Posted in:Love-Liv, On and Off the Mat, Reflect

4 Ways Yoga Helps You Handle Uncertainty

We humans like the feeling that we know what’s coming. We are most comfortable when we have a map of the next few turns in the road, an inkling of what might be over the next rise. Even when we lay our best plans, however, we can never be quite sure what the future holds. When the world seems especially unpredictable, our anxiety rises. Uncertainty makes us stressed and unhappy.

When trying to stay balanced on constantly shifting ground, students of yoga do have a bit of an advantage. Many of the lessons, both physical and mental, that come into our lives through practicing yoga consistently over time help us first acknowledge, and then begin to alter, our relationships with uncertainty. While we unfortunately can’t transcend the space-time continuum to see into the future, we can start to change our attachments to particular outcomes, which helps us regain our equilibrium when things start to go a bit haywire. 

Using Yoga's Tools

1. Getting Comfortable with Physical Discomfort

Staying in a thigh-burning posture like Warrior II a little longer than we’d like isn’t the same as dealing with chaotic life events, but it is a way of training the mind to handle discomfort. When you’ve done something difficult and come out on the other side, you see that it’s possible. Techniques like focusing on your breath and positive self-talk that work on your mat also work out in the wide world. Most of us don’t choose to be uncomfortable that often, but when we do it in a safe place like a yoga class, we can learn that we are more resilient than we thought.

2. Practicing non-attachment

Sitting for meditation teaches us how to label thoughts and emotions as they arise without latching onto them in that moment. Identifying your discomfort allows you to distance yourself from it just a little bit. The awareness of the observing mind gives you the space to be separate from the anxiety you are feeling.

3. Focusing on the Present

When the big picture is overwhelming, focus on the little picture. In and amongst the feeling of being unsettled, there are still moments of pleasure and joy. Seek out good news, spend time with people who support you, take a moment to lift your face into the sunshine. Each breath you take can serve as a reminder that you’re still here and that you are ok right now. Deep breathing also calms the nervous system, sending your body signals that you are safe.

4. Grounding Your Body

When your head feels like it might fly off your shoulders, it’s helpful to engage in practices that strengthen your connection to your body. Grounding yoga poses take your attention away from your anxious thoughts, which can stop them from spiraling towards doom.

Uncertainty is a constant. We can't change that, but we can change our relationship to it. When you have the tools to alter your mindset, you are able to handle the shifting tides with a little more equinimity.

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