Using Yoga to Cope With Anxiety

Many yoga students walk into a yoga studio door by recommendation a doctor, therapist or friend. With patience and persistence they find powerful tools to help manage their lifelong friend anxiety.

Occasional anxiety is a normal part of life. Anxiety becomes a problem when it begins to interfere with our daily lives and doesn’t subside. People with anxiety disorders frequently have intense, excessive and persistent worry and fear about everyday situations. Often, anxiety disorders involve repeated episodes of sudden feelings of intense anxiety and fear or terror that reach a peak within minutes - panic attacks (Mayo Clinic, 2018).

For those who haven’t suffered from an anxiety disorder it can be difficult to understand the experience of a loved one. Anxiety may present as intrusive and obsessive thoughts, excessive worry or an impending sense of doom. Often the person knows these thoughts are irrational, but they continue to breed fear and worry in their lives. These mental events place considerable stress on their physical bodies by increasing respiration and heart rate, and disrupting sleep.

Many doctors and therapists are beginning to see the value of yoga to help manage their patients’ anxiety.

“Available reviews of a wide range of yoga practices suggest they can reduce the impact of exaggerated stress responses and may be helpful for both anxiety and depression. In this respect, yoga functions like other self-soothing techniques, such as meditation, relaxation, exercise, or even socializing with friends.

By reducing perceived stress and anxiety, yoga appears to modulate stress response systems. This, in turn, decreases physiological arousal — for example, reducing the heart rate, lowering blood pressure, and easing respiration. There is also evidence that yoga practices help increase heart rate variability, an indicator of the body's ability to respond to stress more flexibly.”

-Harvard Mental Health Letter, 2019

Do you suffer from anxiety? Consider the suggestions below next time you practice. Take what works and leave the rest.


  • Avoid Kapalabhati pranayama as it can increase your heart rate.

  • Practice Dirrgha and Nadi Shodhana pranayama to lower your heart rate.


  • Meditation can be indicated and contraindicated for anxiety. When dealing with anxiety our mind can be the most dangerous place to be. If you decide to meditate begin by focusing on your breath. With each inhale say to yourself “I am breathing in” and on the exhale “I am breathing out.”


  • Physical exercise is know to be beneficial for those experiencing anxiety, but alternatively a gentle or restorative class can enable deeper breathing and lower your heart rate.


  • All postures that releases tension in the body or decrease the heart rate are recommended. Try heart-openers, like camel; and folds such as a seated forward bend.

This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it.