Anxiety affects millions of people around the world. It can be quite debilitating, making it difficult to carry out everyday tasks and enjoy life to the fullest.
For those who experience anxiety, finding ways to manage symptoms can be challenging. One of the most effective ways to alleviate anxiety is through the practice of yoga for anxiety, stress poses, and yogic techniques.
Whether you are new to yoga or have been practicing it for years, this article will provide valuable information on how to use yoga to manage your anxiety and find some relief.
In this article, we will explore:
- What is anxiety?
- What is stress?
- Anxiety versus stress
- Benefits of yoga for anxiety and stress
- Yoga poses for anxiety
- Other yogic practices for anxiety
- Tips & tricks to practice yoga for anxiety
- A yoga for anxiety and stress practice
What is anxiety?
Anxiety is a feeling or emotion where a person experiences feelings of worry, unease, or fear.
It often includes physical symptoms, such as a racing heart, sweating, and trembling. Anxiety can be activated by specific events or exist as a general feeling throughout the day.
It can interfere with daily activities, including work, school, and relationships. In some cases, it may lead to panic attacks or complete avoidance of certain situations.
Some of the symptoms of anxiety are:
- Experiencing tiredness
- Irritability and anger
- Increased heart rate
- Sleeping difficulties
- Lack of concentration
There are many ways to ease and treat anxiety, including therapy, medication, or a combination of both, as well as other practices like yoga and meditation, including personalized practices like Yoga Therapy.
It is important to seek help if anxiety is disrupting one’s life.
What is stress?
Stress is a physiological and psychological response to external or internal stimuli that is a natural and necessary reaction that helps the body cope with challenges and manage threats.
However, chronic or excessive stress can have negative impacts on an individual’s health, causing physical symptoms such as headaches, loss of appetite, and insomnia, as well as emotional symptoms such as anxiety, depression, and irritability.The causes of stress may vary from person to person and factors such as work, finances, relationships, or health problems can be crucial.
Managing stress involves identifying activators (triggers), coping strategies, and seeking support from friends, family, or healthcare providers when needed.
Anxiety versus Stress
Anxiety and stress are often confused with one another, yet there are essential differences between the two:
- Anxiety is a feeling of fear or apprehension about future events, while stress is a response to a current challenge or situation happening in the present moment.
- Anxiety tends to be more focused on emotional and mental symptoms, such as worry, nervousness, and irritability, while stress manifests more as symptoms like headaches, muscle tension, and fatigue.
- Anxiety is often chronic and ongoing, while stress is usually temporary and resolves once the stressful situation has passed.
- Anxiety can be diagnosed as a disorder, while stress is a normal part of life and is not always considered a medical condition.
It is important to understand that high stress can lead to anxiety symptoms.
The main benefits of yoga for anxiety and stress
Yoga has a plethora of benefits for both the mind and body, making it an ideal practice for those looking to find relief from anxiety.
Working on the limbic system is one of the best ways to start to regulate stress and anxiety.
The limbic system is a complex network of structures in the brain that is responsible for regulating emotions, motivation, and memory.
When practicing yoga, various components of the limbic system are activated, including the amygdala, which is involved in fear and stress responses, and the hippocampus, involved in memory and emotional regulation.
Research has shown that regular yoga practice can actually reduce the size of the amygdala, and help to decrease feelings of anxiety and stress.
Practicing yoga also activates the parasympathetic nervous system, also known as the rest and digest system. This helps to counteract the effects of chronic stress and promotes relaxation and calmness.
Some of the other benefits of yoga for anxiety are:
- Yoga helps to reduce high levels of cortisol, the hormone released during stressful situations.
- The breathing, stretching, and meditative techniques of yoga promote relaxation and calmness.
- Regular yoga practice promotes better sleep, which in turn reduces anxiety and stress.
- Yoga helps to increase self-awareness, which in turn helps to identify and manage stress activations.
- Practicing yoga regularly has been linked to improved overall physical and mental health, resulting in a better ability to manage stress and anxiety.
Yoga poses for anxiety
There are many yoga poses that you can try to regulate the causes and symptoms of stress and anxiety, here are some of our favorite ones:
1#Balasana with a bolster (Child’s Pose)
This yoga for anxiety pose helps to calm the mind and relieve stress by stretching the spine and promoting deep breathing.
Resting the upper body on a bolster or pillow also releases tension from the neck and shoulders and spine.
2# Paschimottanasana (Forward Bend)
Research shows that forward bends can have a calming effect on the nervous system, leading to a decrease in the production of cortisol.
Use a blanket under your sitting bones to soften the sensation on your hamstrings and lower back.
3# Setu Bandhasana (Bridge Pose)
This yoga for anxiety pose also stimulates the nervous system and releases tension in the hips.
Bridge pose strengthens the glutes and lower back, improving overall posture and reducing the risk of lower back pain.
4# Viparita Karani (Legs up the wall pose)
This is a particularly effective pose for reducing stress and anxiety as it is incredibly relaxing.
Placing the legs up the wall, also helps to increase blood flow to the brain, reducing symptoms of anxiety and improving mental clarity.
If you don’t have a wall nearby, practice this asana by sliding a block or bolster under your hips, and simply extending your legs up toward the sky.
5# Savasana (Corpse pose)
This pose is often used as the final relaxation pose after yoga practice and is used to calm the body and mind.
This yoga for anxiety asana brings deep relaxation and releases tension from the muscles. Focusing on the breath, Savasana also helps to calm the mind and ground you.
Tips & tricks to practicing yoga for anxiety
Yoga can be incredibly helpful for managing anxiety and stress.
If you are looking to incorporate yoga into your self-care routine, here are some tips and tricks to get started:
- Like any other exercise regimen, consistency is key.
Consider scheduling a specific time each day or week when you will practice yoga. This will help you build a habit and allow yourself to become accustomed to the practice.
- If you are new to yoga, it is important to start from the foundations.
This will help you build strength and flexibility without causing any unnecessary physical or mental strain.
- One of the fundamental aspects of yoga is breathwork.
By paying attention to your inhales and exhales, you can reduce anxiety and calm your mind.
- In addition to physical poses, yoga includes meditation and mindfulness practices. Meditation can be an excellent tool for managing anxiety and stress.
Consider adding a few minutes of meditation to the beginning or end of your yoga practice, or set a time in the day where you simply pause to breathe for a few moments.
- It is important to listen to your body and move at your own pace.
If a pose feels uncomfortable or painful, consider more accessible versions of the pose for you, or skip it altogether. Remember that the practice should feel good and be beneficial for your body and mind.
- There are many different styles of yoga, so it is important to find what works for you.
Consider trying a few different styles (such as vinyasa, restorative, or hatha) to see what resonates with you most, keeping in mind that at different times of your life, you may want to explore different practices.
- Yoga props like blocks, straps, and blankets can be incredibly helpful for creating a more comfortable and supportive practice, making them a great yoga for anxiety tool.
- Practicing yoga with others can be incredibly helpful for managing anxiety and stress.
Consider joining a class or finding a yoga community online to connect with like-minded individuals.
A yoga for anxiety and stress practice
If you’d like to practice some of the yoga poses for anxiety that we’ve explored in this article, try this yoga class on YouTube:
In summary, practicing yoga for anxiety is an excellent way to learn to regulate the effects of daily life stressors.
By setting a regular routine, focusing on your breath, incorporating meditation, listening to your body, trying a variety of classes, using props, and finding a supportive community, you can create a yoga practice that supports your mental and physical well-being.
To learn more about breathwork to release anxiety, read this next.