A Yogic Technique for Managing Anxiety - Aura Wellness Center

A Yogic Technique for Managing Anxiety: Pratipaksa

Yogic techniqueBy Virginia Iversen 

What is an effective Yogic technique for coping with anxiety?  The practice of Yoga offers us many tools and techniques for managing anxiety. The Yogic technique of pratipaksa comes from Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras. It is the practice of becoming aware of injurious thoughts and choosing healthier, more uplifting thoughts. In today’s contemporary vernacular this is also know as choosing a “downstream thought” that creates happiness within you, instead of an “upstream thought” that causes pain, guilt or anxiety. It may be as simple as noticing the beauty of the full moon on a snowy evening, instead of a driveway that still needs to be shoveled. In other words, focusing on the glass that is half-full instead of half-empty.


Grateful Thoughts

This Yogic technique and practice can have a profoundly healing effect on Yogis and Yoginis who may be struggling with self-defeating thoughts and beliefs that create fear and anxiety within. As we continue to gently pull our minds away from repetitive thoughts that create anxious feelings and focus our minds instead on positive, true and uplifting thoughts, we are literally restructuring the synaptic connections in our brains. The neuroplasticity of our brains allows us to indelibly change our thinking patterns with diligent awareness and effort. When we change our negative thinking patterns and beliefs about ourselves and the world at large, we will also change our behaviors, which will, in time, change our karma.


In Yogic terms, negative and/or diminishing thoughts are known as “aklishtas.” Aklishtas are negative thought patterns that discourage you from reaching your full potential. Aklishtas also obscure your ability to see your own inner divinity and the love and possibilities that surround you. If you constantly engage in self-denigrating thoughts and pessimistic thinking, you are much less likely to create a life of abundance, love and well-being for yourself. Thoughts which are uplifting and inspiring are known in the Yoga Sutras as “klishtas.” These thoughts help to inspire us, generate confidence, serenity and well-being. Many positive affirmations are klishtas. Thoughts such as, “every failure brings me closer to success” and “good things are bound to happen” help to inspire us and encourage us as we journey through life.

Going Deeper with Pratipaksa

The Yogic technique and practice of pratipaksa is not just about substituting a positive thought in place of the opposite negative thought or belief, it is also about choosing life-affirming thoughts that soothe, nourish and uplift us. You must believe the thought to be true or able to become true, and you must find the thought nourishing. If the upstream thought that you choose does not soothe your spirit or your mind feels it is untrue, the practice will not be as effective. To ease anxiety, gently pull your attention away from disquieting thoughts and focus your mind on a positive thought, even if it is a simple as appreciating the luminous light of the full moon.


© Copyright – Virginia Iversen – Aura Wellness Center – Publications Division

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Yoga Techniques for Managing Anxiety

By Bhavan Kumar and Faye Martins

The mind and body are intricately connected, constantly influencing and affecting one another. When it comes to managing anxiety, understanding this relationship is crucial. Anxiety often manifests as physical symptoms such as muscle tension, rapid heartbeat, and shallow breathing. These physical sensations can feed into the mind, intensifying anxious thoughts and feelings.

By bringing awareness to this connection between the mind and body, we can begin to address anxiety holistically. One powerful way to do this is through yoga practice. Yoga combines movement with breath, allowing us to cultivate a deep sense of presence in our bodies and minds.


Understanding Mind and Body in Managing Anxiety

Through mindful movement and focused breathing exercises in yoga, we can release physical tension held in the body while simultaneously calming the overactive mind. This helps break the cycle of anxiety by interrupting the feedback loop between bodily sensations and anxious thoughts.

As we continue practicing yoga regularly, these techniques become ingrained in our daily lives. We learn how to recognize early signs of anxiety before they escalate into overwhelming emotions or physical discomforts. By tuning into our bodies signals through consistent yoga practice, we develop a greater ability to respond rather than react impulsively when faced with stressful situations.

Understanding the relationship between the mind and body empowers us to take control of our anxieties instead of letting them control us. Through regular yoga practice that incorporates mindfulness techniques for managing anxious thoughts and targeted poses for releasing tension from specific areas of the body, we can find relief from anxiety naturally while nurturing overall well-being.

Remember that everyone’s experience with anxiety is unique; what works for one person may not work for another. It’s essential to approach your journey towards managing anxiety with an open mind – experimenting with different yoga techniques alongside other self-care practices until you find what resonates best. Incorporating mindfulness-based movement practices like yoga into your routine may relieve stress-related symptoms associated with anxiety – but remember there are no quick fixes.


Breathing Exercises for Reducing Anxiety

Breathing exercises are a fundamental aspect of yoga practice, and they can be incredibly beneficial for calming the mind and reducing anxiety. When we feel anxious or stressed, our breathing often becomes shallow and rapid, exacerbating our feelings of unease. We can shift into calmness and relaxation by consciously focusing on our breath and practicing specific techniques.

One effective breathing exercise is deep belly breathing. Begin by sitting in a comfortable position with your eyes closed. Take a slow inhale through your nose, allowing your belly to expand fully as you fill your lungs with air. Then, exhale slowly through your mouth, gently contracting your abdominal muscles to empty the breath.

Another technique that can help quiet the mind is alternate nostril breathing. Start by closing off one nostril with your thumb while inhaling deeply through the other nostril. Then, close off that nostril with your ring finger while releasing the thumb from the opposite side and exhaling fully through it. Repeat this pattern several times, alternating between each nostril.

One more powerful technique for reducing anxiety is called 4-7-8 breathing. Inhale quietly through your nose to a mental count of four seconds; hold your breath for seven seconds; then exhale forcefully through pursed lips to a count of eight seconds.

Incorporating these simple yet potent breathing exercises into our daily routine gives us an immediate sense of tranquility when anxiety strikes. Practice them regularly to cultivate greater mindfulness in moments of stress or overwhelming fear.


Yoga Poses for Promoting Relaxation

Yoga poses are great for building strength and flexibility but can also help release tension and promote relaxation in the body and mind. These poses allow us to tune into our bodies, connect with our breath, and release any built-up stress or anxiety.

One pose that is particularly effective for releasing tension is the Child’s Pose (Balasana). This gentle forward fold allows you to surrender to gravity, lengthening the spine while simultaneously relaxing the back, shoulders, and neck muscles. As you sink into this pose, focus on taking slow, deep breaths, allowing yourself to relax and let go fully.

Another pose that can help release tension is the Legs-Up-The-Wall Pose (Viparita Karani). By elevating your legs against a wall or using props such as bolsters or blankets for support, this pose encourages blood flow toward the heart while gently stretching the hamstrings and lower back. It can be incredibly soothing for both mind and body.

A seated twist like Half Lord of the Fishes Pose (Ardha Matsyendrasana) can relieve tension. Twists are known for their detoxifying effects on the digestive system while simultaneously offering a gentle massage to internal organs. This helps relieve any physical discomfort associated with anxiety while promoting relaxation.

Remember to always listen to your body when practicing yoga poses to release tension – if something doesn’t feel right or causes pain, modify or skip it altogether. Each person’s body is unique, so honor what feels good for you in each moment.


Incorporating Mindfulness into Your Yoga Practice

Incorporating mindfulness into your yoga practice is a powerful tool for managing anxious thoughts. When we feel overwhelmed and stressed, our minds tend to wander into the future or dwell on past events, fueling anxiety. Mindfulness brings us back to the present moment, allowing us to observe our thoughts without judgment.

During your yoga practice, check in with yourself and notice any anxious thoughts that may arise. Instead of getting caught up in these thoughts, gently redirect your focus to the sensations in your body as you move through each pose. Pay attention to the breath flowing in and out, grounding you in the present.

As you hold each pose, bring awareness to how it feels physically and emotionally. Notice any areas of tension or discomfort and allow yourself to release them with each exhale. You are cultivating mindfulness by staying connected with your body throughout your practice.

Another way to incorporate mindfulness is by practicing meditation during or after yoga. Find a quiet space where you can sit comfortably and close your eyes. Focus on following the rhythm of your breath as it moves in and out of your body.

If anxious thoughts arise during meditation, acknowledge them without judgment and let them go as you return your attention to the breath. This mindful approach helps train our minds not to get swept away by worrisome thoughts but rather stay centered in the here and now.

By incorporating mindfulness into our yoga practice, we develop a greater sense of self-awareness and cultivate an ability to observe our emotions from a place of detachment. This shift allows us to manage anxiety more effectively and build resilience when faced with challenging situations off the mat.


Consistency and Self-Care in Yoga for Anxiety Management

Consistency and self-care are essential elements in using yoga to manage anxiety. When it comes to any practice, including yoga, consistency is vital. Regularly engaging in yoga can help create a sense of routine and stability, which can be particularly beneficial when dealing with anxiety.

By committing to a regular yoga practice, you allow yourself to cultivate mindfulness and develop coping mechanisms that can help alleviate anxious thoughts and feelings. Consistency allows you to build upon your progress over time, deepening your understanding of how different poses and breathing techniques affect both your mind and body.

In addition to consistency, self-care is equally important in managing anxiety through yoga. Taking care of yourself physically, mentally, and emotionally is crucial for overall well-being. This means listening to your body’s needs during each session – if you need modifications or restorative poses on certain days, honor those needs without judgment.

Self-care also involves being kind to yourself by embracing imperfections or fluctuations in your practice. Remember that every day is unique; some days, you may feel more energized, while others require gentler movements. Allow yourself the space for growth without feeling pressured or comparing yourself to others.

Incorporating consistent yoga practice with self-care practices creates a powerful synergy that supports anxiety management holistically. By prioritizing these aspects of your life regularly, you are actively investing in reducing stress levels and promoting inner peace through the transformative power of yoga.


Additional Resources and Tips for Incorporating Yoga into Your Daily Routine

1. Online Yoga Classes: If you’re new to yoga or prefer practicing at home, online classes can be a great resource. Many yoga studios offer virtual classes that cater to all levels of experience. Take advantage of the convenience and flexibility these platforms provide.

2. Yoga Apps: Several mobile apps offer guided yoga sessions, meditation exercises, and breathing techniques. These apps often come with customizable features, allowing you to tailor your practice to your needs.

3. Community Support: Joining a local yoga community or engaging with an online group can provide valuable support and encouragement on your journey towards managing anxiety through yoga. Sharing experiences, tips, and challenges with like-minded individuals can foster a sense of belonging and motivate you to stay consistent.

4. Setting Intentions: Before each session, take a moment to set an intention for your practice – whether it’s finding calm amidst chaos or releasing tension in the body. This simple act helps bring focus and purpose to your yoga routine.

5. Creating a Sacred Space: Designate an area in your home where you can practice without distractions—whether it’s a corner in the living room or even clearing out space in your bedroom. Invites this area by adding candles, plants, or objects promoting serenity.

6. Tailor Your Practice: Experiment with different styles of yoga, such as gentle Hatha flow or more vigorous Vinyasa sequences, until you find what resonates best with you personally for managing anxiety.

7. Schedule Regular Practice Time: Consistency is critical when incorporating new habits into our daily lives; therefore, setting aside dedicated time for regular practice is crucial to using yoga effectively for anxiety management.

Remember that everyone’s journey is unique; embrace self-compassion during challenging times while continuously exploring ways to deepen your connection between mind, body, and soul.



Incorporating yoga techniques into your daily routine can be a powerful tool for managing anxiety. Connecting the mind and body through breath, movement, and mindfulness can relieve anxious thoughts and promote overall well-being.

Remember that consistency is vital when using yoga for anxiety management. Set aside time daily to practice breathing exercises, yoga poses, and mindfulness techniques. Make self-care a priority and listen to your body’s needs.

If you’re new to yoga or feeling overwhelmed, start with simple practices and gradually build up your routine. Many online resources, such as guided videos or apps, can help you start your journey.

By incorporating these yoga techniques into your daily life, you’ll manage anxiety and cultivate a sense of peace and balance. Embrace the power of yoga and discover how it can transform your mind and body.

Take a deep breath in…and let go of any lingering tension or worries because, with yoga by your side, managing anxiety becomes an empowering journey towards inner calmness.

© Copyright – Aura Wellness Center – Publications Division

5 thoughts on “A Yogic Technique for Managing Anxiety: Pratipaksa”

  1. To ease anxiety, gently pull your attention away from disquieting thoughts and focus your mind on a positive thought, and for this issue yoga can help you.

  2. Regarding what I perceive to be overall point –

    I think what you say is digestable & real use for the regular student of yoga, as they attempt to apply yogic principles to their minds & lives. And it should be noted that ultimately the fact is, that yoga says ALL v?ttis (mental modifications) – be they painful or neutral or “positive or negative” – must be resolved, so the mind is settled. At this point, positive & negative become meaningless categories, as one is spontaneously immersed in BEING which there is no separation, no category, no preference.

    The practice of cultivating the opposite (sutra 2.33 that you outline here in the discussion of pratipak?a-bh?vanam) is for one with a disturbed mind (everyone!) who is not quite yet able to just resolve ALL thoughts. It is a stepping stone for the purpose of cultivating a clear, objective, easeful mind so that one can eventually – through other yogic practices – resolve all mental modifications… it’s not really a “thought” practice not of “positive thoughts” or affirmations, but of cultivating an overall bh?vana (state of being) – your example of contemplating the full moon is a great one – something that cultivates a neutralizing bh?vana.

    As a next step, so one can learn “what” one can cultivate in the mind to live a yogic life, the yoga tradition gives guidelines for right (dharmic) thinking / being / acting… including the 20 Values laid out by Krishna in the Bhagavad G?ta… I highly recommend the book “The Value of the Values” by Swami Dayananda Saraswati.

    with Respect & Devotion to Yoga,

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