Anxiety is a “thing” in both senses of the word. It’s a trend (a serious trend) and a condition, and it’s taking over. It’s not unlike the 1982 movie “The Thing,” which tells the story of a group of research scientists seeking to tame and rid their Antarctic camp of the vicious “thing” that is picking them off one by one. The ﬁelds of psychiatry, psychology, and mindfulness are trying to keep up with and contain this voracious and prevalent condition. Globally, about 1 in 13 people have anxiety—in the U.S. it’s 1 in 8 (Futurity.org/Health and Medicine), and in the UK, more than 1 in 10 people are likely to have an anxiety disorder at some point in their life (Anxiety UK).
According to dictionary deﬁnitions, the two main categories for anxiety are:
- A feeling of worry, nervousness, or unease, typically about an imminent event or something with an uncertain outcome.
- A nervous disorder characterized by a state of excessive uneasiness and apprehension, typically with compulsive behavior or panic attacks.
Before we get too blue, let’s acknowledge the elephant by saying it’s normal to have anxiety! It’s not pleasant, but it’s part of being human. The magic of mudras and breath in handling anxiety is that we have something very tangible to hook us into the present. Much of the activity in an anxious mind is the way it nervously jumps to future and past, seeking to control possible outcomes, or relive and redo the past. By utilizing the ancient and powerful techniques we have in yoga we strengthen our mind’s ability to stay present. As Victor Frankel said: “Everything can be taken from a man but one thing, the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.” When choosing the right attitude is elusive, we can practice choosing “Now” and begin from there.
Equal BreathWe will use the square version of this technique because it draws the attention to the present and calms a nervous mind even more than the standard technique. Sit comfortably, inhale to the count of 4, hold the breath in for a count of 4, exhale to the count of 4, and hold the breath out for 4. After a practice round, add the mudra if you would like to, and then practice 10 rounds and rest. Continue for longer if desired.
Vayu Mudra (Air Mudra)
Too much air in the body is said to create instability and this mudra uses ﬁre energy to suppress the air. It is also effective in reducing tremors for people with Parkinson’s Disease.