Worry. We’ve all experienced some form of worry in our lifetime. To an extent, worry is natural and acts as a way for the mind to protect us from future threats. However, our minds can easily slide into an anxious loop – one where we find ourselves thinking about the future while also preparing ourselves for negative outcomes. Over time, this can lead to more severe experiences of anxiety.
How does the practice of Yoga help to break this cycle of worry?
Yoga is all about bringing you into the present moment – while worry causes anxiety related to your future. When you practice Yoga, your mind is reminded to be present in the ‘now.’ The more often you practice recentering yourself, the stronger your ability to break the cycle of feeling trapped by future outcomes. Think of it as flipping off the worry switch – it’s a moment to pause.
I believe that one of the greatest gifts that Yoga offers is an awareness of the body, mind, and spirit. There are two main areas that we experience this awareness:
1) Yoga invites intentional movement. There is an important connection between the mind and body. When you bring your attention to the body, you are redirecting the anxious energy from the mind into the body. In this way, it’s like redistributing energy. Also, unlike other exercises (which don’t incorporate the mind), yoga requires focus in order to be able to follow the sequence. The more present you are to the physical sensations in your body, the more present and centred your energy becomes.
2) Yoga also invites intentional breathing. When you are worrying or feeling anxious, your breath becomes shorter because your body essentially goes into survival mode. This is when the fight or flight mechanism kicks in. Your body starts to release stress hormones and a whole cascade of biological and chemical events begin to happen. By consciously inviting a slower and deeper breath, you activate your parasympathetic nervous system. At this point, your mind tells your body that you are safe and that you can relax.
In essence, Yoga helps to break the cycle of worry by shifting your worrying thoughts to the present moment using movement and breath as your anchors. The more often you show up on your mat, the stronger you become as the results are often cumulative. So the next time you find yourself being caught up in worrying, get on your mat and move with your breath. You will find peace in the present moment