Stress and anxiety affect all of us from time to time, but it can be threatening and is regarded as an actual mental illness when such feelings become dominant. If you feel high levels of stress or anxiety persistently and find it impossible to relax even when there is no logical reason to be worried, it is most likely that you suffer from an anxiety disorder. This problem has become a lot more common than we realize, affecting an estimated 50 million Indians, while almost the same number suffer from depressive disorders. Most individuals tend to ignore such problems in order to avoid the use of psychiatric medications because of the risk of side effects or dependence. However, if recognized and dealt with early, anxiety disorders can be effectively treated using natural methods, such as Yoga.
Using Yoga to Relieve Anxiety
Yoga is not just an exercise routine that produces temporary relief from stress and anxiety, but it can also equip us with the tools to fight and overcome thoughts or fears that cause anxiety and raise stress levels. It improves your focus and the ability to cope with emotions. While almost all styles of Yoga will yield mental health benefits, hatha Yoga is particularly notable as it is a simple and slower-paced approach that is great for beginners. Moreover, the use of slow and fluid movements has a calming effect. No matter your choice of Yoga style, make sure that includes all elements of traditional Yoga, not just physical exercises or asanas.
Asanas: Specific Yoga asanas are known to relieve anxiety and promote relaxation, so it would be a good idea to work with a Yoga instructor who has the experience and expertise in helping patients with depressive or anxiety disorders. Asanas such as the Shavasana or corpse pose, Balasana or child pose, Sukhasana or easy pose and Uttanasana or standing forward fold pose are particularly effective for relieving anxiety.
Pranayamas: Pranayamas or breathing exercises are often neglected in modern Yoga workouts, but these are integral to the practice and important if you truly wish to deal with anxiety. Breathing exercises have proven benefits for anxiety and stress relief, helping slow breathing and heart rate to promote deep relaxation. Pranayamas such as Shitali Pranayama and Shitali pranayama are not just effective but are also easy to practice at any time when anxious thoughts surface.
Meditation: This is another aspect of Yoga that is absolutely essential for any Yoga practise to deal with anxiety or depression. It strengthens mental focus and cultivates mindfulness, giving you greater control over thoughts, feelings and emotions, allowing you to live in the present moment without dwelling on thoughts that worry or stress you out.
How Yoga Calms Anxious Thoughts
Yoga helps deal with anxiety through a variety of mechanisms, many of which modern science still does not fully understand. However, research clearly shows that even a single session of hatha Yoga can help to significantly reduce the impact of stressors and the subsequent anxiety symptoms. The use of Yoga and meditation as therapeutic tools to treat anxiety has also received support from a study published in American Family Physician.
Yoga is thought to promote mental wellness and build overall resilience against anxiety and stress because of its mood-boosting effects and the improved sense of wellbeing. Exercise is known to improve mood and practising Yoga not only serves as a form of exercise, but also helps to build mental strength, confidence and self-esteem. Yoga is also known to be therapeutic for a number of chronic pain disorders and by controlling such conditions, it can help lower anxiety levels.
Most helpfully, Yoga includes meditative and breathing exercises that can be used at any time, anywhere to get instant relief from anxiety symptoms. This is what sets it apart from all other forms of exercise.