Anxiety disorders are the most common type of mental illness in the US. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA), 40 million adults (18.1% of adults) in the US suffer from some sort of anxiety and/or depression disorder, while 6.3 million children aged 3-17 years old also suffer (10.3%) with some sort of anxiety or depression diagnosis. And this only accounts for those cases that have been reported! And of course, the pandemic has exacerbated anxiety and depression for so many adults and kids.
Feeling anxious or depressed often hampers your ability and motivation to do things that might be helpful, so it’s important to be selective when choosing things that are simple and accessible yet highly effective. For example, leaving the house to meet a friend might be too difficult when feeling anxious, while taking 3-5 deep breaths might be something more attainable.
As a yoga instructor, avid yogi and innately anxious person, I love sharing my story of how yoga has truly changed my life for the better. I started practicing on an irregular basis nearly 20 years ago. Eight years ago, when my practice became consistent, I started feeling noticeably better. Now the benefits just keep on giving.
Yoga makes me feel calmer and more grounded, both physically and mentally, but disregarding my own bias, numerous studies are proof enough. Research has shown that yoga decreases cortisol levels, the stress-inducing hormone. A separate study focused on anxiety in women, and how practicing yoga helped reduce their symptoms.
In fact, there are certain yoga poses (also called asanas) that can specifically help anxiety and depression. These poses can be done in the comfort of your home, so they are an easily accessible tool to help your mental health. In this article by Healthline, you will find 11 different poses all aimed at reducing anxiety. You can start with just one or you can try all 11, but always remember that yoga is a breathing practice first. It’s the combination of the breath work that helps keep you mentally in the moment as you physically move through and/or hold these postures. Ultimately this helps increase mindfulness and reduces anxiety.
If you are struggling right now, I suggest trying one or two of these poses - maybe start with heroes pose and standing forward bend - and do them daily. It may take just 5-10 minutes of your day and have the long lasting benefit of providing some inner peace. Please reach out if you have any questions, would like private yoga instruction, or just need some extra support during a challenging time.