Can Yoga Help With Anxiety
Many research studies have explored the benefits of yoga and meditation, specifically the way it helps with anxiety. Yoga has been proven to reduce the physical symptoms that come along with stressful and overwhelming situations. Any amount of yoga and meditation will be beneficial in managing symptoms.
Yoga teaches you to be present. This allows you to stop focusing on the past or worrying about the future, which is a big factor in creating anxiety.
The best thing about yoga and meditation is that there are no known negative side effects.
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But you don’t want an activated PNS all the time. Youd be a chill zombie. You want to be more like a calm and collected person whos on the ball. That involves a balance between your SNS and PNS, says Amy Wheeler, PhD, who serves on the board of directors for the International Association of Yoga Therapists and is a professor at California State University in San Bernardino. What yoga can teach you is to use your SNS when you need it for clarity, alertness and focus without going into the fight or flight response, she says. The ultimate goal of yoga is to be calm and alert, she notes.
Yoga is working on an even higher plane to drive down the stresses of the day, put them in perspective and help you cope better in the future when not-so-great things come your way.
Mindfulness And Meditation To Deal With Anxiety
Mindfulness and meditation help to focus attention elsewhere. The mind gets a break from running into loops and overthinking. They train the mind to become aware, be in the present moment, and find stillness.
Mindfulness and meditation have the power to change our response to a situation. They help us develop a higher perspective. When you create space between yourself and the situation that is creating stress, anxiety can soften.
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What The Research Says
Experts believe yoga helps with anxiety by reducing levels of stress hormones in the body. The body releases stress hormones as part of the fight, flight, or freeze response. This response can lead to symptoms of anxiety.
Slowing and concentrating on the breath can reduce the fast heartbeat and rapid breathing that people with anxiety often experience. The meditation part of yoga can also help people to clear their minds and become calm.
Anxiety And Yoga Therapy
We tend to think of anxiety as a response to stressful circumstances. Whether its butterflies in the stomach or cant-sit-still-nerves, theres a wide range anxiety we can experience on an occasional basis that is unpleasant, but endurable and to a certain extent, rational.
In contrast, when people with an anxiety disorder are asked to describe an anxiety attack, they often say a variation of I thought I was going to die. Whether its a persistent feeling of dread or intermittent panic, the hyperarousal of the fight/flight survival response creates a feeling of urgent fear and unignorable physical symptoms. So how can someone begin to calm down when their body is telling them that they are in mortal danger?
Meditation, visualization, and focusing on breathing can help with letting go of worry and fear. The overall practice of yoga can elicit the relaxation response, allowing both the body and mind to gain a sense of calm and ease.
Katharina Star, PhD. Counsellor Specialising in Anxiety
Yoga therapy can help people in this situation because they arent being asked to rationalise their way out of anxiety. Instead, they are given tools that help them recognise the thoughts, feelings and actions that lead to heightened anxiety, and enact effective self-soothing methods. In a yoga class, they are also unconsciously learning to regulate their stress response and building resilience to stress.
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Why Use Yoga As An Adjunct Treatment For Anxiety
Yoga leads to a cessation of the fluctuations of the mind
The impact of anxiety can be severe, and there are times that people feel dissatisfied with the solutions they are currently presented. While medication is often a vital part of any treatment plan, patients can sometimes be uncomfortable with side-effects or the thought of a difficult withdrawal. According to Baldwin and Polkinghorn , 50% of people prescribed pharmacological intervention reported an improvement in symptoms, and a US-based study concluded that up to 30% of patients may be treatment resistant finding front-line interventions ineffective.
This goes some way to explain why 56% of those living with anxiety disorders seek complementary and alternative medicine hinting at a widespread desire for further support outside of traditional treatment plans. With a growing body of scientific literature to guide clinical practice in applying yoga as a treatment of anxiety, yoga therapy can step into this gap and provide additional support helping people regulate their stress response, increase their resiliency and manage their anxiety.
Some postures are challenging, but you are learning to relax under physical duress and this can help you handle long-term anxiety.
Which Yoga Style Is Best For Anxiety And Depression
Most styles of yoga are effective at relieving anxiety and depression and even improving certain types of mental health disorders. The most important thing is that you pick a style that you enjoy. With that said, below are some of my favourite styles of yoga for calming down my mind and reducing anxiety.
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How To Get Started With Yoga
Its never too late to start practicing yoga. However, its advisable to be taught by a qualified yoga teacher and choose a class suitable to your level.
To get the most benefit from yoga, choose a style that suits your goals, lifestyle and personality.
If youre a beginner, you could try Iyengar or hatha as these are gentle and slow-paced. Alternatively, kundalini is a style of yoga that focuses on breathing and meditation, so is ideal if you want to improve your mental wellbeing. Restorative yoga is ideal if you need to relax, or try ashtanga for more physically demanding yoga.
Classes are usually available in leisure centres, health clubs, schools and some surgeries, but you can also practice at home. Even if you have minimal space but you have a computer or tablet, you can follow a tutorial or class online.
How Yoga Can Help Soothe Anxiety
At one point or another, we have all had that feeling. The increased heart rate. The tightness in your chest. Your mind racing. And the desire to be anywhere but in your own body.
We all experience anxiety from time to time. In the proper dose, it can be channeled skillfullythe right amount of internal activation can help sharpen your mind and keep you focused and on task. But too much anxiety can wear down your body, nervous system, and brain, making optimal functioning difficult.
Can yoga be beneficial in those moments when anxiety hits a suboptimal threshold? Research sheds some light on how yoga might help release those anxious woes.
Yoga helps soothe a frazzled system.
Researchers theorize that yoga might help soothe an anxious nervous system by activating the relaxation response via the vagus nervethe nerve that helps control the parasympathetic nervous system. This theory posits that yogas combination of slow movement and conscious breathing initiates a calming response in the nervous system, which can be measured via heart rate variability.
While further research is necessary, these studies reveal some of the mechanisms through which yoga can reduce stress and anxiety.
Research on yoga for anxiety is promising.
Yoga has also been shown to reduce anxiety in those without psychiatric conditions. For example, one study showed that yoga helped reduce anxiety in people with cancer, while another study showed similar results for those trying to quit smoking.
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How Can Yoga Help Anxiety
Studies have shown that yoga can help reduce anxiety. And it makes senseyoga is relaxing, calming, and can slow down your heart rate and lower your blood pressure. Research has found that interrupting anxious thoughts with mindful movement can stop anxiety before it snowballs. Plus, a regular yoga and meditation practice can help develop the tools you need to not only ward off future attacks, but also to help you better cope with everyday stressors.
So, are you ready to get started? You can find 11 yoga practices for working through stress and anxiety here, or incorporate some of the below poses into your regular routine.
What Yoga Does To Your Brain
When you step out of a yoga class, no doubt you feel better from head to toe. Your muscles feel more relaxed, you may feel stronger, and then theres the mental clarity only om-ing can bring. But whats really going on in your brain when you pop in and out of downward-facing dog?
We know that accumulating evidence shows yoga is good for your body, health and mind. Yoga has been used in the treatment of anxiety conditions, depression, insomnia, eating disorders, and others, says Jonathan Greenberg, PhD, a postdoctoral research fellow in the department of psychiatry at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School. Even when applied to large populations, like those in prison, it increases inmates sense of wellbeing and self-control.
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Physical Benefits Of Yoga
When an individual is experiencing anxiety, the amygdala, or alarm center located in the brain, has gone into a state of hypervigilance or high-alert. The deep breathing practices associated with yoga speak directly to the amygdala to lower the state of arousal. It also activates the parasympathetic nervous system, which induces a relaxation response. Yoga also helps to:
- Lower blood pressure
- Aid in relaxation
The Effects Of Yoga For Anxiety On Teen Mental Health
Research shows that teens benefit from using yoga for stress. One yoga study focused on ninth- and tenth-grade students in a public high school in Massachusetts. Forty-seven high school students completed self-report questionnaires assessing mood and affect.
They completed the questionnaires immediately before and after participating in a single yoga class. In addition, they complete questionnaires before and after a single physical education class one week later.
As a result, participants reported significantly greater decreases in anger, depression, and fatigue from before to after participating in yoga compared to PE. Therefore, researchers concluded that yoga for anxiety and depression is effective in supporting the psychosocial needs of youth.
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The Science Behind Yoga For Anxiety
The science in hundreds of studies have looked at the benefits of meditation for calming the mind, but possibly the most definitive paper was published in the journal of JAMA Internal Medicine. In the review, researchers at Johns Hopkins University analyzed 47 studies on meditation programs that involved at least four hours of training. We found consistent evidence that mindfulness meditation reduced the symptoms of anxiety to some degree across studies, said Madhav Goyal, MD, lead author and assistant professor of medicine. When youre anxious, your mind can get carried away with worrying about things that might happen, and that actually makes you feel worse and can cause other symptoms, like insomnia. Meditation teaches people certain skills that can help counteract that tendency, like staying in the moment, recognizing worried thoughts when theyre happening, and preventing them from getting worse.
How Can Yoga Exercises Help Get Over Anxiety
Regularyoga practice can help you stay calm and relaxed in daily life and can also give you the strength to face events as they come without getting restless. Yoga practice ideally includes the complete package of asanas , pranayamas , meditation, and the ancient yoga philosophy, all of which has helped several anxiety patients recover and face life with new positivity and strength.
Shares Sushama Goyal, homemaker, I would always remain tense and worried about little things in life. Every small or big event would shake me up. My husband decided to consult a doctor who told us that I had generalized anxiety disorder. I underwent anxiety treatment, along with regular practice of yoga and meditation for about six months. And today I feel I have got a new birth. My thinking has changed, I feel much settled from within, and I have faith that whatever will happen will be for the good. Im not scared of the future anymore! Yoga gave me this strength.
Like Sushama, even you can say hello to a positive life and overcome fear with yoga. The following yoga techniques can help calm an unsettled mind.
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Downward Facing Dog Pose
If youve explored yoga at all, youre probably familiar with downward-facing dog pose. Its for a good reason that this posture is quite common. In addition to lengthening your spine and strengthing your arms, shoulders, and legs, it also increases blood flow to your brain. By amping up our circulation to this area, we can experience greater energy and mental clarity, helping us deal with issues that cause us stress or anxiety.
To do downward-facing dog pose, follow these steps:
How Yoga For Anxiety Works
How does yoga relieve anxiety? Researchers theorize that the mindful movement and breathing done in yoga activates the relaxation response , via the vagus nerve. Therefore, yoga moves us out of the sympathetic nervous system . Moreover, it moves us into the parasympathetic nervous system system. The vagus nerve helps control the parasympathetic nervous system.
Furthermore, yoga increases levels of GABA. GABA is the neurotransmitter in the brain that helps relax the mind. In a 12-week study, participants either walked or did yoga for an hour three times a week. The yoga group showed greater increases in GABA levels. In addition, they showed greater improvement in mood and anxiety.
Another study compared a cognitive behavioral therapy intervention to a CBT intervention with a yoga component. Both groups met every week for two months. One group did CBT and the other practiced both CBT and yoga.
As a result, both groups reported reductions in anxiety and panic-related body sensations. However, the changes were greater for those who did both CBT and yoga poses to relieve stress and anxiety.
Moreover, yoga has also been shown to reduce anxiety in people with cancer. And another study showed that yoga for anxiety was effective for people trying to quit smoking.
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