Anxiety makes us uncomfortable. Acute or generalized, anxiety disorders makes us feel powerless. We experience unexplainable fear, anger, panic, and low self-esteem. There are two common ways people handle this condition. They either opt for psychotherapy medication or evade it. But, there is a holistic approach to managing this uneasy state – yoga.
Before we learn how yoga could help anxiety disorder, let us know about its causes and symptoms.
Anxiety Disorder – Causes & Symptoms
There are no fixed triggers for anxiety. Here are some of the most commonly observed causes of anxiety disorder:
- Exposure to stressful conditions, including chronic illnesses or bereavement or divorce
- Childhood abuse
- Family history of anxiety
- Mental health conditions
Some of the commonly seen symptoms in those suffering from anxiety conditions include
- Unnecessary thoughts and worries
- Inability to concentrate
- Unable to sleep well
- Butterflies in the stomach
- Tightness in the chest
- Unexplainable aches and pains
- Tensed muscles
- Repeated digestive disturbances, especially burping and bloating
- Elevated heartbeat
- Numbness of body palms
- Sweaty feet and palms
Some may experience a headache, nausea, and dizziness as well.
Let us now take a look at how yoga could help anxiety disorder.
Yoga Management of Anxiety Disorder
To know how yoga can help us in managing anxiety, we need to understand the concept of Nadis. Nadis are the Sanskrit terms of energy channels. Unlike the tendons and nerves, these passages are invisible to naked eyes. They are the numerous subtle energy lines running across our bodies. But, only three of them play prominent roles in our daily lives – the Sushumna, Ida, and Pingala.
When anxiety strikes, these Nadis develop a block. The blockage prevents the smooth flow of energy. An obstructed flow distracts your mind, triggering a sense of powerlessness and fear.
Studies suggest that Asana, Pranayama, and meditation could help in eliminating these blocks, thus aiding us in being in the now. It could also help us to acknowledge the trigger factors. In this way, it could enable shifting the focus by calming the racing mind.
Read on to know more.
9 Ways Yoga Could Help Managing Anxieties
- Could help us to stay mindful
All the three limbs of Yoga as mentioned above teach us the concepts of being in the now. A slow, mindful Yoga style such as Hatha Yoga or Yin Yoga, could help in monitoring our thoughts. Through regular practice, acknowledging and releasing the unwanted thoughts becomes easier.
- Could improve mood and relaxation
Yoga could help in elevating the secretion of the hormone called serotonin. This hormone is a critical factor in uplifting our mood and instilling relaxation.
- Could help in easing breathlessness
The Yogic breathing practices could restore breathing by calming the mind. A good example is Alternate Nostril Breathing. This breathing practice cleanses the energy pathways and could help normalizing breath flow.
- Could induce a state of clarity
Normal breathing and being in the moment could help us restoring the clarity of our thoughts. Once the mind becomes clear, anxiety slowly reduces.
- Could relax the body
Regular practice of Asanas and Pranayama could stimulate unobstructed circulation. This, in turn, enables the body to relax even under tremendous stress and anxiety.
- Could help with better sleep
Meditation and Pranayama could relax the body and mind, thus helping to ease anxiety to a great extent. The lower the levels of anxieties are, the better the sleep is and vice versa.
- Could normalize the rate of heartbeat
Palpitations and elevated heartbeat rate are two common symptoms of anxiety disorder. Yoga could help in restoring the regular rate of the heartbeat by calming the anxious mind through Nadi purification.
- Could restore digestive health
Anxiety causes an upset stomach. Studies have revealed that anxiety disorder worsens bloating and even trigger IBS. While Yogic twists promote detoxification, Pranayama cleanses the Nadis. Meditation could help in remaining mindful. The synergized effects of these could, in turn, restore digestive health.
- Could teach you the importance of dissociation
Anxiety disorders, many a time, come up when we try to create an association between the current situation and a past one. Meditation and mindful Asana practice could help us with embracing dissociation – accept things as is without establishing a connection to a past event. And, this, on a long run, comes handy in eliminating anxiety from its root.
There are many yoga poses, meditation techniques, and breathing practices that could help anxiety disorder. But Nadi Sodhana, according to classical Yoga texts, is the sole practice you need to manage anxiety.
What is Nadi Sodhana Pranayama?
Nadi Sodhana means Purification of the Nervous System/Energy Channels. It is a simple breathing technique. Alternate Nostril Breathing involves inhaling and exhaling through alternate nostrils. It purifies the blood and respiratory system. It could also help to cleanse and balance our nervous system. It could ease anxiety, headaches, and stress.
Here’s how we can practice Nadi Sodhana Pranayama. There are different levels of this practice. We are talking about the basic level or Level 1 here.
- Sit down in an upright, comfortable seating position. Tuck the chin.
- Close the eyes. Allow the palms rest on the knees, and curl the fingers into Gyan Mudra. [The Mudra is where tips of index and thumb in contact, palms facing the ceiling.]
- Relax the body and mind by taking ten to fifteen rounds of normal breathing through both the nostrils.
- Once the body and mind are ready, raise the right hand. Use the right thumb to close the right nostril. Rest the tips of the index and middle fingers between the eyebrows. Let the pink finger point to the ceiling. Use the right ring finger to close the left nostril. This is the Pranayama Mudra.
- Take a slow, deep inhalation through both the nostrils. Close the right one using the thumb. Exhale, slowly and entirely through the left nostril.
- Inhale through the left one for a count of six. Close the left with the ring finger. Open the right nostril and exhale through the right for a count of six.
- Keeping the left nostril blocked, inhale through the right for a count of six. Close the right one using the thumb, open the left and breathe out completely.
Focus and experience as the air enters and leaves the nostrils. Practice 20 to 30 such rounds, resting after three rounds to observe the shift in the energies.
This was just a preview of how yoga could help anxiety disorder.
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