Many people practice yoga for improved physical wellbeing, but did you know yoga is also a great way to improve psychological wellbeing?
Yoga is emerging as a helpful treatment for psychological conditions such as anxiety.
A core feature of anxiety is an overactive mind that perceives too much danger, and this leads to uncomfortable body sensations. In yoga, this overactivity and constant internal chatter is referred to as “monkey mind”. So let’s have a look at what yoga is and how it can help reduce anxiety.
Yoga essentially means unity of body and mind. When we are able to connect the mind and body, we experience less distress. Yoga creates space in the body which then helps to create space in the mind, hence we learn to tame the “monkey mind”.
There are three common features of yoga that help to reduce anxiety:
1. Body postures
By moving the body and using certain postures, we burn off nervous energy and refocus our attention, helping us to feel more settled. These postures have a grounding effect which promote a shift from a focus on our mind to our body.
Once the mind has settled, we can increase awareness of what is occurring in the body, helping us learn to tolerate uncomfortable sensations. Increasing awareness of what is happening in the body is helpful for short circuiting the build-up to heightened arousal and anxiety. Movement also helps to reduce stress chemicals and increase feel-good chemicals in the body, helping to reduce a sense of unease.
2. Breathing techniques
Breathing techniques trigger the relaxation response in the body by activating the parasympathetic nervous system which is responsible for the rest and digest functions which lead to a calming effect.
When stressed and anxious, the sympathetic nervous system is in overdrive. This arm of the nervous system activates the fight-or-flight response which leads to the uncomfortable physical symptoms typically associated with anxiety as the body is preparing to deal with a perceived threat.
Yoga helps to create a sense of safety by reversing the fight-or-flight response. Regulating the breath is like turning on a switch in the brain that activates the parasympathetic nervous system.
3. Meditation (mindfulness)
Yoga practice helps to increase mindful awareness by encouraging people to ‘choose’, where they focus their attention, moment by moment. This is an invaluable skill for managing anxiety.
This meditation component of yoga helps to increase tolerance for the discomfort that is felt in the body when anxious, providing a greater sense of control. When we are able to tolerate this discomfort, we are less inclined to avoid our thoughts and feelings which only serves to maintain anxiety.
Mindful meditation allows us to take a mental step back from our anxious thoughts. Research has found that when yoga is combined with psychological treatment it can further boost the effects of both yoga and the psychology intervention.
Not all yoga practices are for calming anxiety
Each of the three yoga elements contributes to a state of relaxation that helps to calm an overactive nervous system, which is one of the underlying problems in excessive anxiety.
However, although yoga can be a helpful therapy for learning to manage anxiety, not all yoga practices are effective as some postures and breathing techniques over stimulate rather than calm the body and mind.
This is why we have designed a 4-week yoga course specially for anxiety relief!
Hosted by a yoga teacher who is also a registered psychologist, the Yoga for Anxiety Relief program focuses on postures and breathing techniques to settle and soothe, while also promoting mindfulness skills.
We have also incorporated some active movement practices to increase awareness of the body, which enhances the ability to sit with uncomfortable sensations and feelings.
Don’t worry if you are new to yoga, you don’t have to twist and bend yourself into impossible postures. This is program is suitable for those new to yoga. It is also suitable
The next Yoga for Anxiety Relief course will begin on May 15th, 2021. The program is limited to 10 participants, and a few spots are already taken! So if you’re keen, click HERE to check out the program today!