I believe that yoga has helped me through some difficult times in my life. I believe that it is a practice which has saved me from falling into a state of deep anxiety and worry on more than one occasion.
I know that may sound dramatic, and a bit of a cliché, but it’s true. And that is why, yoga for managing stress and anxiety is one of the things that I recommend to (almost) all my clients.
Please do not take from that, that I am some super flexible yogi. OR that I can hold any of those challenging balance poses you may have seen on Instagram. I CAN’T! Despite years of practice, I am still working on getting my heels to touch the floor in the downward facing dog pose…
BUT there have been the times in my life when my perceived stress levels have been extremely high. And each time, I have felt that I had very little control over the outcome of the circumstances (they involved people I love and not myself). The only control I had, was how I chose to manage my thoughts, and the actions I took to deal with my emotions and my outlook.
Yoga was the action I chose to take. Even when I did not feel like it. Yoga gave me an escape from my fears and worries and it allowed me to manage my anxieties.
Why is this important?
One of the pillars to total wellbeing is managing our stress levels. Some of the ways unmanaged stress can adversely affect you are: the quality of your sleep, how you control your blood sugar, your immune system, your blood pressure, your food choices, your weight, your mood, your relationships and your menopause symptoms.
Yoga for managing stress and anxiety – The Science
A 2018 study published in the International Journal of Preventive Medicine, showed that 3 sessions of Hatha yoga a week lasting 60-70 minutes each, was significantly effective in reducing anxiety, stress and depression in 52 women.
Another small study in 2017, found yoga to be useful in managing both the physical and the mental health of health-care workers.
In 2019, I spent 4 days at a yoga retreat in India. It was a short trip, just a small glimpse of what you can experience from immersing yourself in yoga practice and self-care. But it had a huge impact on me.
Images from that time are clearly imprinted in my memory. Now when I practice at home, I often conjure up the smell of incense, the light and sounds, and the feeling of calm from those early morning, outdoor classes. If going on a retreat is an option for you, I would highly recommend trying it.
In my experience, and from the experiences of people I have worked with, you can never really achieve your optimum health without managing you stress levels.
For me, the journey has been much more about the spiritual side than physical. More about mindset, the pause between asanas and the breath work than flexibility. And this is what I hope to pass on to my clients when I recommend yoga. A daily break from challenging times, some peace in their lives, a few moments of calm, some respite…yoga as a tool for managing stress and anxiety. It is not for everyone but it could be for you.
Here are some online resources: