Can Meditation Help with Anxiety?
Photo by HckySo
In this week's podcast we are talking about how meditation can help with anxiety.
Here are some key points from our discussion:
Q: When I'm overcome with anxiety meditating seems almost impossible. What do you find is the simplest form of meditation to get back to center?
A: When our mind is stirred up, using the breath is the quickest and easiest way to enter into a meditative state. Yoga breathing techniques are particularly recommended for this. Yoga breathing calms the mind and prepares it for meditation.
It is impossible to meditate when we're too disturbed. Fortunately, there are techniques to help.
Q:You practice Japa. Can you tell me more about this form of meditation?
A: I encountered Japa meditation at the height of my anxiety around 20 years ago and found it incredibly helpful.
Japa comes from Sanskrit root Jap - to utter or speak softly
Repetition of mantra counted on beads - called Japa beads or mala.
Sometimes Japa is referred to as mantra meditation and it is recommended in Ayurveda as one of the lifestyle practices to keep the mind and heart healthy but also to help us go beyond material health and develop a practice for spiritual development.
A Mantra is different to an affirmation - mantra means to free, or liberate the mind. This kind of meditation is found in most of the world's spiritual traditions.
I consider my japa practice to be an occupational therapy that engages my senses, rather than me having to try and hush them or wrestle them into submission which is very hard.
A: All three doshas can use alternate nostril breathing to calm the mind (Shann shares how to do this in her Yoga Breathing for Anxiety Relief podcast).
But to look at individual dosha types:
Vata benefits from stillness, and balanced vata is naturally inclined to meditate, it is a wise and detached dosha that possesses great clarity but when vata is disturbed it is very hard to sit still. The disturbed vata mind pushes the body to move and speak, it's very hard for it to experience quiet, but that is exactly what it needs to do.
This is where guided meditation can help, because the vata mind responds well to being soothed into a practice, we've all heard of the horse whisperer, sometimes you need a mind whisperer someone who understands the vata mind and can help it calm down and become more settled. That's why we offer audio support for breathing exercises and other meditative practices.
Other practices to calm the vata mind are alternate nostril breathing, Tratak or gazing practices to promote concentration, and increase their sense of peace and tranquility.
Vata need to start small and practice regularly, for them routine is as essential as the method they choose.
For Pitta types, the cooling breath, shavasana and yoga nidra are helpful. Pitta also responds well to guided support, the pitta mind appreciates clear instruction and soon begins to feel relief when it knows what to do.
Kapha needs more energised breathing practices: that uplift the mind and energise the body. Kapha types are less likely to suffer from anxiety and more prone to depression, but anyone can become vata disturbed, and in the west most people are to varying degrees, so if your mind is unsettled, whatever your type it will be helpful to you to find a meditation technique to settle it and practice it regularly.
Even a Few Minutes Can Help
We don't have to meditate for hours every day - 10 minutes a day can make a big difference. I like to revisit my practice for a few minutes before I go to bed to settle myself at the end of the day after doing all the work stuff, and the Mum stuff, it's good to get back to centre as you close your day.
Q: I know there is scientific evidence that meditation can calm an anxious mind. With this being said, many pitta personalities feel too busy to try it. How can a Type A personality begin a supportive meditation practice?
A: When we get what we need we are quick to like it, the key is to appeal to the pitta intelligence and just get them to try it and then they will know for themselves.
If you are pitta and you are suffering with your mind, just try and put any pre-conceptions aside and try a good quality guided practice for ten minutes. You will be very pleasantly surprised at the results.
Listen to the full podcast here (running time 20 minutes):