Yoga Reduces Anxiety

Most of us experience anxiety from time to time. For some the anxiety is a daily event that makes life miserable, even unlivable. For those who suffer panic attacks, functioning in the world has become impossible. Anxiety can lead to many self-destructive habits like smoking, drinking and taking drugs, legal and illegal. The drug industry makes billions of dollars annually by offering a variety of medications which promise to treat the symptoms of anxiety.

Studies are showing, though, that medications alone usually don’t help. They may alleviate symptoms, but they do not cure the problem. Without additional help, the person who is suffering from anxiety may find themselves worse off in a few years of taking the medications than they were before they began.

I am not recommending taking yourself off of medications you are taking under your doctor’s supervision. Rather, I am suggesting yoga can work with your medications without side effects to bring real and lasting relief with continued practice.

The Breath

When you are feeling anxious, your breath is affected in very profound ways. It can become shallow and constricted. This is because of the tension being held in the chest and diaphragm. Because all the breathing is happening high in the lungs, the diaphragm doesn’t allow the abdomen to expand and allow the lungs to have the space to fully expand. During yoga, the breath is integral to practice. Breathing should be deep and even, being drawn though the nose. The exhale needs to be longer than the inhale. For example, if you draw your breath in for a count of 4, try to make the exhale twice as long. If you become short of breath, return to your normal breathing. Deep yogic breath combined with yoga poses will increase the relaxing effect. Adding meditation increases the benefit even more.

Thought Awareness

Being aware of your thoughts can also preempt anxiety. When you are experiencing anxiety, thoughts can become uncontrollable. Worry intensifies the anxiety with circular thought patterns. Recognizing certain thought patters can help you to identify when you are about to have an anxious episode and prevent it by changing the worrisome thoughts to thoughts of gratitude, which often naturally develop as you progress in your yoga practice. Not only do more positive thoughts happen, you become less attached to your thoughts through calming of your mind. You can become more aware of why you are anxious. With practice, you will be able to gain perspective on the things that are causing your anxiety, so you can address them.

Poses (Asanas) Which Help with Anxiety

A helpful pose to help with anxiety is Deep Relaxation Pose (Savasana) in which you lie with your limbs gently opened away from your body while you focus on the observation of your breath. This is a very relaxing pose you should go to anytime you feel anxious, up to several times a day. Tree Pose (Vrksasana) is a balancing pose that requires mental effort to achieve. This effort can stop the cyclical pattern of anxious thoughts. Do this pose by shifting your weight to one foot and lifting the other to press your foot against your inner thigh or shin. You may use a chair or wall to help you balance.

Avoid strenuous practice at first. Anxiety can cause you to be in a continually exhausted state. More gentle poses are upright and focus on lengthening exhalation rather than inhalation or making inhalation and exhalation the same length is best for quieting and resting the mind. Allow yourself to rest and rejuvenate before going on to more vigorous poses.

There are many resources to help you find relaxing yoga poses. It is worth the effort to find ways to use yoga and yoga breathing to calm your anxiety. With proper medical care, which may include medication and cognitive psychotherapy, yoga practice can help you find a path to a more peaceful mind and a happier life.

Yoga Apparel: What Should I Wear?

Many of the choices we make are based on subconscious signals that we interpret from the world around us. Although we like to think we have control over most outside influences, the reality is that there are so many details that go unnoticed.

One of these hidden influences is color. Do you opt for a particular color in your practice but you are not sure why? Read on to see what emotions and ideas each color suggests. Learn what message your yoga apparel is sending to the outside world and how to adapt your outfit to your mood.

  • Green – Often associated with nature, green can represent growth, development, security, and comfort. This color also suggests movement and new beginnings, and, therefore, can also suggest optimism. Wearing the color green can bring a sense of harmony to your spirit and practice.
  • Red – Bold, loud, passionate and intense, red is considered a fiery color that fuels emotion. Movement, power, competition, and conflict are also associated with the color red. Signs indicating danger are often red, so the color often promotes alertness and stimulation. Wearing the color red can attract attention and boost confidence.
  • Purple – Often associated with royalty, purple suggests luxury, power, and longevity. Because it is not very common in the natural world, purple can also symbolize mystery and creativity.
  • Blue – Depth and clarity are often associated with this color because of its presence in nature, such as the sky, oceans and rivers. Power can also be associated with the color blue, but more often in a commanding, protective sense rather than a confrontational, threatening sense. Blue is also associated with intelligence and sincerity. Wearing blue can project to others that they can confide in you.
  • Yellow – Reminiscent of childhood, the color yellow conjures feelings of happiness, lightheartedness, and playfulness. It also evokes positivity and stimulating energy, making it a motivational color. Because yellow is such a striking color and can cause agitation when overused, try to use it conservatively in your outfit.

  • Orange – Orange suggests joy, energy, and warmth. It can also provoke creativity and motivation. The color orange can also symbolize good health, youth, and strength.
  • White – Lightness, purity, health, and cleanliness are all associated with the color white. In addition, the afterlife, faith, and infinity are commonly associated with the color.
  • Black – While sometimes associated with death, evil and mourning, the color black also suggests power, prestige, sophistication, and style. Therefore, it can also suggest sharpness and precision.

While colors can send certain messages to the others, you can also use colors to encourage your own emotions.

  • Need a boost of confidence? Red
  • Yearning for serenity? Green
  • Feeling down? Yellow
  • Aiming for precision within your practice? Black
  • Trying to establish the trust to build friendships with others around you? Blue
  • Feeling lazy or out of shape? White

By donning hues that emit certain emotions you are striving for, you can effectively use colors to set meaningful intentions for your practice and your day.

The Perfect Downward Dog

Downward dog is probably the most used yoga pose in classes. It is often used as a transition between other poses and often its benefits are overlooked.

What are the benefits of Downward Dog?

First of all, it strengthens the arms, wrists, and shoulders. You are placing a lot of weight into your wrists and arms and also pushing up and rotating through your shoulders. Secondly, as this pose is an inversion you gain all the benefits of an inversion without having to perform anything too difficult. Inversions help to unblock sinuses and get mucus moving (great if you are blocked up). They also help blood flow through the body especially towards the head which both energizes and calms the brain. Thirdly, it stretches pretty much the whole body which should make you feel great!

The spine is elongated and the chest is opened. Practiced often, this can help to relieve back and neck pain. Becoming more aware of our bodies during a yoga session can also help us in everyday life. Instead of hunching over a desk, we become more likely to sit up straight and gain a better posture. As well as stretching the upper body most of us feel a huge stretch in the backs of our legs (in our hamstrings and calves). For me especially this feels amazing, great if you’ve just been for a run or a cycle.

How to Get Into This Pose

  1. Start on your hands and knees (so as you look like a table). The spine should be long and straight, your knees should be directly underneath your hip bones and your wrists underneath your shoulders.
  2. Move your hands forward roughly one-hands length.
  3. Curl your toes under, press into them and begin to lift your knees off the floor.
  4. Start to now straighten the legs, keep your hands and feet where they are but put your bottom up towards the sky.
  5. Your chest should be pushing back towards your knees and your heels towards the floor.
  6. If somebody took a picture of you now you would look an upside down ‘V’.
  7. Stay here, get comfortable and don’t forget to breathe!

Things to Remember

  • Your heels don’t have to touch the floor.
  • Your neck should be relaxed and hanging like a bowling ball between your arms.
  • Your hips should be pushing back and upwards towards the sky.
  • As you gaze back at your feet you should not see your heels (your legs should be slightly inwardly rotating).
  • If you have any problems with your wrists and you can’t put weight into them try making a fist.
  • If you are pregnant this pose is not advisable – you can try this pose leaning against a wall rather than on the floor (you will still get the same stretch but you will not be inverting)

Just have fun, it is about the journey, not the destination!