As far back as I can remember I have had an anxious mind. I can recall feeling paralysed by indecision, tight chested, or frustratingly restless with seemingly little reason. As a teenager I communicated these feelings poorly, reacted strongly, and usually ended up walking away rather than resolving conflicts. This manifested into self isolation and social withdrawal, but could easily be brushed off as ‘shy’ and ‘very independent’.
Through talking therapy, self reflection and a supportive community my emotional vocabulary began to expand. I learnt that the best remedy to soothe an anxious mind is the gradual and continuous learning of ones own patterns and reactions. To treat yourself, as you would a friend, with patience and kindness.
When I began yoga I was looking for peace. A place to process and feel a sense of belonging and acceptance. In my body and in the world. I have learnt that cultivating a steady practice, alongside talking therapy and continual self awareness are what I need for a steady mind.
Within the health and wellness community there can be shame or caution attached to needing more psychological support. A belief that a dedicated spiritual practice or joyful exterior reflects a steady mind — impermeable to a disturbance in mental health. Any feeling of shame restricts ones ability to be happy and free, and yet isn’t this what we are cultivating for others in our practice. More recently, these social barriers are being broken down and the conversation around mental health has become more inclusive, giving people space to flourish.
When we can realise that no one is broken, and that no one knows all the answers, then we can be more open to receiving support in a holistic way.
In an essay on compassion, His Holiness the Dalai Lama writes:
“It is possible to divide every kind of happiness and suffering into two main categories: mental and physical. Of the two, it is the mind that exerts the greatest influence on most of us. Unless we are either gravely ill or deprived of basic necessities, our physical condition plays a secondary role in life. If the body is content, we virtually ignore it. The mind, however, registers every event, no matter how small. Hence we should devote our most serious efforts to bringing about mental peace.”
Some practice ideas you may find helpful.
- A gentle walk
- Childs pose over a bolster or pillow
- Legs up the wall with a light weight on the chest
- Lying on one side with a bolster between the knees