Yoga has been used in the East for centuries to build a spiritual relationship between mind and body and over the last few decades it has taken the West by storm. Many people approach yoga as a purely physical practice, but the psychological benefits are well documented. Yoga can have a powerful effect on anxiety through controlled breathing and connecting the body to the brain. Let’s take a look at how you can use yoga to beat your anxiety disorder.
The body responds positively to physical movement, even when anxiety is at its worst. Yoga is a fantastic way to combat anxiety through movement, because it offers a sequence of movement that diverts attention away from your anxiety and encourages you to be present. Often, a yoga practice entails a great deal of concentration – Half Moon or Tree Pose, for example, will have you standing on one leg, stimulating balance and the concentration required to stay upright will often distract you from any source of anxiety you may have been dwelling on.
Tree Pose combats anxiety by channeling your inner strength to stay in balance. Root your standing leg into the ground and slowly lift the other leg (you can do this pose twice, once on either side). Place the sole of your lifted foot against your calf, knee or inner thigh, wherever flexibility allows, and bring your hands to prayer in front of your heart. Try to hold this position for a few minutes, finding stability and controlled breathing.
Half Moon Pose
This pose is also about balance, control and concentration but it’s a little tougher than Tree – don’t worry if you wobble or even fall over. To perform Half Moon, raise one leg off the ground and tilt forward at your hips. Turn your body as you continue to fold, and spread your arms. Once your torso is horizontal, bring your lifted leg parallel to the floor. To make this position a little easier you can have some blocks in front of you, and lean on them with your hand that’s facing down.
Standing Forward Fold
This simple pose is central to every vinyasa in yoga, and can offer instant relief for anxiety. Stand tall and begin to hinge at your hips – feel every vertebrae from your lower back to your neck engaged in the fold as you bow your head to the earth. Let your head hang heavy and your arms fall loose towards the floor. This pose will help your mind relax and ease any tension you’re carrying.
Child’s Pose is a simple posture that encourages relaxation, and people often find that it eases stress and anxiety. Begin by kneeling before sinking back onto your heels. You can enjoy a stretch in your quads at this stage, and let these physical feelings draw you deeper into the pose, away from the worries of the world. From here, fold forward, walking your hands out in front of you. Once your forehead rests on the floor, try to relax and sink into the pose. “Child’s pose offers a gentle stretch without a physical challenge, so feel free to stay in this position as long as you like, eyes closed and forehead resting on your yoga mat,” says Susan Fulton, lifestyle blogger at Australian Help and Paper Fellows. “I find that this simple act of connecting my body to the floor helps me stay grounded for the rest of the day.
“It comes as a revelation to many people that the simple act of mindful breathing can offer such a powerful and instant relief for anxiety, but it works,” says Nelda Lott, content writer at Essay Writer and State of writing. “In yoga, breath and movement are intrinsically linked.” An inhale empowers you to grow tall, lift your spine and stretch. An exhale enables you to sink deeper into a posture, getting the full benefits of the pose. But breathing can be beneficial for anxiety even without movement attached to it – try sitting in a seated posture for just five minutes concentrating on deep inhalations and slow exhales. This will ease your anxiety and bring a sense of peace.
Anxiety can be debilitating, but there are many tools which will allow you to take control of it. The breathing techniques taught by yoga can be applied quickly at any moment in your day. Yoga can help you overcome your anxiety and feel in control in your daily life. Namaste.
Kristin Herman is a tech enthusiast and a project manager at Assignment service and Academized. She is a yoga teacher specializing in meditative practices such as Yin. Her further writing on yoga, breathing and lifestyle can be found at Essay Roo.