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Chronic anxiety and stress attacks are debilitating but yoga can help. If you are currently living with anxiety that exists daily, know that there is a way to manage it holistically. The symptoms of chronic anxiety directly affect your mind and body. It’s challenging to be mindful and experience any semblance of well-being.
Stress attacks may feel like they aren’t in your control but they actually can be. Typically, they will occur when you are experiencing negative run-away thoughts. Physical symptoms arise, you start to feel worse, and all of a sudden, you’re in the midst of panic.
The self-help strategies that exist include relaxation techniques that help keep you calm and in control. They reduce cortisol levels that arise from chronic anxiety. These strategies include breathing, relaxing your muscles, mindfulness, and visualization. Strategies like this have been proven to reduce anxiety and help you deal with stress attacks when they arise.
Yoga fits into the relaxation strategy because the practice includes all the relaxation techniques mentioned above. It has been shown that yoga eases stress and reduces feelings of nervousness that can bring on attacks. As yoga is a practice that was designed to put us in alignment with getting into a meditative state, it allows us to be more mindful. When you’re more able to control what you think, you are more likely to get on top of your anxiety and manage it.
Physical symptoms that come with chronic anxiety and stress attacks include tension, tightness in various areas of the body and sensitivity to pain. Postures in yoga help to ease the physical manifestations of anxiety. Poses work to stretch, lengthen, and balance muscles.
Child’s Pose is a great beginner’s pose that helps you to relax and feel safe. It releases tension in your neck, back, and shoulders. This is where most of our stress sites. It calms the nervous system, which is where our fight/flight response lives in the body. You will also find that the pose encourages steady, deep breathing.
Start on your hands and knees. Your hands should be under your shoulders and your knees should be under your hips. As you exhale, bow forward so your torso rest on your thighs and your forehead on the mat. Extend your arms out long and keep your buttocks on your heels. Feel free to breathe into this pose for as long as you feel comfortable.
Cat/Cow Pose stimulates the kidneys and adrenal glands. As you do the movement, you are using your breath consciously throughout which calms the mind and rids stress in the body.
Start with Cow Pose by inhaling and dropping your belly down. Your back will arch as you lift your chin and chest. Look up to the ceiling.
When you suffer from anxiety, it’s most likely that you are taking shallow, rapid breaths. You don’t take advantage of all the air you can get into your body by breathing deeper into the lower lungs. When you do yoga, you will also focus on breathing deeply into the belly (and into the lungs). This can help keep you calmer throughout your life. It is also a good tool if you do experience a stress attack.
Healing through yoga when it comes to chronic anxiety and stress attacks includes the Four Noble Truths of the Buddha. This is a bit of a complex philosophy but it comes down to healing through four questions:
As we move through yoga, we are naturally willing to look more deeply into the causes of why we feel the way we do. Your yoga instructor will usually prompt you to do this during certain parts of your yoga practice. Getting rid of anxiety isn’t what the aim is, it’s about being able to manage the anxious feelings that do come up. If the four questions were designed for anxiety, it might look like:
These are the mindful questions that are attached to the four noble truths of the Buddha.
Yoga helps with chronic anxiety and stress attacks when you commit to practicing often. It is a good part of your anxiety management. You ease the physical body of the stress that comes from anxious thought but also help reduce the thoughts. Meditation, visualization, and conscious breathing also help you to let go of worrying and negative thoughts that may cause anxiety.
You may also find that you meet wonderful people in your yoga classes. It’s important for us to have support in our lives. There are like-minded people in the classes that may be going through what you’re going through. All of these aspects can help you better manage your chronic anxiety and reduce the occurrences of stress attacks.
Meera Watts is a yoga teacher, entrepreneur and mom. Her writing on yoga and holistic health has appeared in Elephant Journal, CureJoy, FunTimesGuide, OMtimes and others. She’s also the founder and owner of SiddhiYoga.com, a yoga teacher training school based in Singapore. Siddhi Yoga runs intensive, residential trainings in India (Rishikesh, and Dharamshala), Indonesia (Bali). You can take a look at her website here.
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