As a culture, it’s a sad truth that we are becoming increasingly familiar with ‘anxiety’ in our daily lives. In just the past week, I’ve spoken to multiple people, who identify it as a current problem that they are trying to address; and they’re not alone.
I too have struggled with the beast, who roars his ugly head at the most inconvenient of times and causes me to feel busy, stressed-out, and simultaneously, utterly unproductive. I’ve battled this monster that tricks you into believing you can outwork him and outsmart him. I’ve felt defeated and limited in my ability to reach higher levels of success because I was unable to control every variable around me…
And then came yoga.
Let me be clear before we journey too far down this path, yoga is not a magic cure. Yoga is a practice, and it requires effort, but it has and continues to help me keep my anxiety at bay by encouraging mindful awareness and keeping me in the present moment.
You see, anxiety is rarely a problem of the here and now. Anxiety, in the mental sense, is a problem of perspective, it’s us projecting catastrophic failure (or insert the thing your ego can’t cope with) onto our future selves. Yoga is a soft reminder that there is only the present moment.
The second half of anxiety is the physical response and the psychosomatic feedback loop can be vicious. It’s blurred vision, it’s lightheadedness, it’s the feeling that the world is closing in; you can’t swallow, your breath is rapid, your ability to concentrate is reduced. Yoga encourages a mind-body connection, it teaches you to notice subtle changes in your state and asks you to breath and respond, rather than to simply react. This skill that comes with the disciplined focus taught by yoga is vital to interrupting the persistent cycle of anxiety.
If you are dealing with anxiety, it’s real. If you’ve never tried yoga before, I hope that you do; not because stretching will help you relax but because:
“Yogah cittavritti nirohah” – Yoga is the calming down of the fluctuations of the mind.
Yoga Sutra 1.2