If you suffer from anxiety, you should know that you aren’t alone. In fact, there are over 40 million others in the United States who suffer from anxiety, putting you in a lot of good company. While the stigma of anxiety disorders and mental illness is starting to fall away, there are still a lot of people who are reluctant to get help. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, only a little over a third of the people who suffer from anxiety get treatment for it.
If you are looking for a healthy way to deal with feelings of anxiety, yoga classes can be a safe and supportive environment that may help. Our Virginia Beach classes welcome everyone, whether you are an anxiety sufferer looking for relief in your first yoga class or you’ve been practicing for years. Our team loves to work with everyone and help them grow in their strength and flexibility, as well as developing tools to help individuals work through anxiety and panic attacks.
How Yoga Can Help With Anxiety
Increases production of serotonin in your body.
Serotonin is the chemical in your brain that’s responsible for feelings of happiness and well-being. It’s also responsible for helping with things such as sleep, digesting food, memory, and even your sexual arousal. No matter what’s happening around you, if you don’t have enough serotonin in your body, then it’s going to be difficult for you to feel happy. Increasing the production of this chemical in your body can help elevate your mood and increase your sense of well-being. This is what many of the medications prescribed for depression and anxiety do, too, but yoga seems to help stimulate the production of this important chemical naturally.
Improves your self-esteem.
Yoga can be an incredible boost to your self-esteem, which in turn can help you feel more confident and reduce your anxiety. Many yoga students experience an endorphin high at the end of a class, giving them a much-needed boost to make it through the rest of their week. It’s also a rush when you finally achieve a difficult pose for the first time. Doing yoga can also help you lose weight, but more than that, it can help you become stronger both physically and emotionally.
Increases your energy level.
It’s tough to face everything that’s happening in life when you don’t feel like you have any energy. Yoga can help increase your energy levels and give you the stamina you need to make it through the day. It’s a combination of increased serotonin levels and the endorphin rush (both discussed above), it can also increase your circulation and deliver much-needed energy-boosting nutrients to your brain, heart, and lungs. It also increases your cortisol levels, which is the chemical responsible for giving you energy.
Helps you focus on the now.
Yoga is all about mindfulness. This is an important tool in the battle against anxiety. Mindfulness is the practice of focusing on the here and now, keeping your consciousness in the present moment. Anxiety disorders often cause us to focus on what went wrong in the past or what could go wrong in the future, neither of which we really have any control over. Yoga helps us focus on what’s happening right here, right now, in this safe and supportive space.
Teaches you breathing techniques.
Controlled breathing is another way to help reduce anxiety and stress levels and something that yoga is great for teaching people to do. During your yoga practice, your instructor will encourage you to focus on your breath, controlling it as you move through movements and breathing into your diaphragm. These breathing techniques are key to helping you lower stress levels. Very often when you are having a panic attack, you will stop breathing or start breathing very shallowly; this is the body’s natural response to a threat. But when there is no actual threat present, breathing deeply can stimulate your nervous system in a positive way and give you something to focus on other than your feelings of panic. When you learn these techniques in yoga, you’ll be able to take them with you throughout the rest of your day.
Some of Our Favorite Yoga Poses to Help Ease Anxiety
Your yoga instructor can help you find the poses and techniques that work best for you, but here are some that you can start with as you begin to grow your yoga experience.
- Corpse Pose. It’s not as sad as it sounds! This pose just means you are going to lie on the floor on your back and completely relax. Spread your legs slightly and relax your feet with your arms out to the side or hands gently resting on your stomach. This is a great pose to help you focus on deep breathing!
- Cat-Cow Stretch. This is a great one to help stretch and awaken your spine while you practice controlled breathing techniques. To do this one, you’ll get on your hands and knees. Make sure your knees are under your hips and hands are under your shoulders. As you inhale, drop your belly down and lift your gaze towards the ceiling, lifting the chin and chest (this is the cow pose). On the exhale, round your back up towards the ceiling and allow your head to relax towards the floor (this is the cat post). Repeat, moving back and forth from cat to cow poses with your breath.
- Child’s pose. This is another relaxing pose that has the added benefit of stretching your back and hips. It can be quite therapeutic and help increase your feelings of safety and well-being. Start on your hands and knees, then spread the knees wide while your big toes continue to touch. Sit back on your heels, then on an exhale extend forward so your forehead is touching the floor (or as close as feels comfortable). You can either extend your arms in front of you or keep them at your sides. Hold this pose as long as it feels good to do so.
Would you like to see what yoga classes could do for your feelings of anxiety? Collective Yoga would love to partner with you in this exploration. Check out our schedule of yoga classes in Virginia Beach and sign up for one today. We look forward to seeing you soon!