If you want to conquer the anxiety of life…live in the moment; live in the breath.” – Amit Ray
One out of four Americans will experience an anxiety disorder at some point during their lives. Such disorders are sometimes accompanied by panic attacks – intense feelings of panic that often come out of nowhere. Panic attacks can include a pounding heart, sudden sweating, dizziness, and shallow breathing. Living with anxiety and panic attacks is difficult, but there are a variety of techniques that can help to ease symptoms. Yoga is an excellent way to reduce anxiety (and stress). Here are five ways that yoga helps with anxiety.
1. Yoga forces you to focus on your breathing.
When someone has an anxiety attack, they make short, shallow breaths. This can actually make a panic attack worse because this type of breathing can cause a lightheaded, faint feeling. The most important aspect of yoga is focusing on the breath. When you’re feeling tired or a pose is particularly difficult, focusing on taking deep, slow breaths makes all the difference.
Training yourself to follow your breathing during yoga class is a useful skill that can be applied to other areas of life. Whenever you’re feeling anxious or stressed, remember to take deep, slow breaths until you start to feel more relaxed.
2. Exercise gives you endorphins.
Like other forms of exercise, yoga gives you endorphins. Endorphins are neurotransmitters in the brain that have been shown to improve mood, reduce symptoms of depression, and relieve stress and anxiety. Endorphins are essentially an all-natural antidepressant. Additionally, flexibility and strength gained from yoga can help to prevent injuries and reduce chronic pain. Who isn’t happier when they aren’t in pain all the time?
3. Yoga reduces muscle tension.
When we’re feeling anxious or stressed, we often tighten certain areas of our bodies without even realizing it. Prolonged stress or anxiety can lead to pain and muscle tension in the back, head, neck, shoulders, and other areas. Yoga helps relieve muscle tension by strengthening, lengthening, and relaxing sore muscles. Over time, yoga can also improve posture, which aids in reducing muscle tension.
4. Yoga is hard.
Yoga is challenging – even if you’re a more experienced yogi, you will probably have certain poses that are still tough for you. Engaging in something that is challenging – and sticking with it even when it’s hard – will give you more confidence and faith in yourself.
During a particularly tough pose, an instructor may say “This is probably getting pretty uncomfortable. Breathe through it. Just breathe.” This is a good metaphor for life with anxiety. When you’re feeling uncomfortable, accept the discomfort. You have survived feeling uncomfortably anxious before, and you will get through it again. Accept the discomfort instead of trying to fight it. Breathe.
5. Yoga classes emphasize community and faith.
When you’re suffering from anxiety, you may feel like no one else “gets” it. This can lead to feelings of isolation and loneliness. Yoga classes can be a way to meet new people and develop a sense of community. During the resting poses, instructors often offer suggestions for relaxing and being more present. They tend to emphasize finding peace and strength within yourself or a higher power. Having faith in something greater than yourself can be helpful when trying to cope with anxiety.
A Final Note
Yoga is one of the most effective ways to reduce anxiety and stress. Yoga can help you to focus on your breathing, release endorphins, relieve muscle tension, gain confidence, and be a part of a community. If you haven’t tried yoga before, I highly encourage you to try it out!
Editor’s note: This is a guest post by Jen Hayes, a frugal lifestyle blogger and freelance writer. She is passionate about helping millennials to lead healthier lives — financially, physically, and mentally. Jen is currently on a journey toward shedding 50 pounds and $117,000 of student loan debt by 2018. She writes about healthy living on a budget and destroying student loan debt on her blog Frugal Millennial.