Yoga is one of the most practiced exercises in the world. In fact, according to a 2012 study, roughly 20 million Americans practice yoga on a consistent basis. But what if you suffer from constant anxiety and panic? How can yoga help you beat out the unpleasant side effects that accompany anxiety and panic attacks?
Let’s start with a brief overview of Yoga..
Yoga involves a variety of asanas (body stances), pranayamas (inhalationpractices) and of course meditation. This combination can give anxiety sufferers the ability to face the future with confidence and inner peace. What’s more, yoga has been proven to significantly reduce the physical sensations associated with anxiety and can help calm the mind from unwanted negative thought patterns. But there is much more to this ancient practicethat you and I both can benefit from.
Harvard Study Confirms Yoga Aids with Anxiety
A recent study conducted by Harvard researchers revealed numerous benefits of this calming and physically exerting exercise. The two main areas the study focused on were the psychological benefits, and the physiological benefits within the internal stress response system.
Yoga Tames the Internal Stress Response
According to the study, yoga has the ability to tame and calm the internal stress response. For anxiety sufferers, the physical responses are one of the main reasons that the cycle continues. When your heart starts to palpitate, your balance is thrown off by dizziness, and your eyesight grows blurry you cannot help but flood your mind with negative self-talk that only adds fuel to fire. Yoga helps balance these responses and can even prevent them.
Studies show that regular yoga practitioners experience a higher pain threshold, which directly relates to the stress response system. Those who experience high levels of anxiety in their daily life have a lower pain threshold because their bodies are hypersensitive to external stimuli. When in balance, our internal stress response system can offset the anxious feelings we connect with and helps us logically work our way out of them.
The Role Breath Plays in Anxiety
One of the biggest complaints or concerns of anxiety sufferers,is the sensation of being unable to breathe. As I pointed out earlier, yoga involves deep breathing that is coordinated with specific movements or postures. Not only does this increase one’s ability to breathe deeply while in a calm state, it also helps anxiety sufferers reconnect to their breath when experiencing the unpleasant sensations of anxiety. By connecting the two, the individual regains a sense of control—a key component to overcoming anxiety.
Yoga’s incorporation of proper breathing also stimulates the neurological response system and enables the body to get the proper amount of oxygen, not too much or too little.
Yoga Poses Release Toxins in the Body
Certain yoga poses can also relieve the body of built up toxins and hormones, which keep a person on edge. If you feel anxious, you can try poses like AdhomukhaShwanasana (Downward Dog), or Shavasana (Corpse Pose), to relax your mind and center your body. Alternatively, you can focus your mind on your breath by sitting in a cross-legged position and silently observing your breath and then slowly work to deepen it. I find that jumping right into deep breathing is close to impossible during an anxiety attack, so work in a few deep breaths until you feel calmer. Don’t worry about being completely free of anxiety, just work towards feeling better. Doing so will help you relieve toxins and restore balance to your inner body and mind.
Even if you do not face anxiety on a daily basis, we all experience stress. If you want to heal your mind and body, incorporate yoga into your routine and discover the innumerable benefits it offers to individuals suffering from anxiety and stress.