My continued learning
I have just returned from 3 intensive days in London learning how to therapeutically use a yoga practice to manage stress & anxiety. It was an absolute joy to meet so many new yoga teachers and hear how they support their students. In particular, those that teach in the capital where there is an open culture of discussing stress. It is just accepted by many as an everyday occurrence living and working in such a large, congested city.
I am writing this as our world is currently in pandemic mode of a new virus but I truly believe another unseen epidemic we are suffering from as a culture is stress & anxiety.
This week a report was published in the Guardian newspaper revealing current statistics on the mental health of undergraduate students in UK universities. Students reported high levels of anxiety, with 42.8% often or always worried. Almost nine in 10 (87.7%) said they struggled with feelings of anxiety – an increase of 18.7 percentage points on 2017 figures – and a third (33%) reported suffering from loneliness often or all the time.
This is heart breaking indeed. My own daughter Ruby has just left home to study at Leeds University and I myself studied there (years ago!) The pressures of university are certainly different from a few years ago and I feel saddened that university life is not as carefree as it once was. Life is just more pressured for young people it seems.
So what is my go to yoga practice when I am starting to feel edgy, unnerved or unable to sleep? I am always reminded of Patanjalis Yoga Sutras in particular 1.34:
“Or (the mind becomes clarified) by the exhalation and retention of breath”
I believe the pacification of the mind is achieved also through the practice of exhalation through nostrils and control of breath. The mind and Prana (life force) are bound together. By gaining control over one, we can control the other one. To get Prana under control, one should resort to the breathing exercises. The fluctuations of the mind and the fluctuations in the thoughts can be brought under control by pranayama exercises. The mind will be pacified with the control of Prana. Hence breathing exercises result in the pacification of the mind.
If I am awake in the middle of the night I begin rounds of deep belly breathing. I lie with my hands on my tummy and allow myself to start to tune into the breath. I breathe into my belly feel my hands move apart and breathe out and feel my hands come back together. This is a simple but effective practice and has been my rock as I have built Sandstone.
It is an accessible first step into understanding how you can use yoga to pull you back into the now when your mind starts to race. Over the coming weeks I will share much deeper insights into my course but as everything in yoga I believe it always starts with the breath. Please start practicing and see how your mind chatter might diminish. It works for me and I hope it does for you.