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How Yoga Can Help battle Depression and Anxiety

  1. Yoga interrupts worry cycles, increases awareness and improves inner connection

Anxiety often amplifies worry thoughts of things outside our control, leading us to think in a “worst case scenario’’ manner. Yoga can interrupt worry cycles through helping us find the balance in connecting to ourselves and being in the moment. Feeling stuck in chronic worries can be exhausting, but stepping on the mat allows students to let go, focus on movement and breath while stepping out of ‘thinking mode’. Yoga also increases bodily awareness as through the physical practice students can get better at recognizing, addressing and releasing tension. Lastly, yoga nurtures both self-compassion (commitment of taking care of ourselves through a yoga practice) and acceptance (accept our bodies, abilities, and limits just as they are) which are crucial for improving our inner connection.

 

  1. Remember to Breathe

Pranayama or yoga breathing techniques can ease symptoms of anxiety as many studies have linked relaxation and calming to breathing. Our breath is connected to our nervous system, which in yoga practice is highlighted when we breathe with awareness and use the breath to move through poses. Furthermore, following your breath during a yoga class is a useful skill that can be applied outside the mat, as deep slow breaths can assist those feeling stressed to feel more relaxed regardless of the surroundings and situation. When a person feels anxious or under pressure they tend to take rapid shallow breaths, even unconsciously holding their breath (e.g. during a difficult yoga pose or life situation). The nervous system is soothed by deepening our breathing, which makes all the difference during a challenging practice or life event.

 

  1. Reduces muscle tension and promotes relaxation

Without even realizing it we often tighten certain areas of our bodies when we are feeling stressed or anxious. Chronic stress or anxiety can lead to pain in the jaws, neck, shoulder, head, back and other areas of the body. Furthermore, excessive muscular tension can then feed back to our minds and extend the feeling of unease and stress. Asana, the physical aspect of yoga, improves posture over time and helps relieve tension by strengthening and relaxing different muscle groups. Lowering physical tension through experiencing the nurturing bodily benefits of yoga can truly helps release the grip that anxiety can have on us.

 

  1. Yoga can improve you mood and attitude

Yoga encourages a nonjudgmental attitude of living in the present moment without being concerned about perceptions and expectations. Meditation in particular fosters mindfulness in life, which encourages a kind attitude toward oneself and others. This helps promote acceptance, healing and recovery (the desire to let go of negative thoughts, self-criticism or blame). In addition, like other forms of exercise, yoga gives practitioners endorphins – a natural antidepressant (neurotransmitters in the brain). They can improve a person’s mood, relieve anxiety or stress and reduce symptoms of depression. Certain yoga classes even focus on flexibility and strength with the aim of preventing injuries and reducing chronic pain (e.g. assisting recovering athletes, those suffering from the aftermath of injuries or treatments such as chemo therapy) – which can help people feel happier and healthier.

 

  1. Yoga creates communities

Anxiety or depression can be all consuming, lonely and isolating. Many people facing stressful times prefer to keep to themselves, not face the world and avoid being active in life. Taking the step of attending a studio class not only raises our energy flow, but reminds us of the benefits and joy which the presence of others can bring into our life. Furthermore, yoga classes can be a way to meet new people and develop a sense of community. Having faith in you yoga teacher or studio staff can be helpful when trying to cope with anxiety and depression. Please always remember that Yoga West and our entire team are here for you!

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