Yoga has long been touted as a gentle and natural method to relieve stress and anxiety, but many individuals are still skeptical about its actual effectiveness. Although the benefits of combining meditation and exercise may seem obvious to some, there's nothing wrong with demanding some scientific evidence to back up the claims. These are four tangible ways yoga can help reduce your anxiety and help you leave each session feeling more relaxed than when you started.
Relieving Muscle Tension
Muscle tension is a frequent symptom of anxiety, caused by your body's natural stress response forcing your muscles into a constant state of readiness. This strain adds up over time, leaving you feeling sore and exhausted even without exercising. When the aches are debilitating enough, they can even contribute to your stress, creating a negative feedback loop. Yoga designed for anxiety can help relieve some of this tension, allowing you to look at the world with a more positive perspective and continue on with your day. If nothing else, it will at least ensure that you don't need to live with the side-effects of each new anxiety episode for days afterward.
Encouraging Deep Breathing
Yoga is famous for the many poses and stretches practiced by its adherents, but just as important is its focus on deep, controlled breathing. During an anxiety attack, you may experience short, shallow breaths or be unable to breathe at all, both of which will only further stimulate your panic. Controlled breathing, on the other hand, encourages your body to calm down, essentially forcing it into a more relaxed state. Learning how to be aware of and influence your own breathing patterns is a critical part of yoga, and those exercises may prove beneficial the next time you experience a panic attack.
Lowering Your Blood Pressure
When you feel a sudden flash of anxiety, your blood pressure spikes in response and can stay elevated for hours after the event. This is bad for both your cardiovascular and overall health, especially if you have anxiety attacks every day. Yoga has been shown to significantly decrease blood pressure in those who practice it regularly, meaning it may be able to help minimize the daily damage done by your anxiety.
Forcing Your Mind to the Present
Exercise is a traditional remedy for anxiety for a number of reasons, but where it really excels is its ability to force you to focus only on the present. As you move through the poses in an anxiety yoga program, try to concentrate on the position of your body and the rhythm of your breathing. These are the same principles used in traditional meditation, meant to reorient your perspective and clean up the cobwebs of the day before. Putting your worries and cares on hold even for a few short minutes can be a blessed relief for anxiety patients, and many view their morning yoga routine as a necessary safe haven to get them through the day ahead. If you have been living with anxiety for too long and are looking for more options, it can't hurt to find your local yoga practitioner to experience these benefits for yourself.