Anxiety is the most common mental illness
in the United States. There are many kinds of anxieties, ranging from social
anxiety to obsessive compulsive disorder to specific phobias. Most of these are
associated with a loss of confidence, and particularly with a lack of basic trust,
which is marked in childhood. However, anxiety is also correlated with a
complex and variable set of risk factors such as brain chemistry, genetics,
life events, and personality.
Easily recognizable physical symptoms of
anxiety include quick, shallow breathing, muscle tension, high blood pressure,
and feelings of narrowness or rigidity.
Anxiety is treatable, but unfortunately the large majority of people affected never seek professional help. It is important to face your fear in order to discover its cause. Depending on the severity and depth of your anxieties, this does not have to be something you face alone—almost anyone can benefit from the support of family or friends, and for traumatized or depressed people, working with a therapist can be very helpful.
In China there is a
lovely expression which goes: “Anxiety knocked on the door, trust opened it,
and nobody was there.”In the spirit of
that wise proverb, some possible questions for reflection are: What exactly do I fear? What is the trigger for my anxiety?
Where and how can I feel this anxiety? What happens when I face the anxiety?
What happens if I feed my anxiety with trust and love? Oftentimes, though it may seem counterintuitive, the
simple act of accepting our feelings of anxiety for what they are, rather than
feeling stressed about being anxious, can go a long way toward
alleviating mental and emotional discomfort.
Yin Yoga teaches us a
simple but powerful method for soothing the worries that have become so
prevalent in our daily lives. Please join me below in a series of accessible
poses and a guided meditation to help leave our anxieties behind
and find physical, emotional, and mental equilibrium.
Sit on the mat in Easy
Pose and straighten your spine. Be aware of your natural flow of breath.
Let it deepen with every breath. Place your hands on your abdomen, left
and right of your navel, and consciously direct your breath there. Then
take the hands onto the lower ribcage and breathe into your chest area. Place
your hands below your collarbone and breathe into the upper apex
of the lungs. As you inhale, lift the hands upwards or forwards, and
lower them again as you exhale. Put one hand on the lower abdomen and one
hand on the upper abdomen. Now link up the breath across all three levels.
Become aware of the small pauses between breathing in and out, and extend them
a bit further. Now either breathe with an extended inhalation, very
evenly, or with an extended exhalation—depending on what feels harmonious to
you. However, always breathe in such a way that the breath can still flow
easily. Come back into the natural flow of breath and notice whether
anything has changed. Alternatively, you can also do Full
Breathing while lying down. Place your feet on the floor and leave
your hands resting on the abdomen. This version is ideal before going
to sleep, for example, or if you are lying awake and unable to sleep
Easy Pose with arm
and shoulder stretch (Sukhasana)
This position opens up
the hips and stretches the whole back as well as the arms and shoulders.
1. Come into Easy
Pose, your right arm crossed in front of the left. Bend forward in a relaxed
way with a rounded back, and cross your arms so that your right arm is in front
of your left arm and the palms are facing upwards. Alternatively, you can grip
the opposite shoulder.
2. Then change the arm
position by placing the palms downwards on the opposite knees. Remain in Easy
Pose for three to five minutes, including both arm positions. Then straighten
up again, release the arms and legs, and move to and fro loosely a few
times. Then change sides—crossing the left leg in front of the right one, and
the left arm in from of the right—and repeat the process.
Sit on the mat, place the soles of your feet together, and pull the feet towards the pelvis. Let the knees drop gently outwards, or support the outsides of the legs with two blocks if this stretch is too intense for you. You can also sit on a blanket or a cushion. Relax the back, let your upper body sink forward passively, and place your arms where it is comfortable for you.
Rainbow Bridge (Modified Urdhva Dhanurasana)
mobilizes the thoracic spine, opens the heart chamber, and stretches the
shoulders and insides of the
Place a yoga bolster
and a rolled-up blanket straight across the mat. Then lie down with your back
on the bolster, which supports your pelvis and lumbar spine. Your shoulder
blades are on the blanket, and your arms are placed alongside your head. If you
would like to intensify the stretch, you can extend out your legs, or for a
gentler variant, leave your feet placed on the floor.
Stay in Rainbow Bridge
for three to five minutes. Then either sit up again with activated pelvic floor
muscles, or roll to one side out of the position. Relax into a supine position.
You can carry out this
meditation any time you need protection on an energetic level.
Concentrate on a color
that gives you strength. Now imagine a column of light appearing in
front of you in this color. Take a step forward in your mind and place
yourself into the light. You are completely protected in this column of light.
It connects you with the energy of the earth on the one hand, and with the
energy of the sky on the other hand. You can help the effect further and use
the following affirmation if it feels right to you: “May only light and loving
energies come through to me, and may all negative energies remain outside,
starting now.” Then give thanks to the universe for this energetic protection.
* * *
This article includes
poses from Be Healthy with Yin Yoga: The Gentle Way to Free Your Body of Everyday
Ailments and Emotional Stresses by Stefanie Arend (She Writes
Press, August 2019).
Forster & Martin Fotografie, Munich