Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Yoga for Anxiety (Book)

A Kinder, Gentler Approach to Anxiety.

In Yoga for Anxiety, Mary NurrieStearns, LCSW, RYT and Rick NurrieStearns offer a gentle, compassionate approach to handling anxiety and share wise insights based on their experiences. I originally picked up the book because I thought I could benefit from some Yoga postures that specifically target the fight or flight —anxiety—response. The book delivered on that and a whole lot more. Using the philosophy of Yoga as a foundation, the authors discuss the causes of anxiety and how to calm the mind, providing meaningful questions and exercises. Some of the tools they offer to ease anxiety are mantras, different types of breathing techniques, and awareness/witnessing techniques.

Scattered throughout the book were tidbits that made me think “why didn’t someone tell me this a long time ago!!”  For example, many of us have had plenty of insights into what may have originally caused our anxiety, but then feel stuck about what to do next. The authors offer a simple, yet powerful phrase to say to ourselves when old material comes up in the present: “such an innocent misunderstanding.”  Another powerful insight is the concept of samskara, grooves created in our minds from reoccurring thoughts. It helped me understand some of the frustrations I have had over the years when trying to deal with anxiety. A much smaller, but useful tidbit was the idea of doing mantras—which rightly or wrongly I associated with affirmations—beginning on the out breath, thus engaging the parasympathetic, relaxation, response. Similarly, the authors indicated that people tend to be more relaxed when they inhale through their left nostril. Yet, another major “wow” for me was the idea that we do violence to ourselves by our inner criticism.

Anxiety is a complex disorder, which often requires a multiple-part solution: medicine, diet, exercise, psychotherapy. Yoga for Anxiety never suggests that it has the answer. What it does have are some wise insights and useful tools that can be utilized immediately. The authors understand how to gently coax anxiety out of our lives.

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