Frauke Beherens, Rachel Blunt and Emma Malarkey show you how to calm your mind and reduce stress
I’m sure life is speeding up. Work hours are longer than ever. The sense of being constantly plugged in results in feelings of stress and anxiety.
If you are seeking alternatives to medication research has proven the positive effects of yoga and meditation.
I asked three leading yoga teachers for tips to reduce stress and anxiety.
Yoga expert, Emma Malarkey, draws attention to the importance of breath. “Many suffering from stress and anxiety breathe incorrectly. Typically their breath will be shallow and short, so ‘awareness to breath’ techniques are a great place to start and can work wonders.
There are many forms of pranayama (yoga breathing techniques) that calm the nervous system and focus the mind. Basic mindful breathing techniques are an excellent place to begin.
Breathe. Focus on a full exhalation and then passively observe the lungs filling up. If it helps you can count each breath. Once you get to 10, start counting again. This will prevent you simply counting yourself off to sleep.
Square breathing: Try counting to four as you inhale. Hold your breath for another four count. Exhale for four, then hold for four again. Repeat this until you go around the square 15 times. It’s a great way to calm the mind, relax the nervous system and reduce anxiety levels; it can also reduce stress or prevent onset of panic attacks.
Malarkey also suggests combining breath with passive postures.
“Choose postures that focus on forward folding stretching into the nerve network at the base of the neck.” This helps to calm the mind and activates the parasympathetic nervous system, the system responsible for rest and relaxation.
Emma suggests any seated forward fold, such as sitting with straight legs and back and reaching over towards your toes. Place a pillow under your chest for support, if that feels comfortable. “Corpse Pose is restorative and effective and often gets over looked.”
Remember to focus on your breathing and take your time. This is time for you. If anything feels uncomfortable or painful, of course come safely out of the posture.
1: Child’s Pose
2: Corpse Pose : Legs up wall variation
3: Seated Forward Bend
Leading UK Bikram yoga teacher, Rachel Blunt, suggests using the flowing movement of Vinyasa yoga as a fantastic way to connect with the breath and focus the mind. Vinyasa means movement with breath.
“Focusing the mind or meditating through movement, helps calm the nervous system, bring positive endorphins into the body and is incredibly powerful for beating the symptoms of anxiety. It places the focus on the movement rather than on the busy mind.”
Kundalini yoga and meditation expert, Frauke Behrens, recommends Kundalini yoga for combating anxiety.
“Kundalini yoga is wonderful for mental focus and clarity. Physical movement, breathing techniques, along with mantra chanting and meditation stimulate the glands and nervous system. This encourages feelings of calm and vitality which help reduce stress. It also helps us confront fear positively and I’ve seen many of my students grow in confidence, as anxiety and symptoms of depression begin to fade.
For me, my yoga practice, helps me feel grounded. These are special moments, just for me, to move, chant and connect with myself and inner spirit. Controlling stress is a fantastic bonus side effect! I really enjoy seeing the same for my students.”
Do not to overlook the powers of Yoga Nidra (a guided relaxation). Frauke explains “Yoga Nidra is a wonderful way to find inner calm. It’s a state between sleep and being awake, where your brain and body are totally relaxed and focused. It’s so easy to do, as you follow the guiding voice, but, really helps you to become aware of your body and release tension, as you connect with your inner self.”
Here’s a lovely and simple Yoga Nidra practice found on the Azulfit YouTube channel:
Yoga certainly has many options when it comes to reducing anxiety. Finding an experienced and knowledgeable teacher is a good start; then try a few styles to see what resonates with you best.
All these expert teachers can be found sharing their love for yoga, meditation and wellbeing at Azulfit Yoga & Pilates Retreat, Fuerteventura.
Frauke Beherens, Rachel Blunt and Emma Malarkey share many years of experience teaching and inspiring students from around the world, and have seen the incredible benefits yoga helping many students through difficult times.
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