Transform Anxiety to Peace With Yoga
In its pure form, the vitality that circulates through all things is called Shakti. As it enters your body, and becomes personalized, it’s known as prana.
When you have an injury, sickness, are stressed or anxious, the prana does not circulate fluidly or evenly. These challenges are signposts to remind you to stop, slow down and pay attention. The goal is never to simply fix or relieve these “problems,” but to remain present with yourself as you experience them.
These imbalances bring with them the urge to uproot and run away —away from the intensity, the pain, the confusion, and the discomfort. But to stay, is the way through. Witnessing the experience is the way to transform anxiety to peace.
In the physical body, wanting to run, or tensing against challenges, blocks the downward flow of prana, which is called apana. Smoothly flowing apana is responsible for feeling grounded, calm, spacious, patient, stable and safe. It’s also related to the ability to let go, release, and to eliminate waste.
Instead of the urge to run, increasing your apana gives you the courage to stay with yourself throughout your anxiety, stress, injury or sickness. This process of healing builds strength in your relationship with yourself, confidence in knowing you can trust yourself and peace from accepting, rather than fighting, what is.
To increase apana and encourage it to flow smoothly, you need to work with your legs in your yoga practice. Suggestions are:
- seated poses
- hip openers
- forward bends
- thigh stretches
The common theme in these—and the one thing you can do in every yoga posture—is to move your thigh bones deeper back within your pelvis. Settling them towards the posterior (seating the femur head into the acetabulum, for you anatomy geeks) opens the downward channel of energy. This is not only therapeutic for hamstring issues and knee pain, it will also help you create enough space to face your anxiety.
Here’s a short sequence to give you a felt sense of the therapeutic calm that comes from increasing the apana in your body.
You’ll need a yoga belt looped into a long circle; when you stand in Tadasana and hold it in your hands, it should reach roughly from your hip crease to your ankle. The belt will mechanically pull your thighs to the posterior.
You’ll also want a yoga block. Lifting the ball of your foot onto it will keep your knee form hyperextending, which, in turn, helps the head of your femur settle deeper back into your pelvis.
- Have a block set to the lowest height on the front/short end of your yoga mat.
- Slip the belt over the crease of your right thigh and around the sole of your left foot.
- Keep the belt in place by widening your stance and bending your knees —it will feel like it’s way too short, but don’t adjust it just yet.
Getting Into The Pose
- With both knees still bent, lean over to the right and put your right hand on the ground for stability and balance.
- Lift the ball of your left foot and place it against the block, with your heel firmly on the floor.
- Slide your left foot away from your right to maintain tension on the belt.
- Now, gradually begin to straighten your right leg.
- As you do so, creep your left foot farther away from your right, until you feel the belt pull your right thigh and hip back and down.
- *This is where you can adjust the belt length if it doesn’t feel right*
- After about a minute, lift the heel on your left foot.
- Pivot on the ball of your foot and turn your hips square to the block.
- Wiggle your left foot back until the belt pulls firmly on the top of your right thigh.
- Lengthen your chest forward as you continue to anchor your right hip back with the help of the yoga belt.
Make sure to repeat on the other side! You can do this…