The Physical Component Of Yoga
All philosophy aside, yoga is an incredible physical exercise.
If youve already read our article about how exercise helps anxiety, then you know how effective physical exercise is even by itself. Just putting our body to work can lead to significant benefits on our anxiety and mental well-being.
Better yet, because yoga involves stretching our muscles out into different postures, yoga can also work like a tense-and-release exercise; which can be a fantastic coping mechanism for anxiety. This helps us to relieve any tension in our muscles that might have built up due to stress.
Best of all is how our mind will interpret the relaxation brought about by this stretching.
Most of us, especially those with anxiety, understand that the body obeys the mind:
- If we allow the mind to feel fear, the body will follow with a stress response of increased heart rate, breathing, sweating, etc.
- If we allow the mind to relax, the body will follow by slowing the heart rate, regulating breathing, and calming the nerves.
We all know this.
But what many of us forget is that the mind also follows the body.
- If we feel our heart racing, breath ragged, and sweat dripping, our mind takes this feedback loop as confirmation that we are in danger; we become even more anxious.
- If we allow the body to relax and control our breathing, the mind will follow by understanding that we are not in danger. The anxiety will subside.
Yoga Poses To Try When Youre Feeling Anxious
When you notice yourself experiencing stress and anxiety, pause for just a few minutes to do one or more of these yoga poses. Doing so can reset your nervous system and help you feel more calm and centered so you can deal with the challenges in front of you. Before you do these or any other yoga programs, its important to consider any limitations you might have.
Yoga is generally considered safe for most people, but certain conditions may put you at risk for injury, including:1
- A herniated disc or other back injury
- Conditions that put you at risk for blood clots
- Severe osteoporosis
Yoga Tips For Beginners
When youre new to yoga, the practice can seem difficult physically and mentally. The postures can feel uncomfortable, and its easy to be self-critical. Sometimes, too, anxiety makes us feel restless and agitated, so slowing down for a yoga practice can be challenging. Knowing that yoga takes patience, persistence, and time, can help you stick with it.
If youre just getting started with yoga practice, here are some other tips that may help:1,17,18
Is One Worse Than The Other
Panic attacks and anxiety attacks differ in intensity and duration. Its impossible to say which kind of attack is worse, since each persons experience is different.
Panic attacks can be frightening because they happen without warning or an obvious trigger. The symptoms can be intense and disruptive, often accompanied with a feeling of being disconnected from reality.
Though theyre usually short in duration, its possible to get several panic attacks in a row, which can make the experience of panic feel longer.
Anxiety is a response to a known trigger, which may be less startling for some. The symptoms do tend to last longer than a panic attack, often building over hours or days. Symptoms of anxiety exist on a spectrum, ranging from mild to severe.
Depending on the kinds of symptoms you experience with anxiety or a panic attack, you might find different approaches to care helpful.
Using Your Breath To Break The Pattern
Panic attacks feel like earthquakes merged with volcanoes erupting inside you.
One of the most compromised bodily processes during an attack is your breathing pattern.
Each breath cycle shrinks, you get shortness of breath and shallow breathing which can lead to hyperventilation if youre not careful.
A few years ago I was desperate to regain control of my life, my body, and my mind, so I set out to find whatever could help me achieve this naturally.
I came across the powerful practice of Raja Yoga, the yoga of the mind and emotions.
The whole objective of Raja Yoga is to learn how to conquer the mind and emotions so that we become less reactive/ impulsive and more poised and more of who we truly are.
Even in the midst of a breakdown where Im crippled by it.
One of the main limbs of this kind of yoga is yogic breathwork or pranayama because it is believed that we can control the mind if we first learn to control our inhales and exhalations.
The practice also offered me a powerful tool to use whenever I felt an attack creeping on.
The ancient art of pranayama, or yogic breathing.
Yoga teachings state that if the mind is moving, so are the heart and respiration.
When we are angry, our breath quickens; when we sleep, our breath slows down.
Dr. Hiroshi Motoyama, Science and the Evolution of Consciousness
All of them have one element in common deep breathing.
How I Used Yoga Poses And Yoga Breathing For Panic Attacks
I needed to take back my self-control. And so, I forced myself onto my yoga mat.
At first, I could only do 10 minutes. Id get tired or Id think terrible thoughts like Im not good enough, or Id worry about what work I had to do.
But I kept going back onto my mat. because I knew that the more I practised yoga, the more self-control I would have.
Anxiety Disorders: A Background
An umbrella term for a variety of mental health conditions, anxiety disorders share similar symptoms and traits such as distress, sleep disturbances and difficulty in fulfilling social/occupational roles. They are also amongst the most commonly diagnosed mental health issues in the UK.
Anxiety disorders have been associated with significant long-term disability. They can be distressing for the person affected, their families, friends and carers, and can have an impact on their local communities.
There are seven anxiety spectrum disorders with a high incidence of co-occurrence between them possibly because the existence of one anxiety disorder can trigger or contribute to the development of another.
For instance, someone with panic disorder may become housebound in an attempt to avoid panic attacks, while someone with agoraphobia may experience repeated panic attacks when faced with the possibility of going outside.
Anxiety disorders also appear in conjunction with other mental health issues, and often co-occur with Major Depressive Disorder . According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, nearly one-half of those diagnosed with depression are also diagnosed with an anxiety disorder.
In the treatment of anxiety disorders, no single treatment works for everyone, and people may try a variety of medications and therapies before finding what most helps them manage this illness.
When My First Anxiety Attack Came On I Had No Idea What It Was
I was a senior in college, and when the symptoms first came on, I thought I was dying. I couldn’t see anything, I thought I was going to pass out, and my heart rate was out of control. I was an RA at the time, and I was responsible for all these people on my floor. I didn’t know what to do because I couldn’t breathe, so I called an ambulance, and one of the other RAs came by and asked if I was OK. I told him I wasn’t, so he stayed with me until the ambulance came.
Once they got there, they said they weren’t really sure what was going on. They thought I seemed OK, and they brought me to the ER and ran all these tests, and they still had no idea what it wasbut they mentioned something about anxiety.
So I went to the doctor and said, “I think I just had an anxiety attack; what can I do?” So they handed me Klonopin, which is a sedative. And I was like “OK, I’m in my senior year of college. The reason this is happening is because I’m trying to do a ton of things; I can’t take a sedative.
Anxiety And Yoga Therapy
We tend to think of anxiety as a response to stressful circumstances. Whether its butterflies in the stomach or cant-sit-still-nerves, theres a wide range anxiety we can experience on an occasional basis that is unpleasant, but endurable and to a certain extent, rational.
In contrast, when people with an anxiety disorder are asked to describe an anxiety attack, they often say a variation of I thought I was going to die. Whether its a persistent feeling of dread or intermittent panic, the hyperarousal of the fight/flight survival response creates a feeling of urgent fear and unignorable physical symptoms. So how can someone begin to calm down when their body is telling them that they are in mortal danger?
Meditation, visualization, and focusing on breathing can help with letting go of worry and fear. The overall practice of yoga can elicit the relaxation response, allowing both the body and mind to gain a sense of calm and ease.
Katharina Star, PhD. Counsellor Specialising in Anxiety
Yoga therapy can help people in this situation because they arent being asked to rationalise their way out of anxiety. Instead, they are given tools that help them recognise the thoughts, feelings and actions that lead to heightened anxiety, and enact effective self-soothing methods. In a yoga class, they are also unconsciously learning to regulate their stress response and building resilience to stress.
A Little Bit Of Anxiety Is Okay
Stress, fear, anxiety if we start counting all those instances in life when we have experienced these emotions, we may lose count! Anxiety and nervousness over passing an important exam like the SAT, a first date or a job interview, catching an early morning flight, trying some extreme sports, a flat tire, a rainy forecast, or a parking ticket we have all lived through moments like these.
A little bit of fear is normal. In fact, just like salt in food, some small amounts of fear can be good, helping us stay disciplined, focused, and dynamic.
So it is very important to remember to be gentle on yourself. Its ok! Just as you experience happiness sometimes, experiencing anxiety is also natural.
Yoga For Anxiety In Children
Children with neurobehavioral disorders like ADHD, Aspergers syndrome , processing disorders and learning disabilities often feel anxious and uptight. These children may benefit from yoga as a way to help regulate the stress response system. Yoga postures and controlled breathing may also improve mood and functioning, making it possible for all children to lower the amount of anxiety they experience.
The yoga that adults practice isn’t exactly the same as yoga for children. If you want to use yoga to reduce anxiety in a child, you’ll need to follow a few modifications that make the practice more effective.
Depression And Anxiety Disorders: Benefits Of Exercise Yoga And Meditation
SY ATEZAZ SAEED, MD; KARLENE CUNNINGHAM, PhD; and RICHARD M. BLOCH, PhD, East Carolina University Brody School of Medicine, Greenville, North Carolina
Am Fam Physician. 2019 May 15;99:620-627.
Many people with depression or anxiety turn to nonpharmacologic and nonconventional interventions, including exercise, yoga, meditation, tai chi, or qi gong. Meta-analyses and systematic reviews have shown that these interventions can improve symptoms of depression and anxiety disorders. As an adjunctive treatment, exercise seems most helpful for treatment-resistant depression, unipolar depression, and posttraumatic stress disorder. Yoga as monotherapy or adjunctive therapy shows positive effects, particularly for depression. As an adjunctive therapy, it facilitates treatment of anxiety disorders, particularly panic disorder. Tai chi and qi gong may be helpful as adjunctive therapies for depression, but effects are inconsistent. As monotherapy or an adjunctive therapy, mindfulness-based meditation has positive effects on depression, and its effects can last for six months or more. Although positive findings are less common in people with anxiety disorders, the evidence supports adjunctive use. There are no apparent negative effects of mindfulness-based interventions, and their general health benefits justify their use as adjunctive therapy for patients with depression and anxiety disorders.
Why Its Good For You
Yogas been around for centuries. But over the last couple of decades its popularity has hit global levels. With yoga studios dotting every other corner, yogas def gone mainstream. And with good reason!
A 2016 review found evidence that Hatha yoga helped reduce anxiety, especially for people who experienced more anxiety than average. Thats great news for folks prone to panic attacks.
Yogas benefits affect anxiety in less direct ways as well. A 2014 study on breast cancer survivors found that a regular yoga practice boosted mood and increased energy. If you have more energy and feel happier, you might be in a healthier mental place overall.
Anxiety and depression often go hand in hand. Yoga can help with this too. A 2017 review found that yoga could help reduce depression symptoms. In this review, people with chronic back pain, pregnant people, and people with substance use disorder all benefited from a regular yoga routine.
Keep in mind that yoga comes with some risk you could get injured if you push yourself too hard. So dont try to flex it out like Simone Biles in your first sesh. Just listen to your body and you should be A-OK. Better yet, find a certified instructor to help you get started safely.
Your body isnt the only thing that can hurt during a yoga session yoga may also stir up your emotions. Some people experience intense emotional release while doing yoga. Feelings that have been suppressed may surface. This is totally normal!
When To Seek Help For Anxiety
If your anxiety is disrupting your life, causing you to miss work or social activities and creating strong, unpleasant thoughts, emotions, and physical symptoms, seeking professional help may be in order. Left unchecked, anxiety may increase and become an anxiety disorder. According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition , the authority on mental illness published by the American Psychiatric Association, anxiety disorders are characterized by excessive fear and worry that last for months and interfere in someones daily life by limiting activities and leading to avoidance of situations or people.23
While each anxiety disorder has its own set of symptoms, common anxiety symptoms to watch for that may indicate that its time to seek help may include:24
- Excessive worry about many different things, including your own health and safety or that of a loved one, work, performance, or finances
Online Therapist Directory: Sort therapists by specialty, cost, availability and more. Watch intro videos and see articles written by the therapists youre considering working with. When youve found a good match, book an online therapy appointment with them directly.
Is It Normal To Cry After A Panic Attack
With panic attacks people usually feel a sense of immediate threat, Levine said. This causes them to respond by crying for help or trying to escape whatever predicament they are in. Sometimes people only have one or two panic attacks in their lives.
There Are Big Benefits Of Yoga For Panic Attacks
Research shows that yoga helps with panic attacks in many ways. I decided to reach out to some experts and ask them about it.
Yoga postures help ease the physical discomfort that is caused by anxiety, says Katharina Star, PhD, an expert on anxiety and panic disorders. built-up muscle tension and stiffness throughout the body Meditation, visualization, and focusing on breathing can help with letting go of worry and fear.
With every asana I performed, I became increasingly aware of the benefits of yoga poses for panic attacks. Yoga breathing exercises like pranayama and Kapalabhati helped too. I practised these while also using panic-attack-meditation methods.
I was intrigued to see just how exactly yoga helps panic attacks. So, I researched.
Apply Yoga Philosophy In Your Life; Stay Happy And Enjoy Every Moment
Knowing and applying the ancient yoga knowledge in daily life, which talks about some simple yet profound principles of yoga, can be the secret to happy and healthy living. For instance, the Santosha principle teaches the value of contentment. The Aprigraha principle can help us overcome greediness or the desire to keep possessing more, which can be a reason for stress and anxiety. Also, the Shaucha principle talks about the cleanliness of the mind and body. This rule can particularly help if you tend to get too anxious about catching infectious diseases.
The yamas and niyamas of yoga will also help us eat nutritious food and live a healthy lifestyle which significantly contributes to overcoming anxiety and stress. To understand the yoga philosophy, you may consider reading Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankars commentary on Patanjali Yoga Sutras.
Can Yoga Help With Anxiety And Panic Attacks
There are many uncomfortable physical symptoms of panic and anxiety, such as feelings of tension, tightness, and pain sensitivity. Yoga postures, known as asanas, help ease the physical discomfort that is caused by anxiety. Asanas work to stretch, lengthen, and balance the muscles.
Meditate To Enjoy The Gift Of A Relaxed Mind
Meditation can be an excellent technique to relax a distracted mind and give you a sense of calm and peace. Meditating daily can also make you aware of how your mind works to keep you involved in small, petty things around. It can also help you not worry too much or get anxious of the unknown future. Learn how meditation can help you to get rid of anxiety
You might have often heard the term adrenaline rush. This happens when we get too anxious about a potential threat. For instance, while taking an adventure ride, the level of adrenaline hormone goes higher, leading our heart to beat faster, making the muscles tense and our body sweat profusely. Scientific research has shown that regular meditation practice can help significantly reduce the level of this stress hormone.
How Yoga For Anxiety Helped One Woman Overcome Her Panic Attacks
At the onset, one hot summer night, at 2:00 a.m., I thought I had the flu. A strong wave of nausea sat me straight up in bed and brought my awareness to a heavily pounding heart. Sweat beaded upon my upper lip. Fear pounded my bones. I went to the bathroom and spent the rest of the morning sleeping on the cold tile floor.
Each night, for months, this powerful set of symptoms woke me, leaving me boggle-eyed and foggy throughout each day. Its discombobulating effect sent me to the doctor where I was diagnosed, at the age of 28, with a panic disorder.
Mental health had been an issue since I was in college. Depression and anxiety were no strangers to my life, but this panic disorder diagnosis had me spinning. Daily, I experienced intense episodes of fear coupled with severe nausea. I suffered from ongoing migraines, stress-induced gastritis, and developed a hernia. Medications werent helping andin one doctors opinionmaking me worse. For months, I was bed-ridden, leaving my children and husband in the shadow of my illness. After two psychiatrists, one psychologist, one counselor, and years of non-change, I needed to set out upon a new path. It started with pranayama.
Using these techniques, I practiced and journaled for two years. During this time, I began attending Buddhist gatherings and yoga classes, which echoed many of the topics related to DBT. Soon my dedicated home yoga practice was born.
Limitations Of Yoga For Reducing Anxiety Symptoms
Yoga seems to be a legitimate and effective approach to easing symptoms of anxiety. This claim is supported by research; however, there are some important limitations to keep in mind. Not all studies are equal in quality. Some have had flaws such as poor design or small numbers.6
Further, while yoga can reduce symptoms of anxiety and stress, it is not considered to be a stand-alone treatment, and it may not be effective for helping severe anxiety such as anxiety disorders.19 People experiencing extreme stress and anxiety may want to consider seeking help from a mental health professional or their primary doctor.
Yoga For Panic Attacks
When I had my first panic attack, I thought I was going mad. The feelings were so frightening and intense, I was convinced that my mind had somehow broken and couldnt be fixed.
Panic attacks feel like the end of the world, and theyre not all in the mind. The whole body is affected by the terror, with symptoms ranging from shaking, sweating and nausea through to chest pain, difficulty breathing and a pounding heart that feels like its going to explode. While panic attacks dont actually cause the heart attack that a sufferer may think is imminent, the experience is no less terrifying.
After months of mis-diagnosis and daily anguish, I was very fortunate to meet an experienced yoga teacher who understood what was happening to me. Thanks to his careful support, I began to heal and my lifelong respect and passion for therapeutic yoga began.
What are panic attacks?
Panic attacks are bouts of overwhelming anxiety. They can last anywhere from a few minutes to an hour and can vary in frequency from once every few years to several times per day. At the height of my own panic disorder, I only had a few minutes each day when I wasn’t experiencing acute symptoms. Some days, it was truly unbearable.
Treating Panic Attacks with Yoga Therapy
Yoga techniques for managing acute anxiety and panic disorder
Relaxing muscle tension
Body and Breath
Yoga Helps With Breath Control
Any time we talk about how to stop a panic attack, you can expect some mention of breath control. Breath control involves manually taking control of your breathing to stop any sort of hyperventilating and help the mind and body regain control.
Oftentimes, when I talk about breath control on this site, I just recommend some sort of regular breathing pace like 6 seconds in, 6 seconds out .
One great thing about yoga is that breath control is typically included in the exercises; the yoga instructor, video, or other guidelines will often tell you how to be breathing throughout the exercise.
Because yoga helps with breath control, yoga for panic attack and anxiety relief can become an effective strategy for anyone who struggles with hyperventilation during their anxiety attacks.
Additionally, such consciously practiced breathing can long to additional long-term benefits over time.
How Yoga Can Help Soothe Anxiety
At one point or another, we have all had that feeling. The increased heart rate. The tightness in your chest. Your mind racing. And the desire to be anywhere but in your own body.
We all experience anxiety from time to time. In the proper dose, it can be channeled skillfullythe right amount of internal activation can help sharpen your mind and keep you focused and on task. But too much anxiety can wear down your body, nervous system, and brain, making optimal functioning difficult.
Can yoga be beneficial in those moments when anxiety hits a suboptimal threshold? Research sheds some light on how yoga might help release those anxious woes.
Yoga helps soothe a frazzled system.
Researchers theorize that yoga might help soothe an anxious nervous system by activating the relaxation response via the vagus nervethe nerve that helps control the parasympathetic nervous system. This theory posits that yogas combination of slow movement and conscious breathing initiates a calming response in the nervous system, which can be measured via heart rate variability.
While further research is necessary, these studies reveal some of the mechanisms through which yoga can reduce stress and anxiety.
Research on yoga for anxiety is promising.
Yoga has also been shown to reduce anxiety in those without psychiatric conditions. For example, one study showed that yoga helped reduce anxiety in people with cancer, while another study showed similar results for those trying to quit smoking.