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One Strategy to Reduce Anxiety and Tension

PWDP3476During our sunrise and sunset shoots, one of the members of our group remarked several times on how calming and soothing Yellowstone is in the early morning and late evening. I took this picture near the lower falls in the Canyon area. It was the crack of dawn and we were the only people around. The sounds of the waterfall, the crisp morning air, the stillness of the forest, all combined to form a very serene atmosphere.

Early morning is my favorite time of the day. I love the calm of morning and all the possibilities that a new day brings – before the rest of the world wakes up and the hurry, scurry of life begins.

When I look at this Yellowstone picture, it reminds me of my favorite time of day and the serenity of being in nature.

Nature has a way of balancing us emotionally. I read recently that scientists are relating a lack of being outdoors and in nature to the increased levels of anxiety and various emotional disorders in children. Nature helps us to feel connected, grounded and balanced, and emotional balance is critical for a vital life and total wellbeing.

Conscious breathing has the same anchoring, connecting and balancing effect. It is a very useful tool when a rebalancing of our emotional energy is needed.

The ancient yogis classified our emotional energy into 3 categories and understood that human beings fluctuate between these states.

  1. Balanced (Sattvic)
  2. Active (Rajasic)
  3. Low (Tamasic)

Ideally, we are often in a balanced or sattvic state. Here our body and mind are in equilibrium and we have clarity of mind, emotional serenity and physical well-being. Emotionally we feel happy, joyful and appreciative. When do you feel sattvic (balanced)? Maybe it is during a hike in nature or in a yoga practice. What makes you feel total serenity?

Sometimes we experience the active or rajasic state. This energy is action oriented and creative, and we need it to get things accomplished. The trouble arises when our emotional energy is primarily or always in this active state because it makes us hyperactive which can lead to anger or anxiety. Road rage is an extreme example of rajasic energy, which has moved from being productively creative to being angry and destructive. Anxiety is another example of excessive rajasic energy. It ranges from mild worry to panic attacks and worse.

Sometimes we experience the third state, which is tamasic or low emotional energy. We experience this state in order to relax and wind down and to sleep. Carried to an extreme, this state results in inertia and potentially depression.

Most of us experience tension and anxiety (rajasic energy) at various times in our lives. Yoga can be used strategically to help re-balance our energy during those times. (Although yoga has been used successfully in more serious situations such as obsessive-compulsive disorder, panic attacks and post traumatic stress disorder, it is also important to seek professional help.)

When feeling anxious, overwhelmed and extremely tense, our minds experience hyper arousal and our bodies feel the effects, which can make us feel shaky, agitated, uneasy and unfocused. It is difficult to sit still. It is important to acknowledge your body’s reaction to the mental anxiety and to calm the body first.

From a yogic perspective a strategy for managing anxiety would include the following approach:

  • Create an asana (posture) practice that moves your body at an initial intensity that equals your body’s reaction to the mental anxiety.
  • Slow the movement down as your body and breath become more relaxed.
  • Introduce a conscious breathing pattern that calms the mental agitation through deep slow breathing.

SUMMARY: All 3 energies are present in us and we need all 3 to be fully human. Rajasic energy helps us get things done and fulfill our obligations in life. Tamasic energy helps us get the rest and relaxation we need to function from day to day. Sattvic energy helps us feel calm and balanced and able to appreciate life. It is when we become hyper active, or lethargic, or out of balance that we need a way to re-balance. Yoga with its emphasis on movement, breath management and meditation provides an effective tool for doing that.

Joanne Thompson

Joanne Thompson

Founder/Owner at Yoga for Self

Health is a precious gift and my goal is to help you live a healthier, happier life through yoga. Every private session is uniquely designed just for you. For a free telephone consultation call me at 303.818.4181. Discover whether personalized, private yoga instruction is right for you.
Joanne Thompson

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