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Yoga for anxiety & depression

Anxiety can rear its head in so many different ways. From insomnia to fully blown panic attacks, days spent hidden away in bed due to the sheer pressure it drowns you in and a sudden loss of control over your thoughts and actions. However your body reacts, one thing is for sure: it isn't nice and it isn't pretty.

While it is always recommended to chat to your GP about your options – yoga can provide a fantastic release for anxiousness and stress. Check out some of the benefits…

1. It teaches you techniques for breathing

In yoga, you have to be conscious about your breathing. One of the common side effects of anxiety is panic attacks: aka, the inability to control your levels of breathing. Mastering yogic breathing during class can be a fantastic tool to use whenever you feel yourself losing control of your breath and beginning to panic.

2. It allows you to be present in the moment

Yoga is demanding. If you aren't present in the moment, if you aren't really concentrating on what you are doing, you're going to lose the balance or position. So you need to be anchored in the present, pulling all your focus onto your body. Anxiety is defined as "a persistent, excessive and unrealistic worry about the future." The ability to draw your mind back to the present is therefore an incredibly useful way to steer away from those toxic thoughts about the future.

3. It gives you control

Whilst your instructor can assist you with your poses, ultimately yoga is all on you. It's up to you, your mind and your body what you can and can't do. You control every moment. Anxiety often feels like a lack of control. Putting yourself in a state where you are able to take that control back reminds you that you are in charge... not your anxiety.

4. It raises your self-confidence

Ever felt the joy of finally nailing crow pose? Or that very first, unaided headstand? It's a huge confidence boost! By adding in a consistent practice to your fitness routine, you will amaze and surprise yourself with what you’re able to achieve.

5. Redirects thoughts back to your physical self

More often than not, anxiety is the fear of something that is either a huge exaggeration of a situation or something that hasn't even happened yet... It can feel near enough impossible to rationally look at the situation and why you are reacting in such an extreme way. Yoga forces us to look at every single part of our body, from the top of our heads right down to the tips of our toes. It is one of the most crucial elements of the practice. This technique helps you to break down your physical self when anxiety strikes. You can engage in introspection in a calm and collected way.

6. Releases tension

Anxiety can cause your body to tense up, particularly in the neck, shoulders and back. Yoga helps you release that tension, allowing your body to become freer and more open... and as a result? Deep relaxation in the mind & body.

7. Aids insomnia

It's a known fact that exercise helps disrupted sleeping patterns, and yoga is no exception. The steady, conscious breathing is also a strong force against anxiety when it strikes at night as it steadies your heart and allows you to breathe through the panic, moving you away from a mind in overdrive. A gentle sequence before getting into bed works wonders for putting you in a more relaxed state of mind ready for sleep.

8. Improves digestion

Many yoga poses focus directly on stimulating the abdominal region, aiding digestion. Stress (brought about by anxiety) has a negative impact on our digestion, which can create a vicious cycle of reduced nutrition, increasing our stress levels, and round and around we go. Finding ways to counteract that impact is paramount in the fight against anxiety.

9. Stimulates blood flow

Any sort of inversion pose can increase and stimulate blood flow to the head, resulting in a detoxification of our adrenal glands. Adrenals are known to decrease in depression - an illness that can go hand in hand with anxiety. They are vital to our wellbeing as they produce the hormones we need to deal with stress. So healthy adrenals = healthy you!

10. Evokes peace and calm

Let's not forget that undeniable sense of serenity with which yoga provides you. The mixture of the deep movements, calm setting, gentle instructions and beautiful music work together to provide a calm and safe place where you can practice mindfulness and mediation techniques – you can then bring these practices into your every day life.

Asana practice can improve and alleviate the symptoms of anxiety-driven depression because it reduces stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline, inducing what's known as the relaxation response. Once the relaxation response kicks in, many people find that they can work through their fears and irrational anxieties in a more constructive way.

Combining the asana practice (physical postures) incorporated into yoga along with the meditation and relaxation skills practiced in class, it’s the ideal habit to develop to improve your mood as we progress deeper into winter. Why not pay a visit to the studio to check out the incredible mood boosting benefits for yourself? Try your first 10 days of yoga for just £20!

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