Imagine being in a social situation and feeling so uncomfortable and awkward, that the moment someone asks you a question, you feel your face heat up and your cheeks turn a bright shade of red.
That was me.
I didn’t realise it, but I what I was experiencing as a young person was social anxiety, and it at times it made me literally want to run and hide.
According to Beyond Blue, Anxiety is the most common mental health condition in Australia. On average, one in four people will experience anxiety at some stage in their life and in a 12 month period, over two million Australians experience anxiety.
Anxiety is a normal response to a stressful situation and usually subsides once the situation is resolved. However when the anxiety remains well after the event, then it can have an impact on a person’s day-to-day functioning, quality of life and even physical health. Anxiety can show up in a number of ways and common symptoms include:
- Physical: panic attacks, hot and cold flushes, racing heart, tightening of the chest, quick breathing, restlessness, or feeling tense, wound up and edgy
- Psychological: excessive fear, worry, catastrophizing, or obsessive thinking
- Behavioural: avoidance of situations that make you feel anxious which can impact on study, work or social life
Chronic anxiety takes a tremendous toll on the body, draining energy resources and keeping the body in a constant state of stress. The effects of anxiety are magnified when the body is not exercised: tension in the muscles builds, breathing remains constricted most of the time, and the mind has no rest from the whirling thoughts and feelings that feed the anxiety.
While my symptoms of social anxiety weren’t considered to be severe, they were certainly uncomfortable and when I started exploring yoga as a means to manage the stress of running a busy PR company, I discovered that a bi-product of my yoga practice was a noticeable reduction in my social anxiety. When I realised the magnitude of the benefits of yoga on stress and anxiety, I was compelled to explore it in more depth and I am now quite passionate about helping others to experience the benefits that yoga can bring on so many levels.
Yoga teaches us to not only lengthen and stretch our body, releasing the tension in our muscles, it also teaches us to lengthen our breath, releasing the constriction of shallow breathing and allowing the mind to rest as we begin to become more present on the yoga mat. Sitting with the breath can relieve the fluctuations of the mind, allowing our bodies to find relief from tension and stress.
Recently, I created a new DVD in the beautiful surrounds of Maleny Botanical Gardens in the Sunshine Coast Hinterland and I was reminded of the benefits of Forest Bathing. Forest Bathing was developed in Japan during the 1980s and has become a cornerstone of preventive health care and healing in Japanese medicine. The idea is simple: if a person simply visits a natural area and walks in a relaxed way there are calming, rejuvenating and restorative benefits to be achieved.
We have always known this intuitively. But in the past several decades there have been many scientific studies that are demonstrating the mechanisms behind the healing effects of simply being in nature. Combining the healing effects of forest bathing with a regular yoga practice, provides a powerful process for healing the body and considerably reducing anxiety and stress.
Because it’s not always practical to take your yoga mat out into nature, I am bringing nature to your yoga practice in my new DVD, so that you can drift off in some moments of stillness as you listen to my voice guide you.