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Getting free from anxiety, an interview with Anouk Prop, part two

By Emily Alp

In part two (see part one here) of this empowering chat, we discuss how yoga’s relationship to anxiety; managing exposure to technology, and anxiety reduction in your everyday life.

E: So what kinds of things trigger anxiety?


A: It can be anything for anyone, depending also on your own sensitivity. And that’s another thing about yoga, the more you practice, the more sensitive you become, so the more triggers you will have around you that can alter your mood.


E: Would you then say this gives practitioners more opportunities to look at these things?


A: Yeah … if you have the courage to do that. Because it demands a lot of courage to really stay present when you are very anxious. So if you look back to what I said earlier, this flight or fight response, that’s the first thing you want to do: Either fly or fight. But to make a decision to stay and breath through it, and knowing that this too will pass, demands a lot of courage. At that moment it feels like a matter of life and death for the system. Although your mind knows that it’s different, on the level of the nervous system it’s like [life and death].


E: Have you noticed anxiety it in your yoga practice? Have you had an experience that you’d like to share?


A: When I started to do dropbacks, I was afraid to go down and back into the unknown, and I was afraid to surrender … I was afraid I wasn’t strong enough or I that I would fall on my head.


E: How did you get yourself through it?


A: I remember I was with my teacher and he said: “You can do it.” And I said: “No I can’t,” and he said: “You can—I am here.” And he just stood there, and I did it. And there was an emotional release; I started to cry. But that helped me to bring space in my chest and let go, and to see that there’s nothing to be afraid of—I can do it.


E: Do you think technology is raising our levels of anxiety?


A: I think the media is really focused on making people scared … all these bad things that are happening in the world. It really goes into the drama and the bad stuff instead of creating some trust and some feeling of peace in the world. And technology, in terms of mobile phones and [devices], means you constantly have to be alert. And the nervous system constantly gets the signal: “Okay I have to be alert, something can happen.” There’s never really a time to relax, when there’s this constant flow of information.


E: Do you try to watch what you consume? What precautions do you take to protect your nervous system?


A: I don’t watch television. I don’t read the newspaper. The only news I get is word of mouth. People tell me when something is going on in the world. So if I hear something bad has happened I have the choice to look it up on the Internet.

I take some time also to be in nature. That’s why I like to be here in Thailand. It’s not that I’m putting my head in the sand, and I don’t want to know what’s going on in the world. For me it’s a healthy way to protect myself and to focus on the things that are nourishing me … to take responsibility for my life and my part in this life—to see what I can do to make this world a better place to live in.


E: What little nugget would you give people in terms of helping them with their anxiety?


A: I often give the advice that just for a couple minutes a day—it can be at the beginning of the day or the end of the day or both—just sit with yourself or lay down on the bed and bring your attention inward. Become aware of what you feel, your emotional state of being. [Experiment with] one or two things you could do for yourself to feel better that are realistic. So every time you are in a state … like you are very anxious or very sad or whatever, you know that there are things you can do, very practical things, to get yourself out of the situation.

You don’t have to go into the story. A lot of people like to go into the story and to the emotions. It’s good to observe that it’s there, but you don’t have to go into it. You can focus your attention on something else.


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