Calm Anxiety with Yoga

“Yoga helps our entire system slow down. Our bodies are programmed to heal naturally, and what stops that healing are all the stressors of daily life. Yoga dissolves those stressors for the time during practice and usually the effects last for hours after.” – Elena Brower


Yoga practice is multifaceted. It is a physical exercise that strengthens the body. It is also a spiritual practice which can bring insights and understanding. But, it also a mind practice which can bring profound psychological changes. (see These psychological changes can be positive enhancing the current state. But they can also be beneficial for the treatment of negative states, mental illness.


Everyone experiences occasional anxiety and that is normal. But, frequent or very high levels of anxiety can be quite debilitating. These are termed anxiety disorders and they are the most common psychological problem. In the U.S., they affect over 40 million adults, 18% of the population, with women accounting for 60% of sufferers One out of every three absences from work are caused by high levels of anxiety and it is the most common reason for chronic school absenteeism. In addition, people with an anxiety disorder are three-to-five times more likely to go to the doctor and six times more likely to be hospitalized for psychiatric disorders than non-sufferers, making it a major burden on the healthcare system.


Anxiety disorders typically include feelings of panic, fear, and uneasiness, problems sleeping, cold or sweaty hands and/or feet, shortness of breath, heart palpitations, an inability to be still and calm, dry mouth, and numbness or tingling in the hands or feet. They have generally been treated with drugs. It has been estimated that 11% of women in the U.S. are taking anti-anxiety medications. But, there are considerable side effects and these drugs are often abused. Although, psychological therapy can be effective it is costly and not available to large numbers of sufferers. So, there is a need to investigate alternative treatments.


Contemplative practices appear to be a viable alternative (see Indeed, yoga practice has been shown to be a safe and effective method to reduce anxiety (see There are many variations of yoga practice. In order to understand which types of practice and which components are most affective against anxiety, there is a need to compare the effectiveness of different types of yoga practice for the treatment of anxiety disorders.


In today’s Research News article “Effect of Integrated Yoga Module on Selected Psychological Variables among Women with Anxiety Problem”

Parthasarathy and colleagues compared 8-weeks, 45 minutes per day, of Yoga practice, Integrated Yoga practice, and no treatment for the treatment of patients with anxiety disorders. The Yoga practice consisted of training in breath control, yoga postures, and relaxation. The Integrated Yoga practice consisted of training in loosening exercises, breath control, yoga postures, and guided meditation (Yoga Nidra). They found that both types of yoga practice reduced anxiety, but the Integrated Yoga practice produced the greatest reduction in anxiety levels. Interesting the reverse was found when measuring reactions to frustration with both yoga practices reducing reactions to frustration but with the Yoga practice superior to the Integrated Yoga practice.


These findings support the prior findings that yoga practice is a safe and effective method to treat anxiety disorders. In addition, they extend previous findings by showing that yoga practice can also improve the individual’s reaction to frustration. Since frustration often leads to emotionality, this yoga produced reduction in reactivity to frustration may be one of the mechanisms by which yoga is effective for emotional issues including anxiety.


It appears from the results that the addition of guided meditation (Yoga Nidra) practice to the yoga practice may add additional anxiety reduction to that produced by the yoga practice alone. It has been shown previously that yoga practice reduces anxiety. It has also been shown that meditation reduces anxiety levels (see The current results suggest that the effects of yoga and meditation may be additive. By combining the two a significantly better treatment for anxiety is produced.


So, calm anxiety with yoga.


“Continual focus and obsession with thoughts of fear and worry will only create additional levels of anxiety. Yoga and meditation allow us to have control over our thoughts through mental detachment and the ability to focus the mind on the present experience.” – Timothy Burgin


CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies