How Yoga Can Help with Anxiety

You may have heard it a thousand times before, the common refrain through psychology and yoga circles alike — yoga, along with its many other benefits, helps with anxiety. It might seem like some overused cliché, but in fact, yoga does drastically help many cope with the symptoms of anxiety and stress. Harvard Medical School even suggests that yoga and meditation are great tools for anyone feeling overwhelmed.

Photo by Simon Migaj on Unsplash

Yoga acts by reducing perceived stress and anxiety.

What yoga and meditation do for the body is reducing perceived stress and anxiety. In other words, it gives you the impression that you are more relaxed and not as stressed than you actually are. So, it tricks your physical body into decreasing hormones and chemicals responsible for increasing stress. That’s why you might associate yoga or meditation with a decreasing heart rate, lowering blood pressure and slowed down breathing.

An even cooler side effect of practicing yoga while stressed or on-the-go is how it can modulate stress responses in relation to pain. Yoga can train your mind into responding to stress in a healthier way, meaning that when pain comes, your brain is also more prepared to responds in a less panicked way. In other words, it can help manage systems of stress or pain.

Yoga allows you to breathe and relax.

Some common stressor systems might be clenching a muscle, particularly the jaw muscle, or holding your breath. With yoga, you can not only relax your muscles with practice but also modulate your breathing. Just by tweaking these small stress reactions, it can completely change how stressed or anxious you might feel.

Yoga also gives you the chance to interrupt a worry cycle. Have you ever felt like you can’t stop thinking about something? Like the same series of thoughts spirals over and over again in your mind? I know that I definitely have experienced that in the past, and I won’t be able to stop myself from thinking about the same issue, even when it’s not helping. By getting on the mat, that anxiety level already drastically decreases, and I can practice letting go of that worry, anxiety or whatever was bothering me.

But where does that anxiety come from?

Anxiety can come from lots of places, whether it’s from an external source like school or work or from internal worries about yourself. Just by stepping on the mat means you are practicing a form of self-love and self-acceptance. Maybe that won’t solve your problems of anxiety right away, but by going again and again — you can prove to yourself that your feelings of anxiousness are not you.

When you take the time to focus on yourself, whether that be through a regular yoga or meditation practice, you are giving yourself the opportunity to step away from the reasons you are anxious. There are lots of different ways you can practice yoga to alleviate your meditation, but you might try poses like Child’s Pose, Seated Forward Bend or something as simple as Cat/Cow.