An Integrative Approach to Anxiety

When a doctor tells you to try rolling out a yoga mat to treat your anxiety, listen. It’s unusual; because pharmaceuticals have been the most studied option for treatment of anxiety, they’re the go-to doctors have come to rely on for patients experiencing anxiety and depression. Yet many are finding a more integrative approach is more effective and causes fewer negative side effects. So if your doctor is one of the enlightened and suggests yoga as a complementary practice in treating your anxiety, you’d be wise to follow the suggestion.

With the holidays approaching, many find their anxiety levels increase, and spending a little extra time on a yoga mat may be the ticket to gaining control over that anxiety, or at least curbing it to a manageable level. Child’s Pose has always been number one of the relaxation poses, but there are many others you can do to help stave off some of those panic attacks. The key is to find a few asanas that you can do whenever and wherever you feel the need, whether it’s at home or waiting for the train.

The Yoga Mat Life doesn’t mean you only practice when you have the opportunity to roll out your yoga mat; the Life means embracing opportunities to use yoga whenever you need it, and we all know anxiety doesn’t wait for you to get to your yoga mat. But the good news is that you don’t always need your yoga mat to embrace a pose. You’re standing in line for coffee when that nauseating feeling hits your guts. You’re surrounded by impatient people, you’re on a schedule, but you feel it coming. Answer? Tree Pose. Forget about those other people, your place in line, the deadlines looming. You’ve got a few seconds before the line advances, so you take a deep breath, bring your feet together and your hands to your heart. Slowly, you assume the posture. Your focus is immediately diverted from the daily demands and whatever is causing your anxiety and you are forced to concentrate on steady breathing, sensing the earth beneath you as you bring your foot to the inside of your leg. You’re forced to focus on the immediate needs of the posture, on balance, stillness, and conscious breathing. The line moves. You step out of the posture and advance in the queue, then resume the posture. And your anxiety level decreases. You’re one step closer to coffee and a giant leap closer to keeping the anxiety at bay.

You didn’t bring your yoga mat to work, so what do you do when you’re just sitting there at your computer and the jitters begin? A simple variation of Cat/Cow can be done right in your office chair and no one will be the wiser. Simply think about the spinal flexing your body does on the yoga mat in Cat/Cow. Begin at the base of your spine and allow the pose to evolve organically in a seated posture. You’re increasing nutrients to your spine, your foundation, and with focused breathing, you’re increasing oxygen flow to your brain. When you’re satisfied, spend a few moment in Anjali Mudra and continue focusing on equal distribution of weight and pressure as well as on your breath.

Yoga mats are a great tool when you have access to them, but when anxiety begins to take root, you don’t always have the luxury of getting to your mat. Practice these simple asanas or others you find helpful and begin to take control of how you deal with those moments.