By Dr. Paul Jerard, E-RYT 500, YACEP, Marie Jerard, E-RYT 500, YACEP, and Faye Martins
How can we release anxiety with yoga training? Anxiety can be difficult to tackle because it’s a wide-reaching issue that requires mental and physical responses. It’s not something that can be solved with a straightforward solution; instead, it needs to be managed and addressed in various ways. One way to do this is through yoga.
Yoga has been used for centuries for its calming and therapeutic benefits, but its use as an anxiety reducer has recently seen increased attention. Let’s explore how yoga can help you release your anxiety and find balance in your life. From stretching techniques to proper breathing exercises, learn how yoga training can have a lasting impact on your psychological well-being.
How Can Yoga Release Anxiety
The practice of yoga can be a helpful tool in managing and releasing anxiety. Anxiety is a normal emotion that everyone experiences at different times throughout their life. However, for some people, anxiety can become overwhelming and challenging to manage. If you are struggling with anxiety, yoga may be able to help. There are many different types of yoga, but all forms involve the mind-body connection.
Mind and Body
This connection means that while you are physically moving your body in various postures, you are also focusing on your breath and connecting with your thoughts and emotions. This can help to ease tension in the body and mind and allow you to release anxiety. Yoga involves both physical and mental exercises. The material component includes postures (or asanas) that stretch and strengthen the body. The cognitive component includes breathing techniques (pranayama) and meditation. These elements help calm the nervous system and reduce stress levels.
Practicing at Home
When practicing yoga for anxiety relief, it is essential to go at your own pace and not push yourself too hard. If you find specific postures or breathing exercises difficult, modify them or try an easier variation. Most importantly, you feel relaxed and comfortable during your practice. If you are new to yoga, many resources are available to help you get started. You can find classes at local gyms or community centers or purchase DVDs or books that teach basic yoga poses and breathing techniques.
What is Anxiety?
Anxiety is a feeling of unease, worry, or fear. It can be mild or severe, short-lived, or long-lasting. Everyone experiences anxiety at some point in life, but for some people, it becomes a problem that interferes with daily life. Yoga is a great way to help reduce anxiety. It combines physical activity with deep breathing and relaxation. Yoga can help calm the mind and body and improve your overall well-being.
What Causes Anxiety?
There can be many different things that cause anxiety. It could be something as small as a fear of public speaking or something more severe like agoraphobia. Anxiety can also be caused by genetics, having a medical condition, or taking certain medications. Stressful life events, such as the death of a loved one or losing a job, can also trigger anxiety.
Why Does Anxiety Grow?
Various factors, including genetics, brain chemistry, and life experiences, can cause anxiety. When faced with stressful situations, people with anxiety may feel like they are in danger, even when there is no real threat. This can lead to physical symptoms such as a racing heart, sweating, and difficulty breathing. Over time, anxiety can become worse if it is not treated. This is because the brain begins to learn that these physical symptoms are associated with anxiety and will start to produce them more often. This can create a feedback loop that makes it harder for the person to manage their stress.
Yogic Strategies for Reducing Anxiety
When it comes to reducing anxiety, yoga has a lot to offer. From the physical benefits of increased flexibility and strength to the mental benefits of improved concentration and decreased stress, there are many ways that yoga can help to reduce anxiety. Here are some of the best yogic strategies for reducing anxiety:
1. Practice Pranayama. One of the best methods to instantly calm and center yourself is to focus on your breath. Taking deep, measured, and slow breaths helps to oxygenate the blood and slows down the heart rate, both of which can help to reduce anxiety.
2. Try a relaxation technique. Several relaxation techniques can be practiced with yoga, such as progressive muscle relaxation or guided visualization. Taking some time to relax and focus on your breath can be incredibly helpful in reducing anxiety levels.
3. Get moving. While it may not be the first thing you feel like doing when you’re feeling anxious, gentle movement can help to reduce anxiety by releasing tension from the body and promoting feelings of calmness and well-being.
4. Connect with nature. Spend time outside in nature, and take in the sights, sounds, and smells around you. This can help ground you and improve your overall sense of well-being, which can help reduce anxiety levels.
5. Spend time with loved ones (or your favorite pet). Spending time with those you love – or even your favorite furry friend – can help. We learn about ahimsa (doing no harm), but spending time with those who need us completely directs internal energy toward giving. Instead of doing no harm, we are doing good for others.
Release Anxiety with Yoga Breathing
Anxiety can be a paralyzing feeling that keeps us from living our fullest life. It can manifest in many different forms, such as physical pain, gastrointestinal issues, and insomnia. But one of the best ways to overcome these fears is with yoga breathing exercises. Yoga breathing is commonly referred to as Pranayama. Yoga Breathing methods help to alleviate built-up stress and tension by focusing on the breath. By connecting your mind and body to a calming rhythm, yoga breathing can help to reduce anxious thoughts while instilling feelings of peace and relaxation. Let’s discuss the benefits of yoga breathing and how it can be used to release anxiety.
Medical Research on Yoga Breathing Techniques
Medical research on yoga breathing techniques has shown that slow, deep breathing can help to lower blood pressure, improve heart rate and reduce stress. These benefits have been seen in both healthy individuals and those with chronic conditions such as hypertension and heart disease. While more research is needed to determine the exact mechanisms by which yoga breathing produces these effects, it is thought that the increased oxygenation of the blood and the relaxation response elicited by the practice are key contributing factors.
Practical Application of Pranayama in Daily Life
Pranayama, or yogic breathing, is a powerful tool that can be used to help ease anxiety. When we are anxious, our breath is often short and shallow, which can lead to further feelings of panic and unease. Practicing pranayama can help to slow down the breath and bring more oxygen into the body, helping to calm the nervous system.
Here are some simple pranayama techniques that you can practice daily to help release anxiety:
1. Alternate Nostril Breathing: This technique helps to balance the left and right sides of the brain, promoting relaxation.
2. Ujjayi Breath: Also known as ocean breath, this technique involves slightly constricting the throat while inhaling and exhaling through the nose to create a soothing “ahh” sound.
3. Bhastrika Breath: This breathing exercise is invigorating and energizing, perfect for counteracting feelings of fatigue or depression.
4. Kapalabhati Breath: Often referred to as “skull shining breath,” this technique involves active exhalations through the nose followed by passive inhalations. It is stimulating and helps to clear the mind.
5. Sheetali Breath: This cooling breath exercise soothes anxiety and tension by reducing body heat. To practice sheetali breath, curl your tongue back like a straw and inhale through your mouth. Then exhale slowly through your nose.
Steady Practice Produces Results
When it comes to reducing anxiety, yoga breathing exercises are one of the most effective tools at your disposal. But as with anything worth doing, achieving results requires consistent practice. If you commit to practicing yoga breathing regularly, you will see a reduction in your anxiety symptoms. How quickly this happens will depend on the severity of your anxiety and how often you practice. But with steady effort, you will notice a difference.
Use What Works
The key is to find a yoga breathing exercise that works for you and then stick with it. There are many different techniques out there, so experiment until you find one that feels helpful. Then make it part of your daily routine. If you’re not sure where to start, here is a simple yoga breathing exercise that is great for beginners:
1. Sit up straight with your spine tall and relaxed. Place one hand on your stomach just below your navel.
2. Slowly inhale through your nose, letting your stomach expand outward like a balloon filling with air.
3. As you exhale through your mouth, release all the air from your lungs and allow your stomach to return to its normal position.
4. Repeat this process 10 times or for as long as desired.
With regular practice, this simple yoga breathing exercise can help alleviate anxiety by promoting relaxation and calming the mind.
Common Benefits of Yoga Breathing
When we breathe deeply, it has a calming effect on the nervous system. This can help to lower blood pressure and heart rate, and promote relaxation. Yoga breathing also helps to improve lung function and increase our oxygen intake. This can lead to more energy and improved mental clarity. Deep breathing is also said to help detoxify the body by promoting the elimination of toxins through the skin and mucous membranes. Finally, yoga breathing can help to alleviate stress and anxiety by helping us to focus on the present moment and letting go of intrusive thoughts.
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The Purpose of Yoga: Solutions for Releasing Anxiety
By Dr. Paul Jerard, E-RYT 500, YACEP
Many new students ask, “How can Yoga help me release anxiety?” Yoga is a 5,000-year catalog of health solutions and an evolving science of life. Therefore, here are some age-old Yogic solutions for releasing anxiety. To make them work, you must realize that you must make a habit of releasing anxiety within acceptable limits all day long. The physical practice of Yoga postures (asanas) will release muscular tension. Make a habit of physically practicing as you sit, stand, or lie down. You do not have to put on a Yoga show to sit straight, stand straight, tilt, twist, or bend.
We are in motion most of the time, but you can move or stand still with purpose and mindfulness. Once you establish Yoga training in your life off the mat, you will be surprised how often you and people around you are regularly sitting or standing, in poor posture, during an average day.
Self-Observation is very important. As you wake up, observe the muscle groups and joints that have contracted as you slept. These contractions can cause daily muscle tension, spasms, pains, and aches. Is the tension in your face, back, neck, shoulders, legs, arms, or hips?
Know how your body responds to mild warm-ups and develop routines to compensate for physical tension. The connection between mental and physical strain is symbiotic. If you resolve a physical form of tension, you will also resolve mental stress. In Hatha Yoga, there are more than 1500 postures to choose from.
Many of us have seen charts or books with 500 to 600 Asanas. If you become creative, you will soon discover many more while sitting in a chair. You can practice Yoga training at your desk, in your bed, on your couch, on a bus, or when you walk. When you add the breathing component (pranayama) to your daily life, you have many more combinations of techniques.
Here’s another approach to releasing anxiety and developing your coping skills. However, it would help if you used it at the right time and place. Do not be silent! Let it out vocally. Some people laugh, pray, sing, cry, or shout, but each method works at the right time. So, be tactful if you decide to make noise.
Release Anxiety with Sound
If you hold it all in, you will burst – in the figurative and literal sense. Therefore, you have to release or reduce anxiety in some way. Some people roll up the windows in their cars and scream at the top of their lungs. In truth, whatever works is a good thing. Now you know why mantra is so effective for cultivating positive energy and releasing tension.
We will not all have the same reactions to anxiety. Some people will laugh, while others cry during identical circumstances. Look at how some people react to losing a job. Some people have a party, while another person may contemplate suicide. In a typical Yoga class, you may learn mantras and Japa.
Value of Mantra
These are potent methods and are very beneficial in combination with pranayama. Depending on the style learned, some yoga teacher training courses devote many hours to a mantra. There are many reasons why mantra is good for health. Mantra enhances our ability to focus by drowning out the noise. During the day, we absorb a lot of background noise and generate our fair share of thoughts that run through our heads.
Lastly, anxiety is energy that is not always negative but can be deflected, transformed, or circulated throughout your being. To release anxiety requires careful daily effort and maintenance. Yogic solutions work, but they must be practiced daily. You do not want to collect and store negative feelings, so carefully release them into the universe.
© Copyright – Aura Wellness Center – Publications Division
La Torre, G.; Raffone, A.; Peruzzo, M.; Calabrese, L.; Cocchiara, R.A.; D’Egidio, V.; Leggieri, P.F.; Dorelli, B.; Zaffina, S.; Mannocci, A.; YOMIN Collaborative Group. Yoga and Mindfulness as a Tool for Influencing Affectivity, Anxiety, Mental Health, and Stress among Healthcare Workers: Results of a Single-Arm Clinical Trial. J. Clin. Med. 2020, 9, 1037.
La Torre G, Raffone A, Peruzzo M, Calabrese L, Cocchiara RA, D’Egidio V, Leggieri PF, Dorelli B, Zaffina S, Mannocci A, YOMIN Collaborative Group. Yoga and Mindfulness as a Tool for Influencing Affectivity, Anxiety, Mental Health, and Stress among Healthcare Workers: Results of a Single-Arm Clinical Trial. Journal of Clinical Medicine. 2020; 9(4):1037.
La Torre, Giuseppe; Raffone, Antonino; Peruzzo, Margherita; Calabrese, Lucia; Cocchiara, Rosario A.; D’Egidio, Valeria; Leggieri, Pasquale F.; Dorelli, Barbara; Zaffina, Salvatore; Mannocci, Alice; YOMIN Collaborative Group. 2020. “Yoga and Mindfulness as a Tool for Influencing Affectivity, Anxiety, Mental Health, and Stress among Healthcare Workers: Results of a Single-Arm Clinical Trial” J. Clin. Med. 9, no. 4: 1037.
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