Ayurvedic Wisdom for Anxiety

What I love most about Ayurveda is it keeps 'life wisdom' so simple. That is not to say dealing with anxiety is easy, but from my experience it is possible to have some super effective and yet simple life tools in your pocket to manage one day at a time.

Ayurveda is all about treating with opposites, so first we need to understand the energy of 'Anxiety'. According to this ancient wisdom it is an imbalance of Vata Dosha which is aggravated by feeling stressed and overwhelmed. Even if we set aside the not so subtle stress of living amidst a global pandemic, it is also a typical imbalance for most of us at this time of year being Autumn to mid-Winter is Vata Season - depicted by qualities; cold, dry, light, airy/windy, unstable, rough, moving, quick, changeable, enthusiastic, energetic, creative.

We live in an age where we are trained to believe that our value as a human being correlates to how busy we are, that we are at our worthiest when we're checking off a list, our most rewarding days are those we've filled every moment doing, producing, fixing and constantly moving one way or another. Anxiety is the product of this constant 'doing' and not 'being'. Time-filling is a difficult habit to break, in fact for most a lot of guilt involved in surrendering to non-doing.

The answer is in the breath, the attention to breath in the moment is living in mindfulness - this is the antidote to anxiety.

The unfortunate thing about anxiety, as with most energy states, is that this fast moving, busy, unstable energy vibration attracts more of its like to itself. So the most important tool you can carry is mindfulness - notice the energy of your choices, is it more of what you already feel? Choosing differently, even if at first it feels repelling and uncomfortable, by surrounding yourself with things, places, activities and people that have energy qualities of; still, grounded, slow, warm, smooth, loving, calm, single-pointed focus and stable - these elements balance the Base Chakra and Third Eye Chakra where anxiety dwells.

"Opposites are cures for opposites" Hippocrates

Nic's top 8 Ayurvedic tips for Anxiety

  1. EXHALE SLOWLY + COMPLETELY ..... control the rhythm of your diaphragm. Anxiety impacts diaphragmatic flow and the symptoms are shortness of breath, inability to breathe in, tension in upper chest area and heart palpitations. Breathe out through pursed lips x 3 times, this will instantly create a calm sensation and soothe diaphragmatic rhythm. Followed by nostril breathing making the breath out longer than the inhale, develop a pause at the end of the exhale. Anxiety is a tendency to hold breath + stress in and not letting go.

  2. MANTRA MEDITATION - keep it simple (not busy or complicated!) have something to focus on such as SO (on inhale) HUM (on exhale). Explore being still by starting with small increments of time 2-5mins, then eventually 10-15mins. You may feel resistant at first but the benefits are long term and ultimately the most significant healing remedy for anxiety.

  3. SLOW STEADY MOVEMENT - avoid fast/flowy/bursts/energetic/over-exertion such as running, HIIT, Vinyasa, Sun Salutations, Flow Yoga (these have Vata qualities and will increase an unstable energy flow). Instead try Yin or Restorative Yoga, Tai Chi, Yoga with long steady holds, grounding poses and extended breath flow eg Hatha, Iyengar, Yogalates, slow weights, stability work with resistance bands.

  4. EAT GROUNDING, WARM, SPICY, UNCTUOUS FOODS - root vegetables, cooked and easily digestible, healthy fats, eat 3 meals per day. Avoid light, cold, dry foods eg tuna salad and juice diets. See list of foods here, plus great Vata balancing recipes for winter here. Reduce stimulants ie caffeine, sugar, alcohol.

  5. MAKE A GOOD NIGHTS SLEEP A PRIORITY - AVOID TECHNOLOGY + SOCIAL MEDIA 1hr before bed. Electromagnetic fields, blue light, too much information, gossip and media overstimulates Vata energy. Try a 'before bed by 10pm routine' perhaps including self-massage with oil, calming music, essential oils, a soothing herbal tea. Suggestions for Vata here. A heavy weighted blanket over belly/chest area is calming. Journalling before bed to 'mind-dump'. Use a guided meditation for improved sleep such as Yoga Nidra - Go With The Flow Meditation attached below.

  6. KEEP WARM - avoid exposure to too much wind, wear layers and socks, favour warm colours. Warm your insides with ginger teas and aromas such as cinnamon, lavender, sage, pine and vanilla.

  7. LIVE WITH TRUST, FAITH + IMPERFECTION - perfectionists are most prone to anxiety with feelings of needing to do too much and never being enough, relying on Self and no other. Anxiety also relates to an inability to trust, feel safe, living with fear instead of faith (relates to Base and Third Eye Chakras). Two books I can highly recommend are 'The Surrender Experiment' by Michael Singer, and 'Perfect Just as you Are' by Pema Chodron. Follow Mel Robbins on FB for great insights into anxiety and learning the difference between High Functioning & Low Functioning Anxiety.

  8. FOCUS ON ONE THING - Anxiety feels are constant distraction, too busy, overwhelmed and often results in unfinished tasks. Reduce your to-do list to one thing, until completed. Try the Pomodoro Technique of setting an alarm for your work/activities for 25mins and do just one thing, then breaking for 5mins, repeat. More info here. For example choose ONLY 1-3 of the above tips to apply at first.

The Yoga pose in pic below 'Legs Up the Wall', you can place a bolster or folded blankets for more height under pelvis 'Viparita Karani' pose ~ helps reduce anxiety because it lowers the heart rate, calms the nervous system, releases stress, allows the grounding and stable energy from feet and legs (Base Chakra) to move to mind (Third Eye Chakra). Spend 3-5 mins here, or longer as needed.

I created this 'Go With The Flow' guided meditation as a practice in developing our ability to surrender into a state of peace, regardless of life's turbulence. To teach our nervous system how to manage our state of being, reducing impact from our external environment. I hope you enjoy.

Inspya Me Online Yoga + Meditation practices (www.inspyameonline.com Monthly & Yearly Memberships) that support Anxiety (& Hypertension) balancing Vata energy are;

  • All classes under Style - 'Yin / Restorative / Gentle / Over 60's'

  • Core Setup 1 - Core Breathing

  • Go with the Flow Meditation (attached above)

  • So Hum Meditation I then II

  • Viloma Breathwork - Lung Expansion (only focus on pausing/extending exhale not inhale)

  • Apana Meditation - A Grounding Practice

  • Nadi Shodhana - silken threads and alternate nostril breathing

  • MindBodyFully Present Meditation

  • Nirvana Yoga Nidra - guided meditation

  • Mind Over Matter - Hatha Yoga practice

  • Hatha Yoga with So Hum Meditation

  • Core Series IV - Standing Strong

  • Yogalates - Wall Class

  • Shoulders Neck Wrists II - Releases

Inspya Yoga Therapies with Nic Whiteman

Tel: 0434 417 261

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