In light of this week bring Mental Health, I’m going to bare my soul and talk about my battles with anxiety and the tactics I use to deal with it.
For as long as I could remember I never felt at ease in social situations. I would worry about what people were thinking of me, worry about what I was going to say next, worry about what people would say about me when I left the room. When I would study I would worry that I was doing to wrong thing, worry that the teachers would think I was stupid, worry that they were laughing at me. I’d worry so much that I just couldn’t do it. I’d walk into the middle of my bedroom, lay down and awkwardly swing my legs up in the air. I’d support my back with my hands and just stay like that for 5 minutes. At the time I didn’t know that I was activating my parasympathetic nervous system, making my heart relax, beat slower and reduce my blood pressure. Heck I didn’t know what a parasympathetic nervous system was.
Sometimes I would drape myself backwards over my gym ball, with both feet and both hands on the ground. Not quite wheel pose, but I was opening my chest and strengthening my lungs. I started practicing plow pose and legs up the wall, enjoying the way I felt after (it should be noted that poses that place pressure on the neck should be avoided in the absence of proper guidance from a trained instructor. Don’t be like me).
I didn’t know that I was doing yoga, it was just a natural thing for me to do personally. But when I realised these were yoga poses I started researching and discovered that the poses I were doing were proven to be beneficial for treating anxiety and depression. Others came up which I had not tried, including child’s pose, forward fold, tree pose and headstands (again, don’t try the latter without instruction and guidance!).
Research is finding many links to yoga and its ability to treat mental and physical health conditions. It is even being offered to current and ex-service officers to help them cope with the stress and trauma of their professions. Benefits of yoga include:
- Lowering stress and blood pressure, and increasing confidence: Mediation and breathing techniques boost oxygen to the brain, quiets self-chatter and releases tension from the mind. Breathing techniques also learnt during yoga increases our lung capacity and when practiced during stressful situations can reduce your stress levels.
- Decreased risk of injury: Yoga is low impact exercise with low risk of injury.
- Improved posture: Yoga strengthens your abdominal and back muscles and people generally find that they can stand taller and straighter.
- Increases flexibility, improves muscle tone, and just all-round good for you: People always tell me they are not flexible enough to do yoga. That’s rubbish. We stretch to become flexible, and this improves our muscle strength and tone at the same time. Yoga also positively affects our ligaments and tendons which increases our range of motion. People also generally find that with regular physical activity they are more inclined to lead a healthier lifestyle generally.
Yoga, clean(er) eating, and in more recent times avoiding meat has personally done wonders for me. The benefits that yoga has brought to my life was a driving force in my decision to purchase Voodoo Yoga this year.
But whatever form of exercise you choose to take, DO IT. You will be feel better if you attend that class, go for that walk, do star jumps in your living room even. Move the body that you were given and you will find that you will start to shift towards a happier, healthier life.