Yoga and Anxiety

a holistic look at modern sound therapy.

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Everyone has anxiety, it just depends on the levels you are experiencing daily, and disconnecting from it after the perceived danger has passed.

Although anxiety is all in the mind, it manifests in physical ways, such as shortness of breath, clammy hands, shaky extremities, jitteriness, feelings of choking, nausea, dizziness, inability to speak/move, debilitating indecision; it can affect daily life, productivity, relationships. Thus, anxiety is definitely real. Clinical studies have shown these symptoms have biological effects on the body, which can lead to poor judgment and overall inability to remain rational when triggered to an anxiety attack.

Once these symptoms arise, it can be really difficult to calm the mind.

However, it is possible. There are some yogic practices that can help. These practices are a reminder that if we can be still and live in the moment, we can find peace. Moreover, not only are these ancient practices time tested, now they are also scientifically proven. These simple techniques are more relevant than ever to all people, especially those who have anxiety, stress, and prone to panic attacks.

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Sympathetic / parasympathetic, and restorative yoga

The Sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems have been introduced before in this blog: (link to past posts, the YouTube explanation)

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How does yoga affect the nervous system?

In yoga, breathing is key. The breath is directed to tight areas, usually stiffness due to energetic blockages, especially from sedentary living.

The breath is also used to signal transitions between poses and stay grounded in the present moment.

In restorative yoga, the body finds a peaceful state through poses that are scientifically designed to release tension, increase energy flow through the body and relax the mind.

Yoga practice—especially restorative yoga—is like a reset for the nervous system by using the physical body (the breath, poses) to harness the mind (nervous system).

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Pranayama (breathing exercises)

Pranayama is controlled breathing exercises. Truly, the breath is instrumental in communicating with the mind and body and keeping them from getting out of control. The following are just a few prescribed pranayama to specifically calm the mind and reduce symptoms of anxiety.

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Nadhi Sodhana aka Anuloma Viloma (Alternate Nostril Breathing)

Nadhi sodhana, also known as alternative nostril breathing, is a very relaxed, balancing breath that is used to help calm the nervous system and aid in a restful night's sleep. Very useful managing racing thoughts.

Watch this video to learn how. !!!!

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Sama Vrtti (Equal Breathing)

Sama Vrtti is a pranayam that creates harmony within and supports the logical mind (observation, focus, judgment, etc.)—very crucial in those moments when your emotional mind starts to get imbalanced.

Video example !!!

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Ujjayi breath

This is a pranayam that can help lower blood pressure and also reduce chatter in the mind. Another technique that is useful in the moment, to prevent anxiety from escalating.

Video tutorial !!!

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Meditation

I was not quite sure I was the “meditating type” until I realized it’s just sitting there, breathing, and paying attention to your breath. That’s it, and the peace starts flowing. Also, gratitude for every breath. You can’t live without breath—you’ll die! Focusing deeply in the breath, you can gain sense of appreciation and recalibration in perspective.

In the end, you can live without a house, a job, or a car, but you can’t live without your breath.

Once I realized this about meditation, it suddenly became accessible. Just 5-10 minutes a day is enough. I just sit there and breathe naturally. Eyes closed. Often my mind wanders, passing through different thought waves. I let it. Sometimes I just lose track of time—that’s when I really know it was a good sesh. That is dipping into the timeless presence of God, the very edge. So for this, and for the scientific fact that without your breath you would die, you feel gratitude for your breath, for the fact you made time to meditate, and gratitude changes everything.

As it says in the Art of War, “Know your enemy, know yourself…If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat.” It will not happen overnight, but gradually your self-awareness (knowing triggers and symptoms then automatically engaging management plan) will improve.

Self-awareness is a crucial life skill that everyone needs, especially in relation to managing triggers and physical symptoms in the present moment.

In short, anxiety doesn’t have to run your life. You are not a victim. Yoga practices can help manage symptoms of anxiety and improve self awareness.

Matthew Gooden