Gettin’ Bendy with It: Can yoga help reduce anxiety?

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Like a lot of people, I have anxiety, but didn’t know it. A few years ago, I began practicing yoga, which became my saving grace.

Yoga is more than what the modernized western world portrays it to be. It’s an ancient practice that focuses on breath and stillness. People often are hesitant to try yoga because they think they aren’t flexible enough. But yoga is about unity and finding inner peace. You don’t even have to touch your toes for that!

Yoga guides you to bring your attention to the here and now through breath awareness. Focused breathing helps take some of the attention off other stimuli around you, and yoga poses are just distractions, much like the distractions in your everyday life. Is your mind telling you that you can’t stay in goddess pose another minute longer? Go back to your focused breath. Is your job or family stressing you out? Go back to your focused breath. Feel the difference it can make.

Yoga is a form of meditation, which can be an intimidating word. In meditation, you can allow your chaotic mind to swirl around as long as you notice what things make your mind swirl. To-do lists? Past conversations? Made-up scenarios? The more you begin to notice, the more you’ll realize the patterns your mind might have.

Anxiety can disappear when we gain some control of our mind. There are many scientific studies that show correlation between meditation and decreased anxiety. The long, exaggerated breathing that’s part of focused breath work activates the parasympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for the rest and digest or inner calm response. Schools worldwide are beginning to implement meditation into their curriculum in hopes of decreasing childhood anxiety rates. With these learned practices children can enter adulthood with positive coping mechanisms.

Meditation can happen anytime, anywhere. You don’t need to be sitting in silence with your legs crossed to be successful. Gardening, painting, drawing, running or listening to music are all examples. Doing something you love to the point of your mind being at ease with your focus strictly on what you’re doing is blissful. You are fully immersed in the present moment. That is meditation.

If you need a jumpstart, yoga teacher trainings are offered all over the world certifying people not only teach this sacred practice, but to allow individuals an opportunity to strengthen their foundation of yoga. Each person gets something different out of a teacher training but they can provide levels of personal growth, self-discovery, self-motivation and a sense of community to just name a few.

Nikki Russo recently completed a 200hr course through LiveLoveTeach in Jamestown, and in March 2020 they will be offering another training session for beginners. You can practice yoga with Nikki at Rhode Island Power Yoga in North Kingstown. 

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