3 ways Yoga can help you deal with anxiety

3 ways Yoga can help you deal with anxiety

Yoga has been around for thousands of years. It is a highly evolved spiritual discipline that includes postures, meditation, and breathing techniques to unfold the greatest potentials of the human mind and soul.

Anxiety is the fear of the unknown.

While it is common to worry about the future, excessive and persistent worry can become intimidating and interfere with our everyday life. It becomes what we call, an anxiety disorder that needs attention. Yoga can help treat anxiety safely and effectively.

It is surprising though that doctors and psychiatrists till now, were slow to endorse this practice having had a bias towards medicine over holistic modalities. ‘Prescriptions’ were preferred over driving the patient to the yoga mat. But now, more psychiatrists and therapists are waking up to the yoga approach to help with stress and mood disorders since it fulfills the mighty need for safer treatment options. ‘Prescription’ medicines have been blamed for being potentially addictive causing drowsiness, memory loss, and brain fog.

A combination of right breathing techniques, mindfulness, and postures can quell apprehension, alleviate anxiety, and help deal with depression. Regular practice of yoga will help lower your baseline level of emotional arousal. This means that when you have worrisome thoughts, you will meet it with patience rather than fearful reactivity.

Here’s a step by step guide you can follow to relieve anxiety and lead a happy life:

Way 1 Yoga can Help: Move the body

Practice asanas mindfully and correctly. Asanas (postures) will help release tension and negativity from your system while making you fitter and in a better frame of mind.

  • Balasana (The child pose):

This pose is often used to relax and regroup after practicing other challenging asanas. It is very effective in easing anxiety symptoms. It works by releasing tension from shoulders, neck, and back, the most common storehouses of stress. This pose also encourages steady, conscious breathing helping calm down the nervous system which is particularly beneficial for sufferers of anxiety.

How to get into the pose?

Begin by getting into the cat pose wherein you are on your knees and hands. Your big toes should touch each other while your feet forms a ‘v’ shape. Your hands should be in line with your shoulders and your legs should be hip distant apart.  Make a deep inhalation and then as you exhale, sit with your butt rested on your heels, and bend forward as much as you can. Aim for the torso to rest between your thighs and your forehead to lie on the mat while keeping your hands extended forward.  Continue breathing as you press into your hands and firmly keep your sit bones on your heels. Hold this pose for as long as you can. When done, slowly walk back your hands and straighten your torso.

  • Vrikshasana (The tree pose):

This pose improves concentration, focus and makes you more aware of your mind and body. It diverts your attention from anxiety to your present physical self. It also stimulates your mind and eases tension from your spine.

How to get into the pose?

Stand upright with your feet hip distance apart. Gently shift your weight to your right leg as you bend your left knee, and place the sole of the left foot on the right inner thigh with your toes pointing downwards. Your pelvis should be directly above your right foot. Gently press the sole of your left foot into the inner thigh while letting the inner thigh create resistance. Fold your hands into an Indian Namaste. Hold for 10 seconds (or more) and then repeat the same on the other side.

  • Veerabhadrasana (The warrior III pose):

This pose strengthens your legs, lengthens your spine and challenges your mind. It enhances your core, improves coordination, balance, and digestion. Warrior III pose also takes off your attention from intrinsic thoughts and helps you concentrate on yourself. We know that good health is imperative in your fight against anxiety. Hence, this pose is highly recommended.

How to get into the pose?

Stand with your feet hip distance apart facing side wards on the mat. Next, turn to the left while widening your stance about 4 feet apart. Turn your right foot 90 degrees to point to the front of the mat. Turn your left foot at 45 degrees to point the upper left side of the mat. Keeping both feet firmly flat on the mat, align your pelvis and torso with your right foot and bend your right knee.

Raise your arms upwards and as you press your weight on your right foot, lift your left leg and lower your torso forward so that your torso is parallel to the ground. Next, stretch your arms forward while actively engaging the heel of your left foot. Straighten your left leg and hold for 5 seconds. Lower your leg back on the floor and repeat the same on the other side.

  • Shirsasana (The headstand): 

This one’s a must do during your most anxious times. This pose helps reverse the blood flow in the body that helps you focus on your breath, become aware of the space your body occupies, evoke mental calmness, and detoxify your adrenals. This helps alleviate anxiety symptoms greatly.

How to get into the pose?

Get onto your hands and knees while keeping your forearms shoulder-width apart. Gently interlace your fingers just so your little fingers touch the ground while keeping the elbows in place. Next, place the crown of your head into your hands, tuck your toes in, and lift your hips high. Walk your feet in getting closer to your elbows. Pressing your forearms into the mat, slowly lift one leg off the ground. Once you feel steady lift the other leg up too. Practise the posture against a wall if you are new to this exercise. Hold the posture as long as you comfortably can. Once done, lower your feet down one at a time on knees. Rest in the child pose for a minute after you practice this posture.

  • Viparita karani ( Legs up the wall pose): 

This one’s a powerful restorative yoga pose. It is great for reducing anxiety symptoms along with relieving lower back pain, lowering blood pressure, and reducing insomnia. When practiced in serenity, this pose can be very beneficial for chronic anxiety too.

How to get into the pose?

Sit as close to a wall as possible facing it. Bend your back backwards and with one steady movement, swing your legs on to the wall while resting your shoulders and head on the mat. Move forward until your butt and hamstrings touch the wall. Close your eyes, take slow deep breaths and relax. Stay in this pose for at least 10 minutes (or more). Once you are ready to come out of the posture, swing your legs to one side of the body and get up.

Way 2 Yoga can help: Practice right breathing techniques.

Practice pranayamas. Focussing on your breath not only ensures you get more oxygen into your blood, but also helps you divert your attention from anxious thoughts.

Practice the following, highly beneficial breathing techniques:

  • Kapal bhati (The breath of fire) – Brisk, forced expulsions of air while pulling in the body simultaneously.
  • Bhastrika (Bellows breath) – Forced, short, and brisk inhalations and exhalations without moving the abdomen.
  • Nadi shodan pranayama ( Alternate nostril breathing) – Slow and deep breathing by alternate nostrils without making sounds)
  • Bhramari (Humming bee breath) – Deep exhalations while producing a humming sound.

Way 3 Yoga can Help: Practice meditation and the art of being calm against turbulence.

Meditation is an ideal way of relaxing a distracted mind, giving you calm and peace.  It helps you not worry too much about petty things and keeps anxiousness at bay.

Whenever we get too anxious about a potential threat, the levels of adrenalin hormones goes up in the body causing our hearts to beat faster. Tensing our muscles and making us sweat. Regular and sincere meditation significantly helps reduce this stress hormone in the body, alleviating anxiety symptoms.

There you go!

Applying the ancient science of yoga and its profound principles will lead you to live a happy and healthy life. Learn to experience contentment (santosha niyama), overcome greediness (apigraha niyama) and keep your mind and body clean (shaucha niyama) and you will successfully be able to nip anxiety in the bud, holistically and safely.

However, it is important to know that in cases of severe anxiety, yoga should not be looked at as the sole treatment option. Yoga should be practiced alongside proper medication and regular doctor visits to help you successfully deal with anxiety.

Here’s to a more relaxed and happier you.