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Practice Yoga for Stress and Anxiety Relief

Rohan

Posted on Apr 13, 2021 #therapy

We've all experienced stress and anxiety at some point. It's a natural, human response to stressful situations and can even save us from danger. Sometimes, it can go deeper than that and become a full-blown anxiety disorder that disrupts our lives.

My class, Yoga for Stress and Anxiety can help!

Yoga for Stress and Anxiety: The Research

Since the 1970s, researchers have been looking into stress-reduction techniques and tools. Meditation is one such technique that you hear a lot about, but yoga as a whole practice hasn't gotten the same level of attention until recent decades.

According to researchers at the NYU Grossman School of Medicine, a new study from August 2020 found that yoga was significantly more effective for generalized anxiety disorder than simple education on stress management.

Another study from the Ilam University of Medical Sciences (February 2018) found that yoga plays an effective part in reducing stress, anxiety, and depression. The study went on to conclude that yoga can be used as complementary medicine for these conditions.

Yet another study from The Center for Health Behavior Research at the University of Mississippi (2011) found that yoga offers a host of benefits: enhanced muscular strength and body flexibility, improved respiratory and cardiovascular function, recovery from and treatment of addiction, reduction in stress, anxiety, depression, and chronic pain, improved sleep patterns, and enhanced overall well-being and quality of life.

If you're not using yoga for stress and anxiety management, now's a great time to start. Sign up for a free two-week trial of myYogaTeacher and get access to my class as well as more than 35 other live, online yoga courses every single day.

What Do Stress and Anxiety Look Like?

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Stress and anxiety can look and feel different for different people. For some, it might be a feeling like waiting for the other shoe to drop. For others, it might be all-consuming. Here are some of the symptoms that typically signal stress and anxiety:

  • Persistent feelings of uneasiness, panic, and fear
  • Muscle tension
  • Heart palpitations or a rapid heartbeat
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Irritability
  • Constricted breathing
  • Cold, sweaty palms
  • Rumination on unhelpful, negative thoughts

If your feelings of stress and anxiety are keeping you from living your life, we recommend talking to your doctor about treatment options. But don't forget to practice your yoga!

Alleviating Stress and Anxiety Through Yoga

Our bodies are pretty miraculous, especially with the body's ability to heal itself. Of course, stress and anxiety can drastically reduce that healing. Fortunately, yoga can help us bring calm, peace, and stillness back into our lives.

Yoga helps to modulate stress response systems, reducing the stress and anxiety we feel. And, yoga can even help us respond to stress more easily.

We recommend a complete yoga practice that includes more than just asanas. In addition to poses and movement (asanas), you'll want to incorporate pranayamas (breathing techniques), meditation, and yoga philosophy.

Yoga Practices to Alleviate Stress and Anxiety

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In this section, we're going to talk about specific asanas, pranayamas, meditations, and mudras that will help you ease stress and anxiety with yoga. While you can absolutely practice this on your own, I would love to have you join my Yoga for Stress and Anxiety class on myYogaTeacher. You can sign up for a free two-week trial of myYogaTeacher and not only get access to my class but access to 35+ other live, online group classes every single day.

Yoga Poses

There are several yoga poses that can help alleviate stress and anxiety. Here's a short sequence that you can practice at any time. Start seated in a comfortable position and move through the poses as feels comfortable and soothing for you.

  • Seated neck rolls
  • Marjariasana (cat pose)
  • Balasana (child's pose)
  • Adho Mukha Shvanasana (downward-facing dog pose)
  • Uttanasana (standing forward bend)
  • Vrikshasana (tree pose)
  • Janu Shirasasana (one-legged seated forward bend)
  • Paschimottanasana (two-legged seated forward bend)
  • Setu Bandha Sarvangasana (bridge pose)
  • Sarvangasana (shoulder stand)
  • Matsyasana (fish pose)
  • Dhanurasana (bow pose)
  • Savasana (corpse pose)

Pranayama (Breathing)

Breathing is a powerful tool for combating stress and anxiety. Here are a few different breathing exercises you can try when you feel stress or anxiety creeping up:

  • Deep breathing
  • Nadi Shodhan Pranayama (alternate nostril breathing)
  • Bhastrika Pranayama (bellows breathing)
  • Ujjayi Pranayama (ocean breathing)
  • Bhramari Pranayama (bee breathing)

Meditation

Meditation helps you calm yourself, grounding you and producing feelings of stability. There are several different types of meditation to choose from, but research has shown that mindful meditations are great for reducing stress and anxiety. Here's a mindful meditation that walks you through progressive relaxation:

  • Find a quiet place where you won't be disturbed and make yourself comfortable. Close your eyes.
  • Starting with your head, tense the muscles in your face and scalp. Hold this as you inhale for a count of eight.
  • On the exhale, relax your face completely. Unclench your jaw, relax your forehead and eyes, let everything just fall away. Repeat this clenching and relaxing until your face feels completely relaxed.
  • Repeat this process down your entire body: neck, shoulders, chest, abdomen, right arm, right forearm, right hand, left arm, left forearm, left hand, buttocks, right leg, lower right leg, right foot, left leg, left foot.

If you're short on time, you can focus on just your four main muscle groups.

Mudras

Mudras can also help you combat stress and anxiety.

A mudra is a symbolic or ritual gesture done with the hands and used in combination with Pranayama. They activate our body's potential for healing and growth, stimulating different parts of the body to improve the flow of energy.

Here are five mudras I recommend for stress and anxiety:

  • Gyan Mudra: Join the tips of your index fingers and thumbs with the other fingers outstretched and together in a relaxed position.
  • Agni Shakti Mudra: Touch all four fingers on each hand to the palms of the same hand (almost in a fist shape). Then, join the tips of the thumbs together.
  • Kalesvara Mudra: Bring the tips of the middle fingers together and the first and middle joints of the index fingers together. Then, bring the thumbs together, creating a heart shape, and gently curl the rest of the fingers in. Connect the thumbs to the sternum and reach your elbows out to the side.
  • Apan Vayu Mudra: Fold the index fingers to touch the tip to the base of the thumb. Then, bring the tips of the middle and ring fingers to the tips of the thumbs. The pinky finger stays straight and points outward.
  • Uttarabodhi Mudra: Interlock the fingers of both hands together and keep the thumbs and index fingers extended and touching. Point the tips of extended index fingers up and the thumbs down.

Wrapping Up

There's a lot of research that indicates yoga is a wonderful way to reduce stress and anxiety. But we're all different. If you have stress or anxiety that is debilitating, please be sure to reach out to your doctor.

It's also possible that yoga can reveal strong feelings and emotions that you've been suppressing. Practice yoga in a place that makes you feel safe and secure. And don't forget to sign up for a free two-week trial of myYogaTeacher so you can join my next class!

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