The feelings of anxiety can be hard to move through, and in some cases, it can be debilitating. Although it is quite common — anxiety is the most recurring mental illness in the U.S. affecting more than 40 million daily. Acute anxiety, such as that you experience before taking a test or a big presentation, can be beneficial as it cues you that something important is at stake, and helps you rise to the occasion. However, if you’re experiencing the kind of anxiety that interrupts your daily living, depletes your happiness and ability to function, it may be time to think of alternatives for coping.
Yoga is a fantastic source for self-help, and its properties may aid in reducing anxious thoughts and feelings. Some of these include:
- The Physical Practice
Anxiety has a way of storing tension, tightness, and pain in the body. The physical practice, also known as asana, sequences movement in a way that helps counteract this. There are many proven studies regarding exercise and anxiety, but one of the main benefactors is the production of endorphins that make you feel good about yourself and reduce feelings of pain.
When panic/anxiety start to arise, we may begin to feel a quickening of the heartbeat, and potentially the feeling of being unable to catch a breath. There are many breathing exercises that are taught that help you come back into the body and be present. For example, there is the Square Breath method where you breathe in deeply for 4 counts, hold for 4 counts, and breathe out for 4 counts, and then repeat that same practice. When we take our attention inwards, and focus on the breath, it allows the anxious thoughts and feelings to dissipate.
A caveat to meditation that many people think is true, is that they are unable to do meditation since they feel they can’t quiet their mind. However, meditation isn’t just about having a clear mind space, instead it is about becoming an observer to those thoughts that roam rampantly through our minds. This may help in terms of anxiety, as it allows you to step aside, and not feel like anxious thoughts define who you are as a person. Focusing on certain images (like those in guided meditation) may help elicit the relaxation response which helps get your body out of the “fight or flight” mode.
Now more than ever, yoga has become accessible to the world. Many studios have adopted an online schedule, making it possible to take classes across the country or even the globe. What’s great is that you have the ability to try so many different kinds that may help you. Anxiety can feel overwhelming and scary, but it is nice to keep in mind that anxiety is treatable. By trying yoga, you just may find that your mind-body connection is strengthened, and you’re able to move through your day with more ease.
Jenn holds a deep-seated interest in yoga and wellness and enjoys meshing her two worlds, and writing about it. She received her 200hr Yoga Teacher Training Certificate from Sangha Studios.