It seems like over the past few years that feelings of anxiety have skyrocketed. The world is an uncertain place that moves ever-increasingly faster, almost daily. Pair that with the world of the internet, which moves even faster than the real world, and it's easy to see how this degree of overstimulation has primed us to live in an anxious world. Luckily, yoga has the ability to alleviate many of the underlying causes of anxiety.
One of the main causes of anxiety is stress, but through the practice of deep breathing, gentle movements, and meditation, yoga helps calm the nervous system and reduce stress by activating mechanisms within the body to help you relax.
Another major cause of anxiety comes from being inside your own head- worrying about the future or ruminating over the past. Luckily, yoga emphasizes mindfulness and developing greater awareness. Through focusing on the breath and the sensations in the body during yoga practice, you will learn to be more mindful and develop present-moment awareness, allowing you to let go of anxious thoughts.
Joining a yoga class can also lead to interacting with like-minded people. As people, we are built to be social creatures. That interaction with others and sharing experiences can help reduce individual feelings of isolation and anxiety. This encouragement from others can contribute to overall well-being, in addition to providing a sense of community and social support.
Yoga can also regulate your autonomic nervous system, which controls the body’s response to stress and relaxation. Yoga balances the autonomic nervous system by activating the parasympathetic branch, which leads to a decrease in heart rate, blood pressure, and other physiological stressors.
Yoga also promotes the release of endorphins through gentle stretching, strengthening, and balancing poses that promote physical fitness. Since engaging in physical exercise, such as yoga, increases the release of these ‘feel good’ hormones, this can help improve your mood and reduce symptoms of anxiety.