Do you want to know how Yoga reduces stress and anxiety? If yes, you are in the right place. Many people experience mental health conditions at some point in their lives. Depending on severity level, stress and anxiety can significantly impact your quality of life.
Although both conditions share many physical and emotional symptoms, they differ in various aspects. The shared physical symptoms of stress and anxiety are tension, uneasiness, headaches, loss of sleep, and hypertension.
Research shows that stress is a response to external stimuli. For example, it responds to an argument with your wide or a tight deadline at work. Stress reduces after the situation is resolved.
It is crucial to tackling external factors to reduce your stress levels. If you experience chronic or prolonged stress, you can manage the symptoms through different techniques, such as exercises, meditation, proper sleep, and connecting with your loved ones.
On the other hand, anxiety is an individual’s specific reaction to stress. Research shows that anxiety is caused by internal factors. It is a mild or severe mental health condition characterized by persistent worries or feelings of apprehension in situations that are not threatening in reality.
Different types of anxiety disorders are generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), social anxiety, phobias, panic disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).
Now that you have come to know the difference between two mental conditions, it is time to tell you how to reduce stress and anxiety? There are different ways to mitigate these conditions, such as medication, counselling, exercise, mental therapy, etc.
Recent studies have shown that Yoga can significantly reduce stress and anxiety, and in today’s article, I will show you how Yoga benefits your mental health. Read on!
What is Yoga?
Yoga is a holistic health approach that combines physical postures, mindfulness meditation, and deep breathing techniques. It is a mind and body practice with a centuries-old history in ancient South Asian Philosophy.
Yoga has become more popular in recent years as a form of physical exercise that promotes body and mind control to enhance overall health and wellbeing. There are various types of yoga disciplines, such as:
|Hatha Yoga||It is a physical and mental discipline designed to improve the overall health of the body and mind.|
|Raja Yoga||It focuses on meditation, mindfulness, and eight limbs, a series of disciplinary steps that enhance body and mind control.|
|Karma Yoga||It is a yoga method that creates a future free from selfishness and negativity.|
|Tantra Yoga||It is the path of ceremony, ritual, and relationship consummation.|
|Bhakti Yoga||It aims to create the path of positivity and devotion to channelize tolerance, emotions, and acceptance.|
|Jnana Yoga||It is all about the development of wisdom, intellect, and positivity.|
Although Yoga is a broad concept that focuses on a wide range of health techniques, I will focus this article on how Yoga reduces stress and anxiety. Make sure you read this post carefully to grasp all the essential information and get the most out of it. Read on!
Does Yoga Reduce Stress and Anxiety? Research Evidence
When a person is stressed out, his sympathetic nervous system triggers the fight-or-flight mechanism. Although not all stress is harmful, chronic or long-term stress can cause a wide range of health conditions, including:
- Weak immune system
- Cardiovascular diseases
- Severe anxiety and depression
- Fatigue, dizziness, and nervousness
- Digestive issues
- High blood pressure
- Insomnia and sleep apnea
Yoga is an effective tool to fight stress, and thanks to its physical benefits, it can improve flexibility and tone your muscles. The mental effects of Yoga are so powerful, and many research studies have proved this.
A recent clinical study has shown that Yoga reduces cortisol levels, a stress-causing hormone, increase tolerance and resilience to pain, and reduced anxiety. Certain poses and longer hold times can activate your parasympathetic nervous system to balance the fight and flight response and reduce stress and anxiety.
Another study found that breathing exercises can reduce stress symptoms. Yoga can increase blood flow to the brain and cause it to release hormones like serotonin and dopamine. These hormones improve mood and suppress stress. As a result, you feel calm and happy.
By reducing perceived stress, yoga modulates the brain’s stress response system. As a result, it decreases mental arousal, reduces heart rate, eases respiration, and lowers blood pressure. All these positive influences are directly proportional to decreased stress and reduced anxiety.
Yoga is a combination of exercises and deep breathing, which naturally increases serotonin production. A recent study published in the Journal of Psychiatry and Neuroscience shows that serotonin plays a key role in reducing stress and anxiety. Not only does serotonin improves mood, but it also promotes relaxation.
Another research study found that people with stress and anxiety have lower serotonin levels. Researchers concluded that Yoga produces a gentle and calming effect on the brain. Because each yoga pose is flexible, people of all ages and levels can practice them.
The study found that Yoga improves mood through concentration, deep breathing, and smooth movement. It encourages a person to focus on positivity to calm the mind and body.
Increases Heart Rate Variability
According to Harvard Mental Health, a growing body of research evidence highlights that Yoga increases a person’s heart rate variability (HRV). It speeds up relaxation response over the stress response in the body.
Researchers argue that a higher HRV means the body is better prepared for monitoring and mitigating stress. Yoga can likewise reduce resting heart rate, lower blood pressure, increase pain tolerance, and ease breathing.
The study showed that people who were stressed and anxious had a lower pain resilience, but with a few months of Yoga, their resiliency had increased. Therefore, increased HRV is directly proportional to reduced stress and anxiety.
Speeds up GABA Production
According to the American Psychological Association, Yoga reduces stress and anxiety by increasing gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA). It is a brain chemical that regulates nerve activity. Research shows that GABA is relevant to individuals with anxiety disorders because people with stress and anxiety have lower GABA levels.
Another study conducted on high school students highlighted that Yoga improved their mindfulness, behavior, mood, and memory. Students who took regular yoga classes had enhanced brain function and stress resilience than those who did not exercise or perform Yoga regularly.
As you can see, many research studies have validated the effectiveness of Yoga in reducing stress and anxiety. Mind and body practices like meditation, yoga, and deep breathing contribute positively to the nervous system. Continue reading!
Yoga Poses to Reduce Stress and Anxiety
Many people perform yoga when they feel stress and anxiety. Focusing on your physical poses and breathing can help quiet negative thoughts and boost your mood. Research shows that yoga is all about meeting with oneself, and practicing multiple poses for a few minutes every day can positively affect mental health.
I have done extensive research on how yoga reduces stress and anxiety. I found that certain yoga poses can significantly improve one’s mental health. If you want to get the most out of your yoga session, focus on sensations that move throughout your blood, body, muscles, and nerves. Allow yourself to feel the arising emotions and scatter the negative thoughts to improve your mood. Here are the best yoga poses for stress and anxiety.
The hero is a seated pose that allows a person to find his or her center. The posture enables you to focus on your breath and develop a mind/body balance. It focuses on your erector spinae, quadriceps, ankle, and knee muscles and allows your brain to release endorphins.
These chemicals release pressure from these muscles and enable you to feel calm and relaxed. Here is how you can do this pose to reduce stress and anxiety.
Step 1: Start the pose by getting into the kneeling position and ensure your knees are together. Keep your feet wider than your hips
Step 2: Keep your feet flat on the ground, floor, or mat. If you feel uncomfortable, you can use a cushion under your valves, thighs, or buttocks. Place your hands on your things, and it up straight.
Step 3: Open your chest and lengthen your back. Take a deep breath and hold this position for up to five minutes. Come back to the original position slowly.
Tree pose focuses on your abdominal, psoas, tibialis anterior, and quadriceps. It is a classic standing pose that allows you to focus inward, quiet the negative emotions, and reduce stressful thoughts. Here is how you can do this pose. Keep reading!
Step 1: Get into the standing position and bear your body weight with the right foot. Now, slowly lift that foot off of the mat or floor. Turn the sole slowly of your left foot toward the inside. Do not press your foot into the knee.
Step 2: Comfort your hand and bring them into a relaxed position. For example, you can adapt the prayer position in front of your chest. You can also hang your hands alongside your sides.
Step 3: Once you are in the prayer position with one of your legs lifted, it is crucial to hold this pose for at least 2-3 minutes. After that, you can repeat the same steps on the opposite side.
Standing Forward Bend
Standing forward bend is an excellent yoga pose that helps relax your mind. It also releases pressure and tension in your muscles and nerves. The pose focuses on spinal muscles, hamstrings, gastrocnemius, and piriformis. Follow the steps given below to perform the pose accurately.
Step 1: Stand comfortably with your feet hip-width apart. Place your hand on the hips and exhale while hinging at the hips in a fold forward position. Make sure there is a slight bend in your knees.
Step 2: Rest your hand on the block or drop them on the floor. Now tuck your chin into the chest and release pressure in your hips and lower back.
Step 3: Make sure your head and neck are in a hanging position toward the ground as it increases blood flow to the brain to reduce stress and anxiety. Hold this pose for one minute and come back to the original position.
The triangle pose triggers your cellular mechanisms to produce more ATP or energy that promotes cellular repair and reduce pain. It also eases tension in your spine and neck. The triangle pose focuses on the internal oblique, medius, gluteus maximus, quadriceps, and hamstrings. Here is how you can do this pose step by step.
Step 1: Get into a standing position and keep your feet wider than the hips. Make your left toes forward and right toes at an angle. Lift your arms and extend them from your shoulders.
Step 2: Make sure your palms face down. Keep your torso in a forward position, and this can be achieved by forwarding your left hand. Hinge at your hips to bring the right hip back. Now, take your left hand to the floor or leg.
Step 3: Move your right arm up and make sure it faces the ceiling. Keep your body in a comfortable position and hold the pose for one minute. Repeat the steps for the opposite side.
Many people wonder how yoga reduces stress and anxiety. If you want to release more serotonin and dopamine, it is crucial to do the fish pose at least 3-4 times a week. Not only does fish posture reduce anxiety, but it also relives tightness in your spine, chest, and shoulders. The fish pose focuses on hip flexors, intercostal muscles, trapezius, and abdominal muscles. Here are the steps to perform the fish pose.
Step 1: Sit in a comfortable position with your legs stretched out. Make sure your legs are in front of you. Place your hands underneath the hips, and your palms should face down.
Step 2: Squeeze your elbows, expand your chest, and then lean back onto your elbows and forearms. Press into your arms and ensure your chest stays lifted.
Step 3: Make your head hang toward the floor. If you feel uncomfortable, you can use a cushion or block. When you are in this position, there is more blood flow to your brain. As a result, your brain suppresses cortisol production to reduce stress and anxiety. Hold the pose for one minute.
Many research studies have shown that the puppy pose relieves tension by stretching and lengthening your spine. Some people call it the heart-opening pose because it increases blood flow to your upper body and relaxes your muscles. The puppy pose focuses on the trapezius, deltoids, triceps, and erector spinae muscles. Here are the steps to perform the puppy pose accurately.
Step 1: Get into the tabletop position and extend your hands forward. Sink your hips toward your heels.
Step 2: Press into your arms or hands and engage these muscles while keeping your elbows lifted. Now, gently rest your head on the ground, floor, or mat.
Step 3: If you are not comfortable keeping your forehead on the floor, you can gently rest it on your cushion. Open your chest during this position. Make sure you hold this position for two minutes. Come back to the original position. The puppy pose allows you to keep your forehead on the ground, increase blood circulation to your brain, and reduce stress and anxiety.
The Child Pose is one of the best yoga poses to reduce stress and anxiety. Besides, it releases pressure on your muscles, improves blood flow, and reduce fatigue. If you have been suffering from chronic stress, practicing the child’s pose a few times a week can help you feel calm and relax. The child’s pose focus on your spinal extensors, hamstrings, rotator muscles, and gluteus maximus. Here are the steps to do this pose.
Step 1: Get into the kneeling position and skin back onto your feet or heels. Fold forward while walking your hands out. Make sure your hands are in front of you.
Step 2: Allow your upper body to fall heavy between your thighs. Experts recommend resting on your forehead on the ground. You can use a soft cushion for extra comfort.
Step 3: Extend your arms forward or rest them on the floor alongside your body. Holding the pose for five minutes will increase blood flow to your brain. That way, the yoga pose reduces stress and anxiety and keep you calm and relaxed for a long time.
Head to Knee Forward Bend
As the name indicates, the forward bend pose keeps your head lower to increase blood circulation and oxygen flow to your central nervous system. The forward bend pose focuses on different muscles, including hamstrings, groin, spinal extensors, and gastrocnemius.
If you want to reduce stress and anxiety, do not ignore this pose. Keep in mind that this pose is not easy, and that’s why you need to get instructions from an expert. Here is how you can do the forward bend pose.
Step 1: Sit on the cushion and keep your left leg extended. Press your sole of the right foot into the left thigh. Place a block or pillow under your knee for support.
Step 2: Take a deep breath while extending your arms overhead. Exhale to release carbon dioxide while hinging at your hips. It is crucial to lengthening your spine while folding forward to stretch the muscles in your back.
Step 3: Rest your hand on any part of the body or the ground. Experts recommend resting your hand on the floor. Hold the position for five minutes and repeat the steps on the opposite side.
Seated Forward Bend
Yoga is a holistic health approach that improves your overall physical health and mental wellbeing. Experts say that the seated forward bend must be included in the yoga routine because it calms the mind and relieves stress.
If you feel your thoughts are scattered throughout the practice, take your time to turn inward, release negative energy, and feel calm. The pose focuses on your erector spinae, pelvic muscles, gastrocnemius, and gluteus maximus. Here is how you can do the seated forward bend pose step by step. Continue reading.
Step 1: Sit on the edge of a cushion or folded blanket. Keep your legs straight in front of you and bend your knees slightly.
Step 2: Take a deep breath and lift your arms. Now, slowly hinge at your hips to position your body in the forward pose.
Step 3: Rest your hand on any part of the body or the ground. Stay in this position for five minutes. The seated forward bend is an excellent pose for those who want to release negative thoughts and soothe their mind.
Reclining Bound Angle Pose
Reclining bound is a pose that helps you let go of stress and anxiety. At the same time, it promotes a sense of wellbeing, relaxation, and calmness. You can make the pose more comfortable by placing a cushion or block under your back.
The pose works on your psoas, pelvic muscles, groin muscles, and adductors. Remember, it is an easy pose but effective against stress and anxiety. Here is how you can perform the reclining bound angle pose.
Step 1: Lie on your back comfortably and bring your feet’s soles together.
Step 2: Place a pillow under your knees or buttocks for support. Now, place one of your hands on the abdomen and the other one on your heart.
Step 3: Inhale and exhale while focusing on your breath. Remain in this position for up to 10 minutes. The reclining pose focuses more on deep breathing to increase oxygen flow to your brain. As a result, yoga reduces stress and anxiety.
Yoga Reduces Stress and Anxiety – Final Words
Stress and anxiety can significantly affect your quality of life. Although you can treat these conditions by taking medications, such as antidepressants and muscle relaxants like opioids. However, drugs produce a wide range of side effects and can further complicate your situation.
On the other hand, yoga is a holistic health approach that does not produce any side effects. After all, it is all about deep breathing and physical postures, which increase blood circulation to your brain and strengthen your muscles.
I have been practicing yoga for a few years now, and based on my experience, I can tell that yoga has significantly improved my mental health. Lastly, there is a tremendous amount of research evidence validating that yoga reduces stress and anxiety. So, what are you waiting for? Start practicing yoga today to improve your mental wellbeing.