Anyone who suffers from anxiety or panic attacks knows that these conditions can quite literally be debilitating. Anxiety can stop you in your tracks and actually make you feel like you're suffocating.
Panic attacks seem to take over your ability to breathe as your heart rate skyrockets and your breath becomes short and labored. In either case, it isn't fun and it isn't optimal for your health.
Yoga Can Help
The practice of yoga targets breath control in the mind and draws you into the present moment. So, instead of having worrying thoughts about the future or anxiety-causing what ifs, yoga teaches you to become present and live in the moment as it is now.
Yoga also teaches surrender and acceptance, two keys factors in keeping stress levels low and anxiety and panic attacks on the decline. The following is a simple and straightforward yoga sequence for anxiety that you can practice whenever you feel panic creeping into your life:
Sukhasana (Easy Pose)
This simple position of seated meditation creates a foundation for internal reflection, a silencing of the mind and an attention to the breath.
Start seated in any comfortable cross-legged position. If you feel pressure or tightness in the hips, elevate your seat onto a block, blanket(s) or cushion(s). Allow your hips to be elevated above your knees so that the weight of your legs can surrender to gravity.
Lengthen your spine, reaching up through the crown of your head and soften your shoulders down away from your ears. Close your eyes and draw your attention inside. Try to clear your mind by allowing thoughts to slowly pass through without stopping to acknowledge or dwell on them.
Draw your attention toward your breath trying to slow its rhythm to take full, long, deep inhales and exhales.
Nadhi Shodhana (Alternate Nostril Breath)
This pranayama works to balance the left and right brain and the left and right energy centers of the body. It is very soothing and calming and can help to relax your nerves and soothe anxiety.
From your Sukhasana position, draw your right hand toward your face and gently rest your thumb onto your right nostril. Place your first and middle finger onto your third eye center (the space directly between your eyebrows) and gently rest your ring finger onto your left nostril.
Continue Alternate Nostril Breathing for as long as you would like to slow your rhythm and concentrate your mind. Make sure to finish on an exhale through the left nostril to remain balanced.
Supta Badha Konasana (Reclined Bound Angle Pose)
A great release of both physical and emotional tension is to open the hips. A simple, passive and restorative way to do this is through Reclined Bound Angle pose.
Lie down flat against your back and draw the soles of your feet together so that your knees open out wide toward the sides of your mat. You can keep your feet as they are, or if you would like a deeper opening, you can slide your heels as close toward your groin as possible.
If you'd like to make the stretch even more relaxing, you can place pillows or blankets underneath your knees for extra support so that you can completely relax musculature control over your body, allowing yourself to surrender and release into the stretch.
Rest your hands wherever feels comfortable and close your eyes. Soften your breath and melt into the floor, holding for as long as you would like to decompress.
Twists can be used to both literally and figuratively wring out and release energy within the body. If you're looking to release anxiety, stress, or any unhealthy thoughts that may lead to panic attacks, then twisting is an excellent option to let things go.
From your reclining bound angle pose, extend your legs forward in front of you so that you are lying flat against your back. Hug your right knee in toward your chest and hold onto the outside edge of your knee with your left hand.
Inhale to hug the knee toward you and exhale to relax your knee across the body toward the left side of your mat. Try your best to keep your shoulders planted against the floor so that the twist happens deep within your belly. Try to soften into the pose and deepen your breath.
Mentally allow yourself to “wring out” anything that no longer serves you. When you feel ready, switch to the opposite leg.
Savasana (Corpse Pose)
The ultimate pose of relaxation, Savasana is the perfect pose to combat anxiety.
From Reclining Twist, extend your legs out in front of you with your feet at a slightly wider hip-width distance and allow your heels to turn in and your toes to turn out. Release your arms by your side with your palms facing up in surrender.
Soften your shoulders away from your ears and allow the weight of your body to melt down into the lap of Mother Earth. Relax your breath, close your eyes, and try to be present in this very moment by not thinking about the past or the future.
Just be here and now. Soften your mind and your body and surrender into this meditative pose. Allow your anxiety to slowly melt away.
Anxiety and panic attacks can seem to consume you and take control over your thoughts, your breath and your life. But with the proper care, you can use yoga to help combat these debilitating conditions.
By drawing your attention inward, becoming present and listening to your breath, you will hopefully notice a significant change in your anxiety levels.