenomenal benefit is easing one's mind and promoting relaxation, which in turn reduces stress. There are different styles of yoga ranging from strength-based to enhancing one's spiritual and emotional senses connecting the mind, body, and breath.
I absolutely love meditative and restorative style of yoga. It is by far my favorite discipline and I have found it helps me to focus and cope with my anxiety. I wanted to share some tips that I find useful when I am practicing my poses or going through a sequence of movement patterns while connecting my mind, body, and breath.
Turn on some calming music, preferably instrumental, or sounds of nature in the background that will help you relax your mind. I always begin my sessions by a sitting or kneeling pose in a comfortable position such as Seated Potted Palm. Essentially one would sit on the floor with his or her legs crossed and finger tips placed gently on the floor or hands on the upper legs; never use joints as a placement for support. If this position is uncomfortable you can sit with a yoga block or pillow underneath your hips to help improve your posture.
I close my eyes and focus on my breath for a few moments. Sometimes moments may turn into minutes, but that is okay. Go as long as you need to. I inhale deeply and exhale all the air in my lungs. This will help clear your mind. Let the music or sounds just take you on a journey.
Relaxation and Meditation Techniques:
Guided Imagery Meditation
Progressive Muscle Relaxation (PMR)
1. Guided Imagery Meditation
Guided Imagery Meditation is great way to reflect and focus on the things that are important to you. It helps to bring forth the positive emotions of gratitude and feelings of calmness:
As you're focusing on your breath bring forth an image or an event that puts you at ease. I like to think of me, my wife and daughter walking the beach and experiencing the way the sand feels between my toes.
Once you find that image or event keep it in the front of your mind and focus on it.
When you're ready you can begin to move to another position while maintaining that thought. Or you don't have to move at all and you can simply stay in that position.
2. Progressive Muscle Relaxation
Progressive Muscle Relaxation is a great technique to release built up stress or perhaps burn a little more calories.
Sit or lay down in a comfortable position
Inhale through your nose and exhale out your mouth
Begin flexing different parts of your body one at a time, for example:
Start from head to toe
A) Raise your eyebrows; release
B) Close and your eyes and squeeze with your eyelids; release
C) Raise one shoulder; release - repeat the other side
D) Curl your arm and flex your bicep; release - repeat the other side
E) Extend your arm and flex your tricep; release - repeat the other side
F) Close your fist and squeeze; release - - repeat the other side
G) Flex your chest muscles; release
H) Pull your navel into your spine and squeeze; release
I) So on and so forth until you contract all your muscles
After doing this you should feel relaxed and if not, repeat the process again.
I have anxiety and have suffered from depression for quite some time now. Its not something that is going to go away, but it is something I have learned to live with and address when I need to. Some of the things I like to do that helps me with my anxiety and refocus my thoughts and energy is to use guided imagery meditation. These are the techniques and protocols I do to confront my anxiety and refocus my energy.
Note: This may not work for everyone. If suspect you have or have been diagnosed with depression, anxiety, or other mental health condition, please discuss this with your mental health care provider before attempting.
Coping with Anxiety
Begin in a comfortable seated or kneeling position; you can sit in a chair if you like just be sure to have great posture with a neutral spine and shoulders rolled back.
Focus on your breath; inhaling through the nose and exhaling out the mouth
Think of a memory or an incident from your past that bothers you; bring it to the front of your mind; be sure to start off a memory that is manageable to cope with.
Once you have that imagery in your mind examine it without any form of judgement or negative emotion.
While meditating on that imagery take in deep breaths and exhale completely; repeat as many times as necessary
On the final exhalation blow out the imagery from your mind and open your eyes feeling brand new.
Sometimes my anxiety is through the roof and doing the above protocols doesn't always do the trick. It does help, but often times I need to level up and add in body movements that are manageable to perform. I follow the same protocols except I don't stay stagnant. I perform moves such as Cobra to Downward Facing Dog. I move slowly while maintaining my posture, repeating my desired movement patterns (poses), and focus on my guided imagery meditation. I usually feel relaxed and at ease afterwards. If you do try this, please do so with caution.
Coach Herman is a certified personal trainer and group fitness instructor specializing in Sunrise Yoga.
Text: (909) 532-2455