Just like many other breathing and relaxing techniques, yoga has been proven to reduce anxiety. Are you seeing a pattern here? Stepping back and breathing, grounding yourself is the way to stress and anxiety management. The key is to find one that works for you, that you can stick with long term!
What is Yoga?
Yoga is defined as:
A Hindu spiritual and ascetic discipline, a part of which, including breath control, simple meditation, and the adoption of specific bodily postures, is widely practiced for health and relaxation.
It dates back to 5,000+ years ago and was used as a healing technique to mend the mind and the body. Many people think yoga is just physical activity, when in reality it is based off so much more than that. So often we look to outside sources for fulfillment, when in reality everything we need can be found inside ourselves. It is just a matter of finding what speaks to you and allows you to feel the overwhelming relaxation and harmony of your body.
Yoga is basically a practice for those who need to find that inner peace. It is a perk that it adds some physical activity of muscle strength/endurance; but the real benefits are what it does for your mind and spirit. More so, what it does to relieve the feelings of stress and anxiety that overcome us through the day.
How does Yoga Help Relieve Anxiety?
Yoga is a series of flow, static poses, stretching and breathing; all things that can relieve tension and in turn, decrease anxiety and stress. Here are some specific ways yoga can help relieve anxiety:
• Lowers tension and promotes relaxation
• Teaches us to regulate our breaths
• Increases body awareness
• Helps with self-compassion and love
• Trains us to accept discomfort
I don’t know about you, but all of these things are what truly does help me feel “free” of my generalized anxiety. It is simply a matter of grounding yourself and letting your thoughts pass instead of consuming you. There is just something about the following along to a voice/teacher that helps me actually concentrate on my breathing.
Three Proven Methods
1. Types of Yoga for Anxiety
There are several different types of yoga that can be practiced. Not all are focused on relieving anxiety, but there are quite a few that do! Here is a list (and explanation) of those that help with anxiety, depression and stress management:
• Ananda: meditation focused; teaches you how to direct energy to other place of your body
• Vinyasa: relaxation focused; endurance based with faster movement sequences or “flows”.
• Lyengar: tension focused; helps to eliminate tension, in the body and the mind
• Kripalu: breathing and meditation focused; uses flowing movements to help you learn and accept your body
• Kundalini: mantra focused; teaches you how to use mantras and guided relaxation to soothe the mind.
• Anusara: self-love focused; teaches you heartfelt movements to love and accept yourself.
• Restorative: mindfulness focused; teaches you how to sink deeper into relaxation.
• Sivananda: breathing focused; focuses on all things wellness based and incorporates positive thinking
• Bikram: cleansing focused; teaches you how to reduce stress hormones and cleanse the body
2. Yoga Poses for Anxiety
Not only are there different types of yoga practice that can help, you can also just do certain poses that have been proven to help with anxiety as well. Which means you can do these from the comfort of your own home/office/hotel etc! I am not going to explain these, as it would probably put you in a position like the game Twister. So here is a list of poses that have benefits and you can check them out yourself:
• Reclining Bound Angle Pose
• Legs up on the Wall Pose
• Crocodile Pose
• Child’s Pose
• Seated Lotus Pose
• Bridge Pose
3. Deep Breathing Yoga for Anxiety
By pairing breathing techniques and yoga you are essentially killing two birds with one stone. When they are done together you can teach your body how to breathe through the anxiety feelings/thoughts while actually going through movements. Very rarely do we just sit still and let anxiety flow over us. So if we practice breathing and moving together, it is more likely to have positive effects that can be transferred into our daily life. Here are a few yoga breathing techniques that can help anxiety sufferers:
• Conscious Breath: when we get anxious, we tend to start breathing shallow, fast and through our shoulders. Proper breathing is done through the lungs and diaphragm to help open up the body. Conscious breathing is just being aware of your breath and making sure it is the chest/stomach that is rising and falling, and not the shoulders and neck tensing up.
• Bumble Bee Breath: uses a buzzing sound to make it easy for beginners to see if there are breathing correctly, and it helps to soothe you, almost like a mantra.
• The Cooling Breath: is the act of drawing the air across your tongue and “cooling”, or calming the nervous system. This technique is done best if you can curl the sides of your tongue like a straw and breathe in that way
Now comes the obvious questions of
How Often, How Long, and How Much
How often you should do yoga a week depends on you. No two people are alike in terms of how often they get anxious, how severe it is, what else they are doing to help it etc. It is recommended that you try to do 3 classes per week, but if that is not applicable to you then you can try to do a little movement at home. I am a big believer in making it a habit/lifestyle. So if you know you can’t get to yoga 3 days a week, start with at least 1 and build up if you can, or want to.
How long your yoga sessions should last is also up to you. 45 minutes to an hour is ideal for a class because it allows you time to warmup and cool down. There are classes that can be as short as 20 minutes or as long as 2 hours. It all depends on what the goal of the class is and how much time YOU have to put towards it. If you only have 15 minutes a day, don’t stress yourself out to get in 45 minutes (because that defeats the purpose of doing yoga to relieve stress), and just get some poses and movement done at home or between tasks.
A typical yoga class costs anywhere between $9-$23. The upward end being urban areas with a lot of traffic or yoga studios that have no competition in the area. You can usually get a discount if you buy bulk sessions instead of just 1 at a time as well.
If you don’t want to pay for yoga classes and want to just try it on your own, there are a lot of mobile apps out there you can follow along to. Some include Bulldog Yoga, , Yoga.com studio, Pocket Yoga, Global Yoga Academy, 5 Minute Yoga, FitStar Yoga, Simply Yoga and that is just to name a few!
There you have it, the amazing benefits and techniques of yoga for reducing anxiety and stress. Takeaways: breathing, relaxing, and moving is what will allow your mind to focus on the present instead of the constant worry. Check out our blog on meditation if you think that too could benefit your anxiety relief practices. And don’t forget to sign up for our newsletter so you can be the first to know when a new blog has been posted!