We all have anxiety. How much it affects us varies from day to day, but naturally, will be more during times of high Vata energy (instability, transition, stress, menopause). There is no quick fix. We have to make lifestyle shifts and nourish depleted nervous systems. But, in a matter of two weeks, you can feel a big difference. My 10 most powerful tools to reduce vata in the mind and nervous system (in no particular order) are:
#1. Having a baseline routine.
Nobody experiences the same thing everyday, but we can have a baseline to our daily rhythm. Rising and going to bed at approximately the same time, and even having a simple ritual (e.g. drink triphala, go to restroom, read affirmations) in the morning and night can be a very effective way to strengthen circadian rhythms.
The stronger your circadian rhythm, the less vata there is in your circadian bodily functions (e.g. appetite, alertness, hormonal patterns), and the less anxiety you will experience in your mind.
#2. Brahmari Pranayam.
This is “bumblebee” breathwork exercise. I won’t do it justice to just write about it, so LINK to a video demo. Or you can look this one up in Light on Yoga by Iyengar.
The truth is any exercise to deepen and slow the breath is going to activate the parasympathetic nervous system and reduce anxiety, and as such there are a few types of breathing exercises that can be vata-reducing.
#3. Forehead-to-the-ground asana.
It’s incredible, but true. Literally placing your forehead to the ground (and taking a few deep breaths while you visualize Mother Earth absorbing all of your excess stress) also calms the stress response which anxiety is a byproduct of.
You can be in child’s pose, in any variation of a forward fold, or even just laying flat on your belly, and all of these poses reduce vata.
#4. Marma Point Therapy.
This is akin to using acupressure on a certain point along an energetic pathway (nadi, or meridian). For anxiety reduction, there is a lovely point on the left hand. More specifically, the marma point is on the left palm just below the middle finger bottom knuckle.
For most of us, the bottom of the bottom knuckle is going to be about a quarter to a third of the way down from the top of the palm. Allow the left palm to collapse and relax as you press into the point with your right thumb. Close your eyes and take a few deep breaths.
#5. Getting enough sleep.
We have all been sleep deprived at some point in our lives, and most of us can remember how vata that felt to be moving through the day floating, half-present, and feeling depleted.
Sleep is when the body rejuvenates, so making sure we have enough time in slumber is a great way to allow the nervous system to restore itself, reducing anxiety by addressing root causes.
#6. Vata reducing nervines.
This is a class of herbs that warms, and rejuvenates the nervous system tissue. Most of these herbs also have grounding effects on the subtle energetic body. My favorites are shankpushpi, jatamamsi (hard to get in the US), ashwagandha, brahmi, and tulsi. See your practitioner for appropriate combinations and dosing.
#7. Spending quality time with yourself.
By connecting to the experiences that bring you true joy, you can reduce vata and reclaim some of your usual energy expenditure to others. Most of us do not have enough time alone where we are engaging in fun, or quality-time with ourselves.
We use our alone time to work or clean or get things done. When we enjoy our alone-time (and prioritize it), we ending up grounding in our sense of self and purpose and reduce vata in a powerful way.
#8. Consciously reduce the multi-tasking.
Focusing on one thing at a time, and completing the activity, is a great way to reduce vata in the mind. The more we try to do at once, the more scattered and anxious we feel, and the less likely we are to produce quality outcomes.
This is a lovely Ayurvedic body therapy which involves dripping herbal oil over the third eye (6th chakra) and allowing the warm oil to coat the entire scalp. You can find this at any Ayurvedic healing center, and even may upper end spas. Warm oil scalp massage at home produces similar anxiety reduction, especially when done regularly.
Most people I know begin meditation because they want to address their anxiety, or stress. Everyone with a regular meditation practice will report diminished symptoms of vata in the mind, including anxiety. My recommendation is to simply start by aiming to calm down your nervous system. Don't worry about clearing your mind, or achieving bliss - that's advanced. Just try to deactivate for a few minutes of doing nothing - that still has all the same benefits physiologically.
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