Can Yoga Help Anxiety and Panic Disorders?
If your life has been impacted by a panic disorder, you realize just how much it can affect you and those around you1. The symptoms can take hold of your mind but they also affect the body and your well-being in general. The primary feature of panic disorders are the panic attacks that typically come along with physical symptoms and negative thoughts. When you have those thoughts and feelings coming at you due to panic attacks, it can be difficult to maintain a high quality of life.
Although panic attacks present many challenges to those who suffer from them, there are various self-help strategies that many have used as a coping mechanism. These include a variety of relaxation techniques that can give you a calm, peaceful mind and help you to maintain control.
The list of possible relaxation strategies is quite extensive but some of the more popular options include progressive muscle relaxation, visualization and breathing exercises. Many people have found these exercises to be of great benefit when helping to reduce the anxiety associated with panic attacks.
Although you can focus in on one of those relaxation strategies, you can take part in all three when you use yoga. In addition, yoga is known to reduce nervousness, ease stress and help you with mindfulness. No wonder yoga is such a popular activity that has many benefits for those who suffer from panic and anxiety disorders.
What Is Yoga?
Although the exact origins of yoga are unknown, it is thought to have existed for over 5,000 years2. It is also thought to have originated in India, where Sanskrit, the ancient Indian language uses yoga as a term that means to unite or, 'to yoke'. The practice is a combination of joining the mind, body and spirit through meditation, breath work, relaxation and movement. Many have found regularly engaging in yoga helps to restore a personal balance.
Most people are familiar with the physical exercise associated with yoga but there is more that could be part of the practice. It is a popular way to improve balance, flexibility and strength while also enjoying some relaxing time. Some of the non-exercise parts of yoga, including meditation and deep breathing can help declutter your mind and remove stress from your life3. Since there are so many stress reducing benefits associated with the practice of yoga, you can see why many people use it when they suffer from anxiety, panic and fear.
How Does Yoga Work with Panic Disorders?
The physical symptoms of panic attacks can be very distressing. They include a feeling of tightness, tension and sensitivity to pain. Various yoga postures (asanas) help to ease the discomfort that is often a byproduct of anxiety. They also work on the muscles to provide balance and to lengthen and stretch through specific postures. If you have anxiety, you likely have muscle tension and the use of yoga can help to reduce that tension and stiffness in all parts of the body.
In most yoga classes, the poses are taught as a form of physical exercise in sequences. Exercise in general is well known to help reduce stress and pain. Not only are you affecting your physical body through yoga but you can also ease anxious thoughts4.
Many people who suffer from anxiety get into a pattern of negative thinking and worrying. It is at the very core of panic disorders. The process of visualization, meditation and focus on deep breathing can help to ease the worry and fear you experience. When you take part in yoga regularly, it can cause the relaxation response to be evident in your body. Both your body and mind will benefit as a result.
Although you can take part in yoga at home, it is also something that is typically done in a group setting. Therefore, those who suffer from loneliness along with their panic disorder are benefited due to the sense of community. It helps to keep them from being isolated and offers the opportunity to socialize.
Yoga has entered the mainstream as a form of relaxation and exercise. You likely have classes right in your very area. Talk to the yoga instructor to see if they may have classes that are specific to your needs, including depression or anxiety. Visit the yoga studio in advance to verify your comfort level and then take your best step forward to a better life.
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1. The Mayo Clinic: Panic attacks and panic disorder
2. Yoga: Its Origin, History and Development, April 23, 2015
3. Harvard Health Publishing, Yoga for anxiety and depression
4. National Institute of Mental Health: Anxiety Disorders