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The Benefits of Yoga for Anxiety

yoga for anxiety at Smithfield NC yoga studio

Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the US, affecting nearly 20 percent of adults. Unsurprisingly, there’s been an increase in stress, anxiety, and related issues in 2020 as pandemic, wildfires, and a non-stop news cycle fill our conscious minds on top of the everyday stress of work, family, and life. If you are struggling from anxiety and panic attacks, or you simply find yourself weighed down by stress more than usual, consider using yoga for anxiety. This mind-body exercise can ease symptoms and bring peace and calm to your spirit. Learn more about the benefits of yoga and which poses may be right for you.

Why Choose Yoga for Anxiety

There are countless studies showing the connection between exercise and reducing anxiety. Exercise is able to reduce fatigue and increase energy, alertness, and cognitive function, often helping people turn stress and worry into positive action. Additionally, exercise releases endorphins that can promote feelings of happiness and calm while improving sleep.

Yoga not only offers those benefits, but it builds upon them. By blending mental and spiritual exercises through meditation and deep breathing, coupled with intentional, steady movements and poses, you can tap into your focus, and slow the racing thoughts and worry. In fact, people who practice yoga regularly can experience the following benefits:

  • Lowered overall feelings of stress
  • Lowered blood pressure and heart rate
  • Reduce muscle tension and pain
  • Reduced inflammation
  • Improved sleep quality

Beginning Yoga Poses for Anxiety

If you’d like to try yoga for anxiety, we wanted to share some simple poses that are designed to promote calm and peace. While these are generally ideal for beginners, if you have chronic pain or injury, are pregnant, or elderly, you may want to speak with your healthcare provider before trying them.

Easy Pose

The name is a bit misleading – Easy Pose (Sukhasana) is a basic seated yoga position, but may not come naturally if you’re used to reclining on the couch or spending time in an office chair. However, once you find this pose, it’s an excellent foundation for several slow, gentle movements that can help symptoms of stress and anxiety.

  • Sit up straight with your sacral bone and shoulder blades in alignment – if you sit against a wall, your shoulder blades and sacral bones should be touching the wall, but your lower back and head will not.
  • Cross your right shin in front of the left with your left knee over your right foot and right knee over left foot.
  • Place your hands on your knees with your palms down and balance your weight across your sitting bones. Picture your pelvis as a bowl of water and you want to sit in a way where water doesn’t spill out the sides, front or back.
  • As your head, neck, and spine are aligned, release tension in your neck while holding it upright, and relax your feet and thighs.
  • Gaze straight ahead or even close your eyes.
  • Hold the pose for one minute or during your meditation or breathing exercises.
  • Note: If you find your hips are uncomfortable or tight, you can sit your hips on a folded blanket, yoga block or meditation pillow so they are above your knees slightly. This can minimize tension and help you align your spine.

While in Easy Pose, you can do these motions:

  • Slow, light neck rolls, where you’re “drawing” small circles using your chin. Go slowly and move with intention to avoid straining or pulling a muscle.
  • Seated side stretching, placing your left hand on the floor and bend sideways to the left. As you breathe in, raise your right arm up to follow the bend of your body. Hold for as long as you’re comfortable, then change sides.

Cat Pose

The Cat Pose (Marjaryasana) is a gentle pose that stretches your torso and soothes the spine and abdomen. From this pose, you can easily shift into Cow Pose to flow your movements easily. To do this pose:

  • Start on your hands and knees, making sure you place your knees in a line below your hips while your wrists, elbows, and shoulders are in a straight line and perpendicular to the floor. Center your head in a neutral, comfortable position with your eyes looking at the floor.
  • As you exhale, keep your knees and shoulders still while rounding your spine upward toward the ceiling, arching like a cat. Allow your head to release downward, but don’t tilt your chin to your chest.
  • When you inhale, come back to the neutral “tabletop” position with spine straight and head in neutral position.

Cow Pose

Cow Pose (Bitilasana) is basically the opposite of Cat Pose and work well together. Starting in the same “tabletop” position with your hands and knees as Cat Pose, you’ll follow these steps:

  • As you inhale, lift your sitting bones and chest to the ceiling as your belly sinks to the floor. Your spine will arch downward, rather than upward.
  • Exhale, coming back to the “tabletop position”
  • Consider pairing this with the Cat Pose as you exhale for gentle movements.

With our free online yoga classes, you can see the poses in action as well as learn more yoga poses for anxiety, strength, and stretching.

Join One of Our Yoga Classes in Smithfield

At The Yoga Connection, we offer yoga classes for every stage of ability, as well as our Chill & Slow class which focuses on gentle stretching and strengthening plus Mindful Awareness Meditation. If you have any questions, give us a call at 919-971-1431 or fill out our contact form.

Though introduced to yoga over 30 years ago, Martha has been teaching yoga since 2001. She received her 200 hour yoga training in 2003 and is now an E-RYT 500. Additional education: M.S. in Health Psychology, Integrative Health Coach and Mindful Awareness Meditation instructor (Duke Integrative Medicine), and over 800 hours of Yoga Therapy training. She has a school for 200 hour and beginning in the winter of 2014, a 300 hour advanced yoga certification which will award a cumulative 500 hour teacher training in compliance with Yoga Alliance. Martha's envisions yoga as a form of health, healing and well being for all people. Her students range from health professionals to yoga practitioners seeking a deeper understanding of the benefits of yoga. See all of our yoga classes.

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