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Yoga For Anxiety: Mental Benefits Of Yoga

Updated: Nov 5, 2020

Anxiety, anxiety, anxiety. I think almost everyone I know has experienced anxiety to some degree. I have been working on managing my anxiety for years. Thankfully, there is a bright light being shone on mental health with the help of social media and new awareness on the subject.

I think it is important to openly discuss anxiety and depression and share helpful tools to try and manage and look after your mental health in a productive way. There are so many ways to release worry and stress. It is helpful to try any number of things, and use as many of them as you feel necessary, to find which tools best suit you.

Art therapy, walking, breathing exercises, meditation, and dancing are just a few things you can incorporate into your day to release negative energy and clear your mind. I deeply believe that yoga is one of the very helpful tools that aids and assists anxiety.

Whether you’re a beginner yogi or have been practicing for years, this simple yoga for anxiety and depression guide can help calm you during your day.

Does Yoga Help With Anxiety?

Yes! Yoga helps with anxiety and depression. Recent studies on yoga for anxiety and depression show that yoga works as a stress-reduction technique.

Like many other self-soothing techniques, yoga practice can help to reduce the impact of exaggerated stress responses. The combination of moving your body, controlling your breath, and incorporating meditation work together to decrease mind activity.

Reducing the heart rate through your practice and easing the breath lowers the stress response in the body. Yoga is fantastic for concentrating the mind and bringing your mind into the present which is the exact opposite of what anxiety promotes.

Yoga Postures For Anxiety

While reading inspirational yoga quotes might put a smile on your face, getting into your body with physical yoga asanas may be more helpful for anxiety. Doing any yoga can help refocus the mind, but there are a few postures that are particularly helpful for stress.

Marjaryasana-Bitilasana (Cat-Cow)

How: Come onto all fours with your fingers spread wide and your knees, shins and the tops of your feet flat on the floor. Your hands should be shoulder width apart. Remember to stack your wrists elbows and shoulders above each other.

Your knees, shins, and feet should be a hip-width distance apart and at a 90-degree angle. Keep your spine neutral and neck-long.

On an inhale arch your back and look up for cat pose. On an exhale round into your spine and look towards your navel. Repeat this a few times keeping your breath easy and shoulders relaxed.

Benefits: Synchronizing your breath to your movement allows the body and mind to relax making cat-cow great yoga poses for anxiety. These asanas also aid in improving your balance as well as stretching and strengthening the spine.

Baddha Konasana (Bound Angle Pose)

How: Come to a seated position with your legs extended in front of you. Make sure your seat is comfortable with even weight distributed over your sit bones. Extend your spine and sit with a straight back.

On an exhale, bring your feet towards your groin and allow your knees to gently go out either side of you with the soles of your feet touching. Try and bring the heels of your feet as close to your pelvis as possible.

If this is uncomfortable for you and your knees feel strained, place blocks or pillows under your knees. Bring the ‘floor’ to your knees rather than forcing your knees down towards the ground.

Benefits: Practice quieting the mind and try to move into a meditative state to alleviate stress and anxiety. This pose stretches out the groin, inner thighs, and knees.

Paschimottanasana (Seated Forward Fold)

How: Begin in a seated position with your legs extended in front of you. Move your ‘fleshy bits’ from your seat allowing your sitting bones to ground into the floor. Lengthen into your spine and keep it straight throughout the asana.

Flex your feet and slowly begin to fold forward. Be aware of moving from the hips and continue to keep your spine long and straight. Take hold of your shins, toes, or the soles of your feet for a deep forward fold.

Tip: Use a strap or towel to help you ‘reach your feet’ if you need assistance.

Benefits: Paschimottanasana helps relieve stress and mild depression by calming the mind. It also stretches the hamstrings, spine, and shoulders.

Setu Bandha Sarvangasana (Bridge Pose)

How: Come to lie on your back with your legs extended out flat on the floor. Keep your arms alongside you with your palms flat on the floor. Bend your knees, bringing your feet towards your pelvis at a hip-width distance apart.

On an inhale, push evenly into your feet and hands and slowly lift your lower, middle and upper back off the floor. Imagine you’re holding a block between your knees to keep them at a hip-width distance apart.

If you’re able to, clasp your hands together behind your back on the floor. Your shoulder blades can be moved closer together for a deeper stretch along your chest.

Benefits: Apart from stretching out the chest, neck, spine, and hips, bridge pose calms the central nervous system making it a great yoga pose for anxiety.

Viparita Karani (Legs-Up-The-Wall)

How: Come to lie on your mat alongside a clear wall. Bring your legs up so that they extend along the wall with your feet pointing towards the ceiling.

Shift your pelvis towards the wall so that your body is in an ‘L’ shape at 90-degrees. Lay your arms alongside you with your palms facing up or down. Alternatively, you can spread your arms out perpendicular to your body in a ‘T’ shape.

Benefits: Elevating the legs above your head improves blood circulation and promotes drainage from excess fluid build-up. By breathing easy and rhythmically you are able to lower your heart rate which elicits a relaxation response and, in turn, helps lower stress and anxiety.

Final Thoughts On Yoga And Anxiety

Is yoga good for anxiety? Yes, it is an extremely helpful tool to assist you in slowing down your breath and heart rate and therefore calms the mind and body.

Yoga practice brings an awareness to your breath and body. This awareness is then translated into your life and you begin to notice that when you’re stressed or anxious your breath may quicken. This awareness alone allows you to do things, like breathing deeply and slowing down, to relieve anxiety. Using yoga for mental health is so simple and helpful!

If you’re interested in deepening your practice and learning more about yoga consider partaking in my yoga teacher training.

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