Yoga can be an incredible way to deal with stress and anxiety. While we can’t control our thoughts, we can control the way we react to them. Over the course of the day there are countless things that cause us stress, and over time these start to pile up and eventually it feels like you are being crushed by an invisible weight on your shoulders. For some people like myself, anxiety and depression go hand in hand. Trying to control your toughs is impossible and these thoughts can make us view the world in a negative light. As someone who suffers from anxiety, I highly recommend taking a look into using yoga and meditation as a method of coping.
While yoga isn’t a cure, it’s far better than doing nothing and it can help you feel better and improve your overall outlook. While Yoga classes may work well for some people, it can be difficult to build up the willpower to go when you are dealing with anxiety and depression. When I’m feeling like this, the last thing I want to do is go out, be social and surround myself with people. If you have social anxiety, large classes of yoga students will only make things worse and rather than relaxing, your mind will constantly be running.
Yoga provides a unique opportunity to control your breathing, ease your mind, and relax your body. All three are incredibly useful when you are faced with excess stress or on the verge of a panic attack.
How Can Yoga Help With Anxiety?
Yoga is incredible in the amount of ways it can help lower stress and calm the mind and body. Here are a few ways Yoga can help lower stress and anxiety from the authors of Psychology Today:
Yoga lowers tension and promotes relaxation
“In times of high stress and anxiety, our bodies tend to constrict. We start to hold tension in our shoulders, necks, jaws, or elsewhere. Excessive muscular tension can then feed back to our minds and perpetuate the feeling of unease. When we experience the relaxation benefits of yoga, we can lower our physical tension, which helps release the grip that anxiety can have on us.”
Yoga helps us regulate the breath
“Our breath is intimately connected to our nervous system. When we’re anxious we tend to take rapid, shallow breaths, or we might even unconsciously hold our breath and then take big gulping breaths. When we slow and deepen our breathing, we soothe the nervous system. Yoga can teach us to breathe with awareness and to use the breath to move through challenging poses.”
Yoga interrupts worry cycles
“All of us have had the experience of getting stuck in our heads, and chronic worries can be exhausting. When we step on the yoga mat, we have an opportunity to step out of the thinking mode. Our worries can of course come with us, and yoga gives us the opportunity to practice letting go of the worries and coming back to our bodies and breath, over and over. Through this practice we can learn to let go of our worries at other times, too.”
Yoga trains us to accept discomfort
“ We often move reflexively away from discomfort, and at times this retreat can lead us away from what we value. For example, avoiding activities that cause us anxiety will bleed the life out of our experience. I remember one time feeling extremely uncomfortable in a pose and feeling like I couldn’t hold it, and the yoga instructor said to the class, “You should be feeling uncomfortable right now.” Just knowing that discomfort was expected made it more tolerable: It was just discomfort, no better, no worse. I didn’t have to run from it. “
Setting Up Your Yoga Environment
I like to practice my yoga at my own pace and in the comfort and privacy of my own home. I prefer to be in control of my environment, especially if I am trying to calm down and relax. My first step is to set up my environment. I like to be alone, have soft meditation music in the background if there isn’t already background music in the video guide. Escapes – Music for Relaxation is one of my favorites and can be streamed on Amazon.
Avoid messes. If I’m trying to clear my mind, I’m not going to be successful if the room I’m in is a mess. I try to quickly tidy up if my space isn’t already clean. To find and create your own yoga space follow these tips:
- find an area where you will not be disturbed
- if you are in a warm climate and have access to outdoor sunshine set up there
- flat surface for balancing
- if indoors pick a room with natural light
Equipment will be very basic. Traditional relaxation focused yoga will require the following:
- Yoga Mat (A Beginners Guide to Yoga Mats)
- Meditation Pillow (Optional but recommended)
- Yoga Towel, for sweat
- Water, important to stay hydrated
Other extras that can be used to set up your yoga environment include anything that you find relaxing. Some ideas are:
- string lights, etc.
- hanging decorations
You want to create an environment that is calming and not distracting. Once we have our environment set up you can think of this as a safe place to go unwind, especially when you have an uneasy mind. It’s ok to take time for yourself.
Finding the Right Yoga Videos for Anxiety and Stress Relief
There is an abundance of video guides available for stress relief. While you can find lots of options on YouTube, I recommend looking for something more structured and from a professional yoga instructor, not from someone who just has yoga as a hobby.
Wear comfortable clothing and read my guide to What to Wear for Yoga for more details and suggestions on apparel.
Here are a few of my top recommendations for guided videos that are specifically for stress relief and relaxation. Click on any image for more details about that video:
All of these four programs are amazing and will provide you with the guidance you need to overcome some of those overbearing thoughts and finally help you lift that weight off of your shoulders. Click on any image above to learn more about that program or to see what other users have to say.
Yoga has so many benefits for you mental and physical self. It will help you cope with your depression and anxiety. Remember to make a habit of practicing yoga and don’t expect to gain instant results after one session. You need to continue to practice and train your body and mind to get the results. I’ll leave you with a sample yoga video you can do right now so ease your mind and take a few minutes to gather your thoughts.