How Yoga Calmed My Anxious Mind
There was a time in my life when my anxiety was so bad that even going to a yoga class would send me into a panic. The thought of being in a space and having to stay there for an hour, compounded by the embarrassment I would feel if I needed to step out of the class early, sent me into a spiral.
I remember having a panic attack before class started, sitting in the lobby, debating whether or not I could handle going in. In the end, I would always go. I would put my mat down, feeling nauseous, dizzy and on the verge of tears. After doing this over and over again, I started to realize that my yoga practice was a safe space.
The practice of yoga is founded on non-judgement, self acceptance and being in the present moment. So whether I was in class nailing my ardha chandrasana or laying in child’s pose the whole time, the biggest intention in the room was to allow. To allow yourself and everyone around you to have their own experience, listen to their bodies and do what they need to do in that moment.
Finding this level of freedom is definitely easier said than done. It comes with patience and practice. It comes with breath.
So much nourishment for the nervous system and power lives in our breath. Deep inhales into the belly and slow exhales. A yoga class is a place that encourages your breath and reminds you over and over to come back to it. Deep breaths are like love notes to the body. They feel like little hugs to your nervous system that sometimes feels frayed, overworked and broken down.
Back in those “panic attack in the lobby of a yoga studio” days, my nervous system was shot. I felt like a large pane of glass that had just been shattered on the ground, each individual piece of glass having jagged edges. Deep breath paired with intentional movement started to glue this mirror back together.
I often hear that people are intimidated by the idea of trying yoga because they aren’t flexible enough or they could never imagine themselves in a headstand. I do yoga often and consider it to be a large part of my life. That being said, my headstand definitely needs work and there are absolutely days in class where I fall completely out of a pose. To me, this is the beauty and purpose of a yoga practice.
Taking a yoga class and giving your mind and body the time to breathe and move together, to truly connect, builds a resilience to judgement. Judgement from other people, yes, but more importantly, it decreases judgement from yourself. I find such relief in this judgement-free, safe, soul-nourishing environment. What saves me from going down the road of self-judgement in a yoga class is also the notion that anyone who brings that sort of energy into a class is not practicing yoga.
It’s a beautiful thing to give yourself the time to move and breathe. No phone, no email, no screaming kids—just you, your body and breath. This alone alleviates anxiety. As you start to move and build heat, the body releases tension and you start to feel lighter, in your physical and mental body.
It was such an empowering feeling for me to plow through the fear, get myself on my mat and then realize that I was okay. I was moving and breathing and everything was okay. Well, you are okay too. Be gentle with yourself and know that there is a light at the end of the tunnel. There always is.
7 Yoga Poses to Calm You During an Anxious Time
- Garbasana (Child’s Pose)
- Marjaiasana/Bitilasana (Cat/Cow)
- Janu Sirsanana (Head-to-Nnee Forward Fold)
- Sukhasana (Easy Pose)
- Uttanasana (Standing Forward Bend/Rag Doll)
- Viparita Kirani (Legs Up the Wall/Waterfall)
- Savasana (Corpse Pose)
Doing yoga brought me peace of mind. It helped me tap back into trust and to believe that this panic attack or particular spell of anxiety was not forever. Yoga pushed me to sit through the discomfort and realize that there was relief on the other side. It showed me that when there is darkness there is always light.
Interested in more yoga poses to incorporate into your day? Try this five-minute restorative sequence you can do to rejuvenate at home.