There is a simple yoga technique that is restorative and that calms and nurtures the adrenal glands, which are always involved in this experience we call anxiety. It is called “Legs Up The Wall.” It also calms hot flashes for those of you in menopause.
Place a yoga bolster or thick folded blanket (natural fibers like cotton and wool will hold the shape better) at the base of a wall. With your hips up on the support, extend your legs up and rest them against the wall. Check to see that your upper back, shoulders, and head are centered. Place your arms slightly away from the body with your palms up. Close your eyes (an eye bag helps calm the mind) and focus on your breath. Breath slowly and softly, letting the breath flow naturally.
**It is very important to bring your legs down slowly and gently by folding the knees to the chest and rolling onto your side. Rolling to the right is easier on your heart. This slow release will keep your heart rate from increasing too quickly, which will undo what you have accomplished.**
I would recommend soft lighting in a quiet room. Relaxing music is helpful for some people. If you are not accustomed to inversions, set a timer for 5 or 10 minutes the first few times you do this. If you do not become lightheaded, build up to 20 minutes. This can be done more than once a day. It is most effective if you enter the position at the earliest signs of becoming anxious.
Obviously this will not remove the cause of your anxious feelings (unless they are due to fatigued or hyper-sensitive adrenal glands) but it will support your body in nurturing the adrenals through increased blood flow to the area. It will also calm everything down so that you can more clearly deal with what is unfolding in your life. Please be patient with yourself during anxious, challenging times and know that you can create peace in your life if you find what works for you and be faithful in your practice.
Love and nurture yourself, dear hearts. Aum shanti.
In yoga, an inversion is defined as hips above heart, heart above head. When laying on your back, placing a thick folded blanket under your low back (4 or so inches thick) elevates the hips above the heart and the front of your heart is above the back of your head. This is the most gentle of the inverted positions. Postures like downward dog and forward fold are more intense inversions. Shoulder and head balance are the most intense. There is a yoga prop called the Yoga Lift that allows a full inversion with no weight at all on the head. I use this 2-3 times per day and, since I practice alone, I know that I am safe in this full inversion.
But why go upside down? The full inversions require our muscles to engage in the opposite direction, lifting and holding the lower body up rather than the upper body. This stimulates the vascular system, nervous system and muscle fiber to function differently and all of this challenges the brain and awareness as well. The blood flow to the brain through the upper body, neck and head is obviously more intense and that increase in volume and pressure helps to keep the blood vessels free of plaque. Your heart can rest a bit because gravity does the work and gives your brain a bath. Sensory organs in the head get one also and everything just works better!
Inversions also calm and refresh the adrenal glands and support lowered blood pressure. For those who have naturally low blood pressure, the less extreme inversions are safer and I would suggest holding them for only 5-10 breaths. I also would say to do them 3-4 times a week rather than every day.
I started out by saying “When all else fails…” I invert when I catch myself in circular thinking or when I am just not clear about a decision or what to say or how to say something. Going upside down requires me to focus and to guide my breath. Then it relaxes me and gets blood to the brain so that I think more clearly and am more in touch with my truth, my feelings, myself.
I just like the way the world looks upside down! So does my 18 month old granddaughter. She loves when I turn her upside down. She looks around and laughs because everything looks so funny upside down! She reminds me to open my eyes when I am upside down and see that the world is really pretty silly! So why do I let it make me so serious? Good question.