“Yoga for Anxiety? Isn’t all yoga good for anxiety?” This question gets asked often when people see our Yoga For Anxiety class on our schedule. And the answer might surprise you. The truth is that not all yoga is the same. A gym full of sweaty yoga practitioners moving to fast paced music might reduce anxiety for some, but for many it does the exact opposite.

Through a more therapeutic lens, we look at helping people with anxiety in two main ways. From a medical perspective, we educate anxiety suffers on how to move their nervous system into a “rest and digest” state more often. One way this can happen is by stimulating the vagus nerve, which runs from your brain to your belly, and is responsible for heart rate and digestion, among other things. When you move into a rest and digest state, it allows your body and mind to calm, and you have a much better chance of lowering your anxiety level.

A gym full of sweaty yoga practitioners moving to fast paced music might reduce anxiety for some, but for many it does the exact opposite.

From a more yogic perspective, we help anxiety suffers balance what we call vata energy. This energy rises from the root of the body to the head and can create a swirl of thoughts, or “monkey mind,” which is at the heart of anxiety. When we bring that energy back down, or “ground,” we can help reduce anxiety.

From either perspective, we don’t just “do yoga.” We use very specific yogic techniques to achieve the goals above. In the body, we do “moving and breathing” poses that sync the breath with body’s movement in a very gentle way. Seated breathing exercises like Ujjayi and Alternate Nostril Breathing can teach our clients to breath into the belly, aide in better stimulating the vagus nerve, and balance energy. Basic meditations like watching the breath or labeling thoughts can help change the state of the mind.

You don’t have to be diagnosed with an anxiety disorder to benefit from these techniques. Nor will these techniques work in every case. Anxiety can look different ways in different people. However, compared to the very expansive field broadly known in our culture as “yoga”, these techniques can target the condition much more directly.

Psychotherapy and medication can and do help with anxiety, but they don’t always work completely. A specific yoga practice can help.

Ready to get started? Dragonfly offers a group Yoga For Anxiety class on Mondays at 9:30 a.m., where we teach many of the exercises described above. You can register for that here. You can also meet privately with one of our trained yoga therapists. Call 267.885.8512 or email dragonflyyogastudio@yahoo.com to learn more or to set up an appointment.

– Joseph Simek
Learn more about Joe and Yoga Therapy at Dragonfly by clicking here.