Anxiety is a very common part of our lives. You may feel anxious when faced with a problem at work or before making an important decision.
Typically anxiety can cause tightness in the muscles, nausea, sweating, and other uncomfortable physical manifestations. It can be hard on the mind too, as you may have excessive worrying and racing thoughts that make it hard to concentrate.
Stress is not pleasant. But here's the good news: It’s manageable. Here are five ways yoga can help you manage your anxiety.
1. You’ll Learn to Take Control of Your Breathing
A classic sign of anxiety is shallow breathing, which can exacerbate the feeling of panic and make you feel dizzy.
Deep, slow and controlled breathing, however, will help feel better physically, as well as slow down your thoughts. Yogic breathing techniques encourage you to focus on your breath to center your attention, clear your mind, and calm you down.
Breathing from your diaphragm, through your nostrils or through one nostril, can also be calming.
Here’s a simple breathing exercise from Yoga Journal that you can try at any stressful moment in your day:
“Lie comfortably on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor about hip-distance apart. Place a palm on your abdomen and breathe comfortably for a few moments, noticing the quality of your breath. Does the breath feel tense? strained? uneven? shallow? Simply observe the breath without any judgment. Then gradually begin to make your breathing as relaxed and smooth as possible, introducing a slight pause after each inbreath and outbreath.”
2. You’ll Create a More Positive Lifestyle and Community
Participating in yoga classes or a yoga teacher training course often means meeting other yogis! The people you keep in your company heavily influence your outlook on life, as well as your habits.
Yoga is a unique form of exercise in that it focuses on physical health just as much as spiritual and emotional health. A room filled with people who want to take care of themselves by practicing yoga and mindfulness will help inspire you to continue down your own healthy living path.
3. You’ll Learn about Mindful Meditation
Anxiety can make things feel more overwhelming than they really are. Meditation is a great way to slow down and take hold of your thoughts, helping to dissipate overwhelming and stressful feelings. Meditation also encourages you to focus on your breathing, which centers your attention and helps you feel more relaxed.
Here are some simple tips for meditating to soothe anxiety from The Very Well Mind:
- Bring Awareness to the Present: Once you're sitting comfortably in a quiet area, start focusing inward. Close your eyes and begin to breathe with awareness. Notice your breathing pattern but don’t try to change it. This will help you bring your awareness to the present moment. If you notice your mind wandering, keep bringing your attention back to your breath.
- Acknowledge Your Thoughts: During your meditation practice, thoughts may pop up in your mind. You may even experience negative thoughts. Instead of trying to suppress these thoughts, acknowledge them and wait for them to pass. Learn to sit with uncomfortable thoughts. Over time, you may feel less anxious and experience more inner peace.
- Gradually Return to the Present: When you’re done meditating, open your eyes. Gradually take some stretches and come back to the space. Take time to reflect on your practice.
4. You’ll Practice Self-Compassion
When practicing yoga, it’s important to be okay with whatever poses you can or can’t do. It is unfair and not helpful to compare yourself to the person next to you.
If you can’t quite pull off a challenging pose, that’s okay! Yoga is a journey and you can have compassion for yourself when you need a little more practice.
Meditation is a big part of yoga, and it also encourages self-compassion. When you’re meditating, your thoughts will likely trail off to memories of yesterday or plans for tomorrow. That’s okay too! It’s totally natural for your thoughts to run free and you can gently bring your attention back to your breathing.
If you can have compassion for yourself with your yoga practice and your run-away thoughts, you can certainly have compassion for yourself when you’re feeling anxious. It’s okay if work is stressful, or if there is a big decision looming on your psyche. Can you comfort yourself like you would comfort your best friend? Can you give yourself some time and love to do some yoga or meditate to calm down? Sure you can!
5. You’ll Foster a Philosophy of Positivity
Yoga uses meditation, mantras and other methods to encourage you to reflect and grow.
Self-compassion is an example of a philosophy taught in yoga and meditation that can be applied to your everyday life. Another example is becoming more calm. When practicing breathing exercises or poses, it always helps to stay calm and centered. This teaches you to move from external sensations to internal peace, which can be applied to managing anxiety.
For example, you can observe the anxiety you feel, without judging it, and calmly decide to meditate or practice yoga to feel better.
Are You Ready to Slow Down?
Yoga empowers you to take control of your thoughts and emotions. When life feels overwhelming, yoga also helps you slow down.
In addition, you can practice becoming more compassionate toward yourself when feeling anxious, which can be a game changer! Most importantly, you can join a yoga community, like a local studio or the Pretzel Kids yoga teaching network. And this community of like-minded yogis may be just what you need to inspire you, positively influence your lifestyle, and provide support when you’re feeling anxious.
About Ocean Noah: Ocean is a content intern at Pretzel Kids yoga. Originally from Los Angeles, Ocean moved to San Francisco to study creative writing at San Francisco State University. She writes fiction, blog posts, and op-eds. Ocean is thrilled to write for Pretzel Kids, as her mother is a yogi too!