Yoga modalities like yoga asana, pranayama and meditation are effective for people with anxiety disorder.
Anxiety is a common human emotion that everyone experiences at one time or another.
Anxiety disorders are different from normal stress as in anxiety disorders affected people remain in the state of fear and worry for a considerable amount of time and generally because of no reason.
What persons with anxiety disorders may feel like
- Feeling of hot and cold flushes
- Heart palpitation
- Feeling of tightness in chest
- Aggrandize worries
- Stress induced (non medical) body tremors
- Introverted thinking
- Dry mouth, nausea and dizziness
There are many types of anxieties viz. panic disorders, social disorder, specific phobias and generalised anxiety disorders.
Like other brain illnesses anxiety disorders may be caused due to problems in proper functioning of brain circuits which regulates fear and emotions.
Yoga helps deal with acute Anxiety
Dealing with acute anxiety requires treatment with medications and other therapies like regular yoga asana, pranayama and meditation practice.
1. Yoga annihilates the emotional block that prevents us from leading a hearty life and restores the mind and body affinity.
2. The continuous practice of yoga asana helps in overcoming anxiety, as it reduces excessive secretion of stress hormones like cortisol and adrenalin.
3. Regular practice of Yoga stimulates metabolism and increase energy through optimised supply of oxygen to different organs including brain and the body.
4. Yoga invigorates the rebalancing of hormonal state of the body
5. Yoga asana with controlled breathing ‘pranayama’ exercises helps in stopping the unnecessary thinking, thereby encourages the mind to attain calmness.
6. Yoga breathing exercises helps in controlling temper and calms the mind, while deep breathing with folding hands oxygenates the body and accelerates the metabolism, guides the mind and gives relief from anxiety.
Recent researches have suggested that yoga asana, pranayama and meditation have helped several patients with anxiety disorders and they stated facing life positively.
Following yoga asana can help
a.) Dhanurasana (Bow pose). This asana is very useful for anxious persons. Regular practice of this asana helps to increase will power and enhance emotional stability.
b.) Matsyasana (Fish pose). This asana is also known as destroyer of all diseases. It reduces tension and keeps our mind calm and up lift our spirits.
c.) Janu Shirsasana (One-legged forward bend). This asana stretches the front of the spine, ease stiffness in muscles. It also eases the effect of anxiety on the heart and mind.
d.) Setubandhasana (Bridge pose). The chin lock in this asana calms the flow of thoughts and soothes the mind. This posture also helps in sending fresh blood to the brain , thus provides rest and revitalizes the mind and body.
e.) Marjariasana (Cat Stretch). This asana stretches the spine and strengthens lowback and abdominal muscles. The spine portion is also massaged which increases our self esteem and regulates the blood supply to the brain
f.) Paschimmotanasana (Two legged forward bend). This asana stretches the length of your spine, allowing the life force to flow to every part of your body. And resting of your forehead on knees calms your front brain and keeps the hind brain quiet and alert.
g.) Hastapadasana (Forward bend). This asana gives an intense stretch to your legs. It soothes the brain and calms sympathetic nervous system.
h.) Adhomukha swastikasana (Downward facing dog). This posture is very relaxing. It relieves strain from your back, neck and heart. Regular practice of this asana helps people who are prone to anxiety
i.) Shrishasana (Headstand). This asana facilitates blood supply to brain cells, thus reduces stress and calms mind.
j.) Shavasana (Corpse pose). This asana helps in withdrawal of your organs of perception from the outside world. Thus the body and the mind becomes one and you feel inner silence and peace which relaxes the nervous tension.
Apart from the above-mentioned yoga asanas restorative yoga is also very helpful in reducing anxiety. In restorative yoga, practitioner completely goes into forward bending or backward bending onto the props.
In this form of yoga the mind quiets while the body relaxes completely. In Restorative yoga practitioners are still, and may look passive, but it helps to increase mental and emotional strength and flexibility of the body.
Pranayama for Anxiety Disorders
What most people do not realize that they have a safe, effective and inexpensive remedy for anxiety right in their hand? What it is? Your Breath.
This magical breath has amazing recuperative powers. By controlling their breath, practitioners can alter their state of mind. Breathing initiated pranayama stimulates parasympathetic nervous system, which in turn calms and soothes the mind.
How does pranayama works for anxiety?
As all of us have noticed that respiratory rate increases in stressful situations. This causes oxygen buildup in arteries and in turn decreases relative amount of carbon dioxide in veins. This alters acid-base balance (ph level) of the blood, also known as respiratory alkalosis. This can result in alarming signs and symptoms including muscle twitching, nausea, lightheadedness and anxiety.
Whereas, controlled breathing helps to bring back ph level to a less alkaline state by raising carbon dioxide level in the blood. This altered ph can stimulate parasympathetic nervous system and helps to calms us.
As mentioned by Yoga Journal you can work with anxiety by focusing your exhalations and lengthening them consciously. For this you have to first identify your breathing pattern, for example count the length of both inhalation and exhalation for few breaths, if your exhalation lasts for five counts, and expand it to 6 counts for a few breathing cycles the seven for few and so on until you feel comfortable.
Once you are comfortable with this, try to make subtle sound “ha” each time you breathe out. Take a pause at the end of each exhalation. Continue this for 10-15 minutes.
Note: Never overdo with the breathing exercises as it may cause hyperventilation. If you are not comfortable with the new pattern, go back to your original breathing pattern.
Mindfulness Meditation for Anxiety
As the knowledge of side effects of medication is increasing, more and more people are becoming interested in non-drug alternative to cure anxiety. Meditation is one of them.
Researches are there to show effect of Mindfulness Meditation – a type of meditation that aims to cultivate awareness of present moment thoughts and experiences in curing anxiety. There is evidence that other types of meditation like loving kindness and transcendental meditation are effective too.
Science behind Meditation for Anxiety
By using advanced MRI technique, researchers reported that Mindfulness Meditation for 20 minutes activates ventromedial prefrontal area of brain – the area that lowers feeling of worry. And with decreased anxiety, activity of anterior cingulated gyros; area controlling our emotions, increases.
Another research revealed that with continuous meditation practice levels of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) increases which is a calming neurotransmitter.
Mindfulness Meditation Technique
One of the best meditations for anxious people is open monitoring —sitting and noticing things that are happening in their environment, from physical sensations, thoughts, and emotions to external sounds,” says Steve Hickman, Executive Director of the University of California San Diego Center for Mindfulness. “People with anxiety tend to feel their thoughts are coming at them like a waterfall. Open monitoring allows you to stand in the quiet space behind the waterfall and watch your thoughts but not be pummeled by them.”
One should try this open-monitoring meditation for 5 minutes for few days continuously and then gradually increase the time once you become familiar with the process.
Sit in a comfortable position, with eyes close, focus on your breath for few minutes. After this expand your awareness and try to focus on your thoughts, tension around your shoulders and external noise. Whatever emotions are coming up in your brain, just name it without judging.”Thinking is happening,” “Worry is happening,” “Planning is happening”—and allow it to pass freely. “The dispassionate phrasing allows you to distance yourself from the experience so you can see it as nothing more than a random nerve firing instead of a fact or imperative,” says Hickman. “It trains your mind to allow anxious thoughts to be born, hover, and pass away without having a big emotional impact.”
So next time if you feel anxious, remember that our movements and breath can have profound effect on the way we think, feel and act. While it may take many years to fully understand and prove the effects of yoga on one’s brain, the enthusiasts in the room can surely tell that they already feel this.