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How to Use Yoga to Reduce Anxiety and Keep Calm

Anxiety can affect anyone at any time. Yoga is a great way to help manage anxiety and improve your overall well-being. Here we will discuss the benefits of yoga for anxiety and provide some tips on how to use Yoga to reduce anxiety and keep calm.

The Practice of Yoga

While the practice of yoga has been a staple in many Eastern cultures and religions, the practice has not always been as popular in the Western world. This was partly due to a misunderstanding of what this practice is about, what it represents, and how it can benefit the individual's health and overall well-being. However, in recent years, yoga practice has grown exponentially in the United States.

While the term yoga is stereotypically quick to conjure up images of deep breathing and superhuman postures and positions, yoga is practiced in many different forms. That means there are many different yoga schools. Let's take a look at the many benefits yoga offers, including yoga for anxiety.

Each yoga form or yoga school combines meditation, deep breathing, and postures (also known as poses or asanas) in a completely unique way. Even the methodology and focus (or purpose) of the practice can differ from one yoga form to the next. Yet there is a common goal to unite or create harmony between mind, body and spirit and make them move in unison.

Simply put, yoga is about self-mastery. When a person can achieve this (whether through yoga or some other practice), then they may be working at their best.

Yoga for General Well-being: The Many Benefits of Yoga

There are many physical and mental benefits of regular yoga practice. Some of these advantages are:
  • Increase in flexibility, muscle strength and tone
  • Weight loss
  • Maintaining a healthy metabolism
  • Improved energy and vitality levels
  • Improved Athletics
  • Reduced chronic pain such as arthritis, lower back pain
  • Improvement of blood circulation
  • Dealing with and reducing stress, anxiety and panic attacks
  • Improvement of concentration
  • Increased body awareness and improved mental clarity
The benefits listed above, and the many others not listed here, can be enjoyed by anyone committed to beginning and maintaining a regular yoga practice. The goal is to start and then move on.

Yoga for Anxiety

Stress and anxiety affect many people, so any simple, natural method for relieving anxiety looks good to a lot of people. Yoga, as it turns out, can be very helpful for relieving anxiety, panic attack, depression, and other stress related conditions, as it boosts dopamine and serotonin levels. The gentle stretches, known as asanas, and the rhythmic breathing practices, called pranayama, are both very relaxing.

How to Use Yoga to Reduce Anxiety and Keep Calm

In today's stressful environment, it's not surprising that practicing yoga for anxiety has become a daily occurrence. There are a few principles that one can do to begin and maintain their practice of yoga for stress and anxiety. These principles include:
  • Get active by moving your body in the different poses (asanas).
  • Practice Proper Breathing Techniques (Pranayamas)
  • Practice meditation to calm and calm the mind (See a quick video)
  • Start applying the principles of yoga to help you stay in the moment
  • Stay encouraged and remember that it's not about getting into seemingly superhuman positions - it's about doing the best you can in the moment.

Yoga Poses for Anxiety

Anyone can start doing yoga for anxiety and reap the benefits regardless of current or past physical conditioning, as each pose can be modified and each yoga school has a beginner level. This is great news for those looking to practice yoga for stress and anxiety, as yoga helps relax the mind, slow heart rate, and even lower blood pressure. Here are 11 great yoga poses for anxiety to start with:
  • Big Toe Pose (Padangusthasana)
  • Bow Pose (Dhanurasana)
  • Staff Pose (Dandasana)
  • Salutation Seal (Anjali Mudra)
  • Seated Forward Bend (Paschimottanasana)
  • Extended Puppy Pose (Uttana Shishosana)
  • Fish Pose (Matsyasana)
  • Cat Pose (Marjarysana)
  • Camel Pose (Ustrasana)
  • Bridge Pose (Setu Bandha Sarvangasana)
  • Bound Angle Pose (Bassha Konasana)
All of the poses listed above (and many others not listed here) are great for calming anxiety and relieving stress and panic attacks. Of course, you can find instructional videos and articles (complete with illustrative photos) on the many online sites dedicated to safe yoga practice. The start of your practice is as close as a mouse click. No special equipment is required other than comfortable clothing and perhaps an exercise mat.

Importantly, practicing yoga for anxiety does not have to be a very long or extremely rigorous practice. There are short five minute yoga practices for anxiety all over the internet in video format from some of the best yoga teachers, as well as articles on blogs and in your favorite magazines. If you start your yoga practice for anxiety today, you will start reaping the benefits right away!

Yoga for Anxiety for Beginners

One might think that you would have to learn all about the Hindu religion or Indian medicine (Ayurveda) to gain yoga benefits, but that is really not necessary. All you have to do is learn the basic poses of yoga for anxiety to begin to find relief. Remember that proper breathing techniques are an essential part of yoga and very helpful in their own right for relieving anxiety.

Several yoga poses help relieve anxiety by inverting the posture so that more blood can flow to the brain. Here is an easy example suitable for beginners. It is called "legs up the wall".

Legs Up the Wall Pose for Anxiety

Legs-Up-the-Wall Pose

To do this asana, legs-up-the-wall pose (or Viparita Karani), you need to have a section of wall available, along with a yoga mat or a folded blanket to rest on. It may help to have a pillow available, too.

Begin by placing the mat up next to the wall. Sit down as close to the wall as possible, then lie back so that you can place your legs up against the wall. Scoot your bottom up toward the wall as close as possible. If you are feeling any discomfort with this stretch, don't move so close to the wall. Your legs can be straight or can be allowed to bow out if that is more comfortable. Use a pillow if you find your neck feeling arched.

In the legs up the wall pose, you can rest your hands on your abdomen or lay them at your sides palm up, whichever is more comfortable. If you rest them on your abdomen, you can feel your abdomen as you breathe in slowly. An important breathing technique in yoga is called belly breathing. This means that you inhale slowly through the nose, filling your lungs from the bottom (the belly or diaphragm area). Try to count slowly to four on inhaling, hold a second, then release the breath slowly from the belly on up.

Try to stay in legs up the wall for up to five minutes at a time for beginners, working up to fifteen or more minutes. While in this position, or any other relaxed position, you can implement some meditation techniques for anxiety.

A good place to start in learning yoga meditation is in focusing on the breath, slowly in through the nose and slowly out through the nose. A very agitated mind might take a while to relax, but the best way to handle stray thoughts is just to let them float on by. Now, as you relax and breathe slowly, begin to turn your attention to your body. Notice the sensations in your shoulders, your face, your hips and legs.

Stress tends to settle in certain parts of the body, and yoga stretches help to relieve that stress. For best results, though, you need to pay attention to how your muscles feel as they stretch. While you breathe, you can say silently to yourself, "I'm breathing in relaxation, light, energy... I'm breathing out stress and tension."

Another useful exercise for reducing anxiety is to roll the head gently around, stretching the neck and shoulders. Go slowly and pay attention to the feeling of those tense muscles relaxing. Breathe slowly as you do this. After a few moments, reverse the direction of the head rolls.

As you learn more about yoga asanas and breathing techniques, you will gain more understanding of how to use yoga for anxiety.

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