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Yoga for Panic Disorder

How Yoga Can Help with Panic and Anxiety

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Updated April 27, 2012

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

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Yoga can help with panic and anxiety.

Photo © Microsoft

There are many ways panic disorder can impact your life. The symptoms of panic disorder can affect your mind, body, and general well-being. Panic attacks, the main feature of panic disorder, are typically accompanied by many negative thoughts and distressing physical symptoms. These thoughts and feelings are often difficult to manage and can lower one’s quality of life.

Despite the challenges of panic attacks and other anxiety symptoms, there are many self-help strategies that can assist you in coping with panic disorder. Numerous self-care activities and relaxation techniques are available to help you feel more calm, peaceful, and in control. Some of the most common relaxation strategies include breathing exercises, progressive muscle relaxation, and visualization. These techniques have been found to reduce anxiety and may even help you manage your panic symptoms.

Yoga is an activity that actually encompasses all three of these common relaxation techniques. Additionally, yoga has been known to help ease stress, reduce feelings of nervousness, and enhance mindfulness. For these reasons, yoga has been considered to be potentially beneficial for people with anxiety disorders, including panic disorder.

Understanding What Yoga Is

Yoga is believed to have originated in India over 5,000 years ago. Derived from the ancient Indian language of Sanskrit, the term yoga means “to yoke” or “unite.” Yoga practice involves a joining of the body, mind, and spirit. Through breath work, meditation, movements, and relaxation, yoga can help restore a sense of personal balance.

Yoga has become a popular way to renew the body by increasing strength, improving balance, and enhancing flexibility. Many people are devoted to the yoga lifestyle that includes a practice beyond physical exercise. Numerous non-exercise aspects of yoga, such as breathing exercises and meditation, can help calm a busy mind and assist in letting go of stress. Given the many stress reductions benefits of yoga, it is not surprising that yoga can also be helpful in managing fears, panic, and anxiety.

How Yoga Can Help with Panic Disorder

There are many uncomfortable physical symptoms of panic and anxiety, such as feelings of tension, tightness, and pain sensitivity. Yoga postures, known as asanas, help ease the physical discomfort that is caused by anxiety. Asanas work to stretch, lengthen, and balance the muscles. These postures can assist in releasing built-up muscle tension and stiffness throughout the body.

Yoga poses are often taught in sequences that can be a powerful form of physical exercise. There are many ways in which exercise benefits panic disorder, including a reduction in pain and stress. Yoga not only helps in easing the physical body, but it can also help with anxious thoughts. Negative thinking patterns and frequent worries are common for those diagnosed with panic disorder. Meditation, visualization, and focusing on breathing can help with letting go of worry and fear. The overall practice of yoga can elicit the relaxation response, allowing both the body and mind to gain a sense of calm and ease.

Yoga can also be a great way to meet other people and feel more connected to a sense of community. Many people with panic disorder and agoraphobia are faced with issues of loneliness and isolation. Participating in a yoga class can be one way to begin to socialize while working toward personal wellness.

Additional Information On Yoga

More information on yoga, including poses, breathing exercises, and sequences, can be found at the About.com Guide to Yoga. On this website, you can also find facts about the health benefits of yoga, information on different styles of yoga, and resources for finding a yoga class that suits your needs.

Yoga has become a mainstream form of exercise, relaxation, and spiritual growth. Most likely, there are many yoga class offerings in your area. Some yoga instructors even offer classes that are specifically geared towards certain issues, such as anxiety or depression. Check out different yoga studios, recreation centers, spas, and community classes and find a class that fits your needs.

Sources:

NurrieStearns, M. & NurrieStearns, R. (2010). Yoga for anxiety: Meditations and practices for calming the body and mind. Oakland, CA: New Harbinger.

Sovik, R. & Anderson, S. (2008). Yoga: Mastering the basics. Honesdale, PA: Himalayan Institute.

Weintraub, A. (2004). Yoga for depression: A compassionate guide to relieving suffering through yoga. New York: Broadway Books.

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