Yoga provides countless benefits to those who practice it regularly, and the techniques that are learned through a traditional yoga practice can be especially valuable for those who are living with high levels of anxiety.
How Does Yoga Help Anxiety?
There are five basic principles of yoga: exercise, breathing, relaxation, diet and meditation. Practicing the five principles of yoga increases the body’s ability to regulate the level of stress it is experiencing. As mindfulness (in this case, increased awareness of the sensations and thoughts occurring in your body) becomes a regular part of your life, triggers for stress and anxiety can often be noticed well before a typical stress response occurs. Measures can then be taken to avoid escalation.
Let’s take a look at the five principles and how each of them affects anxiety:
Exercise – Exercise has been shown to have a myriad of psychological benefits, including reducing anxiety. An abundance of energy can increase anxiety; exercise helps to burn off some of this energy.
Breathing – Deep breathing can be incredibly helpful during times of stress or panic. Deep breathing can be used as a preventative measure and can also help lower anxiety levels in-the-moment.
Relaxation – This is perhaps the most important principle. It is essential for all people, especially those living with anxiety, to learn positive relaxation techniques. Those who practice relaxation on a regular basis experience a reduction in general anxiety symptoms and fewer panic attacks.
Diet – A healthy diet will help your mind and body perform at their best. Drinking plenty of water and eating a diet rich in whole foods has been shown to decrease anxiety.
Meditation – Anxiety is often brought on by racing thoughts that feel out-of-control. Mastering the art of quieting the mind can provide relief.
Where to Start
Whenever you begin to feel anxious, shift your focus to your breath. Slow your breath down. Breathe through your nose. Breathe in, then slowly exhale. If worries continue to pop into your mind, simply focus your attention on your breath again. Breathe deeply. Feel your chest rise and fall. If the situation permits, take a few minutes to lay down, close your eyes, and relax.
If you do not have time for a full yoga session but are in need of a quick pick-me-up, perform a few stretches while focusing on your breath and checking in with your body. Consciously attend to, then release, any tension that you are feeling. A sun salutation is a quick way to start your day off right, or to reset when anxiety hits.