X This site uses cookies. Read more.

Anxiety? Why Zoe T prescribes yoga poses

Claire Coakley

Photography courtesy of James Lightbown

Get off the couch and hit the mat

To get a grip on over-the-top anxiety consider upping your asanas. Yoga is on a par with talk therapy for dealing with generalised anxiety disorder (GAD) confirms new research. It also proved more effective than stress management in the study at the New York University's Grossman School of Medicine. In the UK, treatment for anxiety includes cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) and medication including anti-depressants. GAD affects around five per cent of people in Britain and this research shows that the NHS might be more well off prescribing warrior poses.

Yoga is my remedy for everything beyond my control  

Model and artist, Zoe Thresher says: “I've used yoga to channel my energy and focus during the worst (and best) of times. I used to think the formula for coping with anxiety was a long run or a heavy weights session, but that gave me even more anxiety! The thought of having to go and 'kill' myself for an hour in the gym, in order to feel better, seemed counter-intuitive. Now I listen to what my body wants. On anxious days, often that looks like a stretchy but strong yoga flow with meditation and pranayama.”

“I go deeper into my practice during tumultuous times like break-ups and lockdown. Yoga is my remedy for everything on the outside world that is beyond my control. I set myself the challenge of learning a new pose that pushes my mental and physical boundaries. There's no better feeling than when you finally nail it.” 

A long pigeon pose calms me

Certain poses help me to feel calm. I love staying in pigeon pose for a long while. What feels uncomfortable at the start slowly becomes an intensely deep, juicy hip-flexer and hamstring stretch once I've settled into it and found my pranayama. We're all so different physiologically; what I find relaxing someone else may find stressful. So it's up to us to explore our perfect asana recipe . My YouTube yogis are Cat Meffan and Juliana Spicoluk. Their flows are specifically designed for feeling calmer or relieving stress.”  

 

Bhramari is a wonderful way to quieten the mind

This latest study used three groups with different 12-week programmes, including a course of Kundalini yoga with meditation. 54 per cent of people said their GAD symptoms improved with yoga, compared to 33 per cent in the stress-management group which focused on A-game health advice including diet and exercise.  Breathwork was key to the yoga group.

Gabrielle Hales of Secret Yoga Club says:“If we slow the breath, we signal directly to the brain that we are relaxed. The brain will then start a chain of biochemical and psychophysical responses that work with the parasympathetic to calm the whole body. For anxiety, she suggests we use bhramari, the bee breath: “It's a wonderful way to quieten the mind and create a soothing vibration throughout the whole body. It also focuses on lengthening the exhalation, which reduces the 'fight and flight' stress response.

“Press your index fingers gently into your ears. Inhale deeply through nose. Exhale, closing lips and making the sound mmm, as if you were humming like a bee. Continue for five minutes or as long as it feels good for you. When you stop, relax your breathing, sit tall.”

I find my flow and anxiety melts away

Yoga is called a practice for a reason. I don't expect to step onto my mat and be immediately relieved of my anxiety, but with consistent time and attention I've really noticed the benefits. That's part of what yoga principles teach. Being persistent, making micro-adjustments and progressions will add up, in time, to something much greater. Transferring these teachings to everyday life has helped me manage anxiety. I respond well to having an end goal and focussing on the small steps to reach it. That's where I really find my flow and I notice anxious feelings simply melt away.

More info

All Content © Copyright Wellness Edit 2020. All rights reserved