Sloth Yoga! Tools to help deal with anxiety
When anxiety levels rise and our ‘fight or flight’ response is in overdrive, we need to lengthen our exhalation.
Making the ‘out breath’ a little longer than the ‘in breath’ affects the nervous system directly, it triggers the parasympathetic nervous system, also known as the ‘rest and digest’ response.
Unfortunately, when we feel anxious it is not easy to focus on our breathing and slow it down. So we need to be clever!
The techniques of ‘Sloth Yoga’ work on the breath but indirectly. You don’t have to do all these techniques in one go; experiment and see which ‘tool’ works best for you. They only take a few minutes to work!
How to do Sloth Yoga!
1) Using Sound to lengthen the out breath. Aaaa, Oooo and Mmmm
- This can be done sitting or lying.
- Making a low sound when you exhale dramatically lengthens the ‘out breath’.
- Take a breath in, open the mouth and make a low Aaahhh sound. This can help establish abdominal breathing; you can also focus the sound in the lower body from hips to toes.
- Take another breath in and make an Oooo sound. This works with thoracic / mid-chest breathing, you can focus the sound in the trunk of the body.
- Take another breath and breathe out with a humming, Mmmm sound. This is works with clavicular / upper chest breathing; feel the vibration of the sound in the head.
- Do this 3 times for each Sound and then breathe in slowly and steadily, breathing out with the 3 sounds together, Aaaaaa … Ooooo … Mmmmm (as in AUM chanting)
From all fours sit back on heels and let our upper body go loose either onto the floor or onto a big cushion or beanbag.
- This posture compresses the abdomen and encourages diaphragmatic breathing.
- As your chest is less open the posture also stops you from ‘over breathing’ (as happens in a panic attack).
- Leaning forwards helps the out breath lengthen without you even having to think about your breath.You don’t have to be on the floor, sitting in a chair and leaning forwards with elbows on thighs has the same effect.
3) Hasta Uttanasana/ Arm raises with ‘haa’ breathing.
- Breathe in through your nose and raise your arms sideways up and overhead … and then breathe out through your mouth making a soft ‘haaa’ sound.Adding sound to your out breath helps to make it longer.
- Begin by working with however your breath is, so if you are feeling panicky, at first your arms will be raising up and down quite fast.
- After a few rounds your arm movements and your breathing will start to slow right down.
The ‘haaa’ sound is a version of ‘Ujjayi’ breathing where your glottis is partially closed so the breath out escapes slowly.
For anyone with heart conditions it is best not to raise arms too high, just up to shoulder level is fine.
4) A lying spinal twist – there are lots of these!
- Lie on your back, knees bent, with fingers interlinked under your head or arms out sideways. Let both knees go right and turn head to the left and vice versa.
- Be comfortable, it doesn’t matter exactly how your legs and arms are placed, its mainly the slight rotation of the spine which works the magic.
- Just settle into it, every time you breathe out let go effort and tension.
- Again this posture helps trigger the ‘rest and digest’ response.
5) Naukasana/Boat pose
In this posture you create tension in the body to help get rid of tension!
Part of the fight or flight stress response is to create tension in our muscles, preparing to fight or to run away. Problems arise if stress is prolonged and we hold tension long term rather than releasing it.
This tension often held especially in the muscles we use for breathing and this contributes to rising anxiety levels.
- There are a few different ways to do this posture.
- One way is to breathe in, raise one or both legs, both arms and your head a couple of inches off the floor.
- In the position hold your breath and tense every muscle in the body … and then breathe out to release.
- Afterwards just rest letting the navel rise and fall.
6) Bhramari : The Humming Bee breath
- Keeping your mouth closed and space between the teeth, make a low humming sound like a bee as you breathe out.
- You can lightly close the ears as you do this, but you don’t have to.
Again this technique uses sound to help lengthen the out breath to lower anxiety levels.
There is a relaxation practice to go with Sloth Yoga. It uses the sounds Aa, Oo and Mm sounds to bring deep relaxation to body and mind.
from Resources, posted March 2020