Tame the Anxiety & Worry Monkeys
Mental and emotional ease are states of being that we can all appreciate. We put our best selves forward when we are peaceful, calm and focused. We need fast, easy and accessible tools to bring us back to order and calm when fear, anxiety, stress or worry monkeys knock on our door and enter our inner sanctum, wreaking havoc. The ancient practice of yoga therapy has tools that can be tailored for working with the monkeys.
The journey of life brings difficult changes, losses and transitions that create disturbances of thought and emotion. It’s like an entire jungle of monkeys vacationing in our home. We may also be “hardwired” genetically or through family or other conditioning to be more anxious, worried and fearful. In other words, you bought the house with monkeys included. Ultimately we have to accept innate tendencies, process life experiences and learn tools for cultivating awareness and changing the inner sanctum when the monkeys take over and create a mess of our minds, emotions and physiology.
Yoga can work in the short term by soothing the stress response, quieting the mind and balancing emotions. Over time, regular practice that is tailored to your needs can help to reduce or prevent stress and anxiety symptoms, panic attacks and side effects of stress and anxiety such as distraction, insomnia, digestive distress, shortness of breath, heart palpitations and high blood pressure.
My teacher, Gary Kraftsow, a master level Yoga Therapist and trainer, says that “one of yoga’s most important gifts is an inner connection to the reality that you are not your diagnosis” or your monkeys. Working with the monkeys of anxiety, stress, worry or fear requires cutting through the physiological stress response to connect to something deeper within ourselves, that inner aspect of ourselves that is unchanging, even in the face of our genetics, family conditioning or external life changes.
5 Steps to Soothing Anxiety, Worry and Fear
Step 1: Move your body. Engage in some exercise.
Step 2: Breath in coordination with movement in a yoga posture, adapting the breath in a unique way to soothe the stress response.
Step 3: Do at least 12 – 18 breaths of a specialized anti-anxiety breathing technique.
Step 4: Use a mantra (word or phrase) with awareness of your inhale and exhale whenever you feel that inner quickening feeling that arises before worry, fear, anxiety or stress kicks in. We can prevent the monkeys from getting in the house. A simple mantra might be Inhale – “Peace, Peace”, Exhale – “Peace, Peace, Peace”.
Step 5: Connect to a source of inspiration or faith that gives you courage and strength for all that is ahead in the journey of life. This shortened version of the Serenity Prayer is an example. “Help me accept the things I cannot change, courage to change those that I can and the wisdom to know the difference.”
The nature of our mind is that tendency toward monkeys repeatedly showing up and taking over. By doing regular yoga practice we place the bananas outside on the lawn for the monkeys, keeping our peaceful inner sanctum. If the monkeys do get in, we can use our emergency tools of movement, breath, mantra and sources of inspiration and strength to calm the monkeys and gently evict them.