Yoga for Anxiety
Yoga classes for anxiety seem to help men and women deal with day to day stress. It’s important to note that the evidence is anecdotal, however. At this time, more research is needed to determine exactly how yoga may or may not alleviate anxiety.
While yoga is not a miracle cure, physicians often recommend yoga classes for anxiety because they seem to calm the mind and ease body tension. More research is needed, but it seems anxiety-focused yoga classes accomplish this by:
- Emphasizing specific breathing techniques to down-regulate the body’s sympathetic nervous system, and;
- Using gentle yoga postures that alleviate anxious muscle tension.
As a result, a regular yoga class and “breath work” may have the ability to alleviate the fight or flight response that is so often triggered by feelings of anxiety.
In this section of our yoga Class Library, you will find various yoga classes for anxiety. Below, you will also find specific keys to consider when practicing yoga as a person who experiences mild to severe anxiety. We’ll also review the most common anxiety-relieving yoga poses, breathing exercises, and mantras.
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An Important Disclaimer
Anxiety is a serious condition. It does not discriminate. From actors like Kristin Bell to tough guys like UFC Light Heavyweight Champion Jon Jones, there are countless individuals who publicly share their struggle with anxiety and panic attacks. In fact, it’s estimated that more than 3% of Americans have a generalized anxiety disorder.
Bottom line: If you suspect you might be experiencing anxiety, always consult a mental health professional. It is common, and it is treatable. Google search for a local doctor, or use an app like Talkspace to find a licensed mental health professional online. Discuss the idea of yoga for anxiety with your doctor and reference this web page. Only stream a yoga class if your doctor thinks it will help.
Yoga Classes for Anxiety: Keys to Consider
If you have anxiety, be cautious when practicing yoga. The following keys are especially important if your anxiety is severe, or if you also suffer from panic attacks.
1. Prepare the ‘Anxious Mind’ for yoga class
First, know what kind of yoga class you are taking. Anxiety symptoms are worsened when the future is uncertain. Knowing what to expect gives you a chance to plan and confront anxious thoughts before you arrive at your mat.
In my experience, students who suffer with mild to severe anxiety prefer gentler and slower classes. Restorative Yoga, Yin Yoga and “Slow-ga” are all great options for maximum calm. Those are the classes you will find in this section of our yoga Class Library.
You may find it helpful to speak with your doctor about the best way to deal with the anxiety of taking a yoga class. Personally, I have benefitted greatly from learning to reframe anxiety using the toolkit Dr. Amen presents in his bestselling book, Change Your Brain, Change Your Life.
2. Anticipate common yoga poses for anxiety
Next, know which yoga poses to expect during class. This can also prevent anxious thoughts that are specifically related to your ability to perform, breathe, and prevent injury.
For your peace of mind, each yoga for anxiety class has a downloadable PDF that serves as a roadmap for each video. In it, you will find illustrations of each yoga posture and a few tips for feeling centered while in it. Simply click the download PDF icon to download and review prior to streaming your class.
Below is a (definitely non-inclusive) list of the various anti-anxiety yoga poses you will meet (and love!) in our classes together:
- Child’s Pose
- Thread the Needle
- Seated Twist
- Kneeling Crescent
- Sphinx Pose
- Camel Pose (and other heart openers)
- Reclined Bound Angle Pose
- Corpse Pose
Regardless of the pose, your goal is to breathe calmly while focusing on relaxing or lengthening the appropriate muscles. This creates a feedback loop that down-regulates your nervous system, reduces perceived tension, and makes it even easier to breathe.
3. Use Your breath to calm anxious feelings
One of the telltale signs of anxiety is shortness of breath. So, it’s not surprising that one of your best tools to combat feelings of anxiety is taking deep and relaxed breaths.
In each of our yoga for anxiety classes, we’ll explore several different breathing techniques that can help. They include:
- Yoga posture-specific breathing
- Deep belly breathing
- Box breathing
- Alternate nostril breathing
- Relaxed, rolling breathing
4. Relax your mind with anti-anxiety yoga mantras
Yoga has many gifts. One is the ability to project your inner thoughts onto the movie screen of your mind—where they can be analyzed from a detached perspective.
As you flow through your yoga practice, take note of the different things that come to mind. Are they specific words? Memories? Bodily sensations?
As they arise, refocus your mind on specific mantras that will encourage feelings of calm. For example, you could gently and silently speak one of the following phrases each time you inhale during your yoga practice:
- I am calm.
- I am present.
- I am grounded.
- I have all I need.
- I feel supported.
You may also want to try different mantras during different poses. I feel supported is a perfect mantra for poses that are low to the ground, like Child’s Pose and Corpse Pose. For poses you find more difficult, reassuring mantras like I am calm might be more meaningful.
With practice, these mantras can transform into more personal phrases that are specific to your (sometimes unconscious) needs. And if you’re lucky, they will begin to follow you throughout your day, flickering across of your mind like fireflies on a warm summer night.
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