Pranayama for anxiety – Does it work? Yoga can be practiced in various forms – asanas or postures, meditation, positive affirmations, and pranayama or breathing exercises. Moreover, yoga has countless advantages and benefits practitioners if they practice sincerely and consistently.
Breathing for Anxiety Relief
Let’s look deep into the benefits of practicing pranayama, which is one of the safest yoga techniques. We will specifically examine if pranayama can help ease anxiety in people. Of course, anxiety is the root cause of many psychological illnesses, and some physical disorders too. Additionally, anxiety and stress can affect anybody. During preparation for student exams, some college students experience anxiety attacks. Furthermore, adults deal with difficult situations in the workplace or while worrying about their children, and so on.
Yogic Breathing Exercises
Let’s now look into what pranayama can do to reduce or lessen anxiety and lower stress levels in people. The Sanskrit word pranayama means controlling the breath, and breath is controlled using various techniques and breathing exercises. First of all, unlike other forms of exercises, pranayama is easy and relaxing. Yogic breathing exercises can be performed by anybody regardless of their age or other physical condition.
Sudarshan Kriya Yoga
Research published in 2005 in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine suggested that yogic breathing is one of the unique ways of treating psychological and stress-related disorders. The study particularly focussed on the impact of Sudarshan Kriya Yoga, which includes cyclical yogic breathing patterns, on various stress-related disorders. This research study revealed that Sudarshan Kriya Yoga has the potential to lessen anxiety and stress-related disorders in people.
Another research paper published in 2013 in the International Journal of Yoga talks about the many benefits of Sudarshan Kriya Yoga. Firstly, in this research study, secondary research was conducted on the primary research. Secondly, the primary research was already done to examine the impact of Sudarshan Kriya in treating various clinical conditions. Thirdly, the research paper claimed that there is substantial evidence to suggest a specific technique. The Sudarshan Kriya is a form of pranayama, that can be beneficial in treating anxiety and various stress-related disorders.
Likewise, studies published in 2010 in the Journal of the Indian Academy of Applied Psychology studied the impact of Anuloma Viloma, another pranayama technique, on 30 Indian male senior citizens. This research study revealed that Anuloma-Viloma pranayama had a positive impact on the participants of the research. The participants were trained in the Anuloma-Viloma technique for seven days in a yoga camp.
Thereafter, the participants were requested to regularly practice the pranayama technique for three months. Their anxiety levels were measured (using the Sinha Anxiety Scale and Beck Depression Inventory) before and after practicing pranayama. Results showed that their anxiety and depression levels had gone down after practicing the Anuloma-Viloma pranayama regularly for three months.
While there are studies that reveal the potential benefits of practicing pranayama or breathing techniques, more information is needed. In order to develop a coping strategy with anxiety-related issues, some studies haven’t found a concrete solution. Some studies claim that pranayama is good for patients suffering from anxiety arising out of physical medical conditions.
Early Intervention Needed
However, it may not be beneficial for those suffering from prolonged anxiety-related disorders. To sum up the data, deep breathing needs to be practiced as soon as possible. With all things considered, taking action early yields the best results.
While research suggests that practicing pranayama has several benefits in general, we recommend that you seek a medical opinion (if you are suffering from any physical or psychological condition) before you choose to practice pranayama or any other form of yoga. While practicing pranayama is safe and can help improve the quality of your life, we recommend that you practice it with trained and qualified yoga teachers.
Have you ever noticed how you breathe when you feel relaxed? The next time you are relaxed, take a moment to notice how your body feels. Or think about how you breathe when you first wake up in the morning. When you have an active mind, there is a tendency to hold your breath or tighten muscles in your neck and shoulders. We tighten up as a reaction to stress, which is something we do without even realizing it. However, this isn’t the healthiest thing to do. Of course, anyone who sits all day is susceptible to carrying this habit into their daily life.
Sense of Calm
On the other hand, you can create a sense of calm throughout each day, which is within your control. As a result, you’ll actually be in a better position to handle pressure. In an increasingly hectic, stressful society, our minds are constantly overflowing with thoughts. Therefore, deep breathing provides a necessary mental break that allows quick relaxation and returning to a state of focus. In many ways, deep breathing is like eating. We don’t really appreciate something until we’re well-rested and calm enough to feel the benefits.
Stress Response System
As individuals experience more stress, their bodies release various components of the stress response system such as adrenalin. This response can lead to a breakdown in the cells’ balance in which it becomes unable to function properly and antioxidant levels become depleted over time. In turn, this can result in increased DNA damage for people with conditions such as cardiovascular disease and cancer. Consequently, due to stress induced free radicals overall health is compromised. Moreover, the immune and nervous systems are negatively impacted by chronic stress.
When Natural Systems are Challenged
There are many benefits of the stress response in dealing with short bursts of anxiety. However, when the condition is chronic our natural abilities to aid the body can be challenged. The practice of deep breathing consists in taking a deep inhalation of air and then exhaling. Deep breathing is a means to balance or increase the flow of oxygen in your bloodstream. Regular deep breathing has been shown to reduce physical tension, anxiety, and muscle pain because it calms the nerves. Of course, deep breathing also helps to reverse adrenal insufficiency by supporting cardiovascular health with improved functions.
Effects of Tension
Static muscle tension can develop as a result of making your muscles tense to keep them from detaining longer than they should. For example, while working on a project which requires high attention to detail, you find that your shoulder is tensing up. As soon as you relax the shoulders and concentrate on deep breathing, the pain starts to subside. Other signs of static muscle tension include pains spreading to other areas such as the chest or back.
Internal Effects of Pranayama
Deep breathing is a skill that can be practiced and learned like any other habit. Research shows that it triggers our brains to feel more relaxed as if we were in a soothing state of deep sleep. Deep breathing stimulates the production of serotonin, which makes you feel happier. It also has the accompanying side effects of energizing both your body and mind by triggering your sympathetic nervous system. Your breath is not only the medium through which oxygen enters and carbon dioxide leaves your body. Breathing also creates a wave in your bloodstream each time you breathe in and out.
Clearing the Mind
Deep, rhythmic breathing can signal a person’s resilience. Pranayama is also a form of self-care that regulates stress hormones after periods of high anxiety or trauma. Deep breathing is thought to help clear the mind by powering your brain’s relaxation response. Improved focus, decreased memory retrieval problems, and overall calmness is among the benefits that deep breathing can offer.
Brown, Richard P., and Patricia L. Gerbarg. “Sudarshan Kriya yogic breathing in the treatment of stress, anxiety, and depression: part I-neurophysiologic model.” Journal of Alternative & Complementary Medicine 11.1 (2005): 189-201.
Gupta, Pranay Kumar, et al. “Anuloma-Viloma pranayama and anxiety and depression among the aged.” Journal of the Indian Academy of Applied Psychology 36.1 (2010): 159-164.
Sengupta, Pallav. “Health Impacts of Yoga and Pranayama: A State-of-the-Art Review.” International Journal of Preventive Medicine 3.7 (2012): 444–458. Print.
Kirkwood, Graham, et al. “Yoga for anxiety: a systematic review of the research evidence.” British Journal of Sports Medicine 39.12 (2005): 884-891.
© Copyright – Aura Wellness Center – Publications Division
To see our selection of Yoga teacher training courses, please visit the following link.
Click here to see our online Yoga Nidra teacher training course.
Are you an experienced teacher looking for YACEP credits or continuing education?
52 Essential Principles of Yoga Philosophy to Deepen your Practice
by Rina Jakubowicz
A Relaxing Way to De-stress, Re-energize, and Find Balance
by Gail Boorstein Grossman.
by B.K.S. Iyengar
By Mark Stephens