Many of us spend time in "worry mode". It's 1 am and you can't sleep because your mind is racing. You are worrying about the next day and then you worry about not being able to sleep. You even worry about situations that have never happened before or are not likely to happen (the "what ifs?"). Some of your worries are rationale and based on previous experiences and other worries are completely irrational.
Even as a kid, I recall sleepless nights and not being able to switch off. My mind was in overdrive and I would try different ways to get to sleep. One way was watching TV (Prisoner Cell Block H....weird I know) and when my mum and dad would come upstairs I would quickly turn it off and pretend I was asleep. Otherwise, I would wriggle around for hours telling myself to go to sleep. Nevertheless, thoughts of saving the animals or worries about school would circle in my mind. Possibly a slightly odd child.
How does yoga ward off the worry?
Yoga is learning to just 'be' rather than focusing on how anxious and worried you are.
Since starting yoga, I sleep a lot better. I am relaxed after an evening class (particularly when Marci has killed my abs and we then do handstand practice). My mind still churns but I now tackle my overthinking and worrying with techniques learned through my psychology training and yoga.
If I can't sleep, I practice my breathing. Yoga breathing helps calm the sympathetic nervous system and therefore, helps to relax the body.
I find breathing the most difficult part of yoga. One day at Yogabomb, I was only person to attend the lovely Emel's class and she really helped me focus on my breathing. I was essentially holding my breath for many postures and not allowing it to work it's magic. This was the class I learned the magic of breathing. Savasana was priceless.
By focusing on the breath, you lose the focus on your thoughts. Lou says "acknowledge your thoughts and then let them go - drop them onto your mat" I like this. I often suggest similar techniques to my clients; Practice not attaching energy and emotion to certain thoughts and take them as they are.
I often match breathing focus with a mediation video from YouTube. I particularly enjoy the chakra cleansing ones. When I was going through a rough time, I went to visit my uncle, a former professional footballer and now a calming yogi. I didn't need to tell him what I was going through. He spoke to me about 'being still' and about learning to love yourself. He told me to listen to this (see below):
Obviously, in my tender state, my eyes cried and I started to feel a bit "fuller". I now use this video to help 'let the love in' whenever I am feeling a little low or overthinking situations.
"If a problem is fixable, if a situation is such that you can do something about it, then there is no need to worry. If it's not fixable, then there is no help in worrying" Dalai Lama
Breathe. Let the love in and let the worry go. Swap the worry for the warrior! Namaste 🙏🏽
Tracy Donachie, MSc in Performance Psychology.