June 23, 2020

Does yoga help with anxiety and panic attacks?

First of all, ask yourself a question: what causes you to have anxiety and/or panic attacks? Are you extremely stressed at work? Are you in a toxic relationship? You might even be aware of the underlying reasons for your anxiety and/or panic attacks. 

Anxiety and panic attacks are always related to some sort of fear. It can be fear about something that happened in the past, or a thought of something bad happening in the future.  I am a true believe that fear and love are opposites. Which means, if you have anxiety/panic attacks, you need to add more love into your life to offset your fears. 

Yoga as a philosophy, as a physical and spiritual practice, has so much to offer to everybody, but especially for those who are struggling to gain control over their lives, such as people with panic attacks. Yoga teaches us to cultivate love towards ourselves and others. Yoga and meditation teach us to be in the present moment, to take things for what they are, here and now. Practicing yoga helps us to be aware of our breath and to slow our breath down, to enjoy moving our bodies, to find balance… 

There are multiple studies proving that just a simple act of slow breathing (every 5.5-6 seconds for an inhale and an exhale ), or using mantras to achieve the same effect of slow breathing, can shift our bodies profoundly by calming down our nervous system and shifting from “fight of flight” (sympathetic) to “rest and digest” (parasympathetic) nervous system response. I am currently reading a book by James Nestor called “Breath. The New Science of a Lost Art” in which the author reminds us of the importance of slow nasal breathing for regulating our heart rate, blood pressure,  emotional states, etc. I am only a third of the way through, but the main takeaway so far is breathing less, breathing slowly, and breathing diaphragmatically is what improves quality of our lives and promotes longevity.

On a physical level, anxiety and panic attacks could result in tightness in certain muscle groups such as neck, jaw, chest, abdominal area, hip area. Practicing yoga asanas, self-massage (rolling out) , and some light cardio (like going for a jog or a relaxing bike ride in nature) , will definitely help you loosen up your body, which will consequently make you breath better! And moreover, gentle exercise naturally increases endorphins, the hormones that make us feel happy.

Emotionally, practicing yoga and meditation will make you calmer, more centered and grounded, more at peace with yourself and your emotions. By realizing what the underlying cause of your panic attacks or anxiety is, by realizing the subject of fear/worry, you then can address this same subject with a different emotion, neutral first, and maybe even positive after some time. 

To summarize, I am a proponent of practicing yoga,- including philosophy, breathing exercises (pranayama), asana practice, and meditation to help with management of anxiety and panic attacks. Yoga encompasses physical, emotional, and spiritual aspects of our being – this is why it’s so wonderful for many ailments. Cultivate more love, every day, to conquer your fear.   Please, let me know if you want to learn yoga with me in person (Los Angeles) or online. I would love to help you change your life for the better, fight your fears, and grow your life for yourself and the world! 

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