Yoga is so often recommended as a way to manage anxiety, but why is that? Why not Skiing for Anxiety or Golfing for Anxiety? While I do believe that any physical movement can and will help to reduce the effects of anxiety, yoga is especially powerful. Here’s why:
1. Movement and Mindfulness
While ANY form of yoga, such as meditation or breathwork, can help to reduce anxiety, I personally believe that asana, that is physical practice, can be an important key in calming both the mind and the body. Anxiety often manifests as nervous energy: to ask an anxious body to be still can increase the symptoms of anxiety. Yoga asana are wonderful because they link breath with movement. By burning off some of our nervous energy, it may become easier to come into meditation.
2. The Mind/Body Connection
Where do you feel anxiety in your body? Is it in your chest? Your stomach? Maybe it is tightness in your shoulders or clenching in your jaw. Sometimes this tightness causes other pain, such as headaches. Anxiety and depression are felt in the body: yoga can help to relieve this tension. Without needing to get to the root of anxiety, the physical yoga practice can soothe the symptoms and build resiliency. While we may never completely eliminate anxiety, our goal is to reduce its effects.
3. Yoga Asks Us to Dig Deeper
There is a misconception that yoga is an excuse to “bliss out” or hit snooze on our lives. If a yoga practice is asking you to zone out and avoid what’s going on in your life, I would argue that it’s not really yoga. Yoga encourages us to ask questions, both on and off the mat. Sometimes this is called shadow work, and it can be the key to healing.
Restorative yoga and pranayama (breathwork) have been shown to be the most effective to reduce anxiety, but any form of yoga is beneficial, as is any form of movement. Some tools work better than others—everyone is different. Experiment and see what works for you. For ideas on how to reduce your anxiety that don't involve yoga, check out this blog post.
I’d love to hear what you use to help manage your anxiety. Leave me a comment below.
Hi, I'm Gillian.
I’m obsessed with helping women live their best lives. Together we'll use yoga and mindfulness to build confidence, reach goals and have some fun!