Why Millions of People are Turning to Yoga for Anxiety and Stress

Meditation yoga stress and anxiety

“Yoga is not a religion. It is a science, science of well-being, science of youthfulness, science of integrating body, mind and soul.”

Amit Ray

Yoga is a spiritual, mental and physical discipline. This practice is said to originate from ancient India but is now one of the popular treatment options for anxiety and stress reduction. With an increase in anxiety awareness, it is no surprise that many people are turning towards Yoga to help get their minds right. According to the Sports & Fitness Industry Association, more than 24 million adults in the united states, practiced yoga in 2013, which is about a 40% increase from 17.8 million in 2008.

What is Yoga?

Yoga is a wide-ranging discipline that challenges both body and mind. Yoga reduces anxiety and stress by using a variety of relaxation techniques: visualization, progressive muscle relaxation, yoga poses and breathing techniques. 

If you think Yoga is a walk in the park that can be picked up by nearly everybody, then you’re right. Many yoga poses can even be done on a chair.

Nevertheless, there are varying levels of yoga. Associating the word yoga with “easy” is most definitely inaccurate. There are intense yoga positions that require flexibility and muscle strength. There is no shortage of difficult feats in this discipline.

Many people use yoga as their main form of exercise, and take it to the extreme. For instance “hot yoga”, usually done in hot yoga rooms that tend to be humid, temperatures ranging from 80°F-100°F (26.6°C -37°C)

Benefits of Yoga on Anxiety

Anxiety is a mental illness with physical symptoms. Asanas(yoga poses) are used to help reduce the symptoms of an anxiety disorder, especially when facing a panic attack. Yoga can help ease the physical symptoms of anxiety:

  • Heart rate
  • Tightness in chest
  • Muscles stiffness
  • Poor posture

Posture and “Straightening” out Your Anxiety

A long-term physical symptom of anxiety is a poor posture. This includes head tilted downwards, which is bad for your spine. The average adult head weighs 10-12 pounds, which may not seem like a great deal, but the effects add up considering how much time is spent looking at our phones and computers. If you have an office job and are looking to improve their posture, check out this article on workplace-ergonomics. The increasing popularity of cell phone use has also been a contributing issue to head alignment and spine health.

Another symptom is raised shoulders, stiff back muscles, and a pelvis that tilts forward. Your feet, pelvis, and head should all be vertically aligned when you are standing. A cool way to check your posture is to stand with your back against the wall. If you have a healthy posture, your feet, back and back of your head should all be making contact with the wall behind you. A healthy spine looks s-shaped when being viewed from the side; However, anxiety-related posture can push the posture of your spine into a C-shape.

Asanas are used to develop a solid posture by including three consistent principles: shoulder blades pulled back, stable core, and keeping your head-up(straight). People practicing yoga can also benefit from the strengthened core muscles; making a healthy posture feel more natural on a daily basis.

How Does Good Posture Help Anxiety?

Posture helps anxiety by influencing the way you self by helping to boost confidence, which then helps to validate positive thoughts you have about yourself. A benefit of yoga that was studied by Richard Pettey, a social psychology professor from Ohio State University.

During this study, participants were tasked with writing down their best and worst qualities. One group was tasked with writing down their qualities while sitting down with a confident posture(straight back, chest out), while the other group wrote down their qualities with a doubtful posture(hunch back, forward slouch)

Poor posture did not have an influence on the number of positive qualities that participants listed about themselves. Although, the group that wrote down their qualities with a confident posture reported more confidence in the positive thoughts they had of themselves.

Yoga Helps Stress

if you have difficulty managing your stress levels, taking a yoga class is something you can incorporate in your daily routine. Yoga has many aspects that help reduce stress. One of these components is your breathing technique

Breathe control is extremely helpful for those struggling with stress and anxiety, considering that one of the common symptoms of anxiety is shallow breathing. Next time you’re in a stressful situation, you may notice that your breathing pattern is rapid and shallow. This isn’t a coincidence. 

Taking a deep breath lowers stress in the brain and body. Breathing deeply sends a message to the brain to relax. Also, deep breaths remove the negative effects of rapid and shallow breathing: high heart rate, increased blood pressure, muscle tension. The breathing techniques associated with yoga can help reduce your overall stress.

Have you considered taking a Yoga Class? 

With an increase in popularity, yoga has taken over the western world by storm, coming a long way from ancient India. You can most likely find a yoga class at a nearby gym, recreational center or community center. Some people even host free yoga classes at public parks, depending on where you’re located.

The Department of Psychology at Lund University did a study specifically on the effectiveness that gym yoga had on stress and psychological health. The study determined the effects using an 8-week and 16-week consecutive yoga course. Stress levels of participants were measured at a baseline level before they participated in yoga classes

The first group completed a 16-week yoga course, reporting significant decreases in stress levels. The second group didn’t participate in a gym yoga class for the first 8-weeks and then crossed over for the next 8-weeks. The second group still reported a significant decrease in stress levels, showing that yoga has the potential to significantly reduce stress levels in under two months.

5 Yoga Poses

Downward dog yoga pose

Here is some beginner yoga poses to get started.

If you want to practice yoga from the comfort of your own home, there are plenty of experts willing to walk you through an online yoga session.

Yoga for Anxiety and Stress Walkthrough

Further Readings:

One Comment on “Why Millions of People are Turning to Yoga for Anxiety and Stress

  1. I can not speak highly enough of the need to use mindfulness practices, common to the core principles of yoga, as a means to help control stress levels. Healthy eating, exercise through movement, and deep reflective meditations held with intent make for a happy soul. Thank you for sharing this wonderful post.

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