In our daily life, it is reasonable to feel anxious sometimes. Anxiety is a common emotion that is often healthy for a person. It is a state that is induced in both humans and animals for survival. With anxiety, early humans developed a way to respond to any possible threats they may encounter.
While it is okay to feel anxious, sometimes, it also has serious consequences. In fact, unhealthy and excessive anxiety are often symptoms of other physical and mental health problems. Many people started practicing yoga because of its benefits. It is already widely known that yoga helps with improving strength, balance, and flexibility. And with years of research and study, science has proven the benefit of yoga on the physical body. But how does yoga help reduce anxiety?
Yoga helps reduce cortisol levels
When you experience any traumatic or stressful events, the body produces a high level of cortisol. Aside from its many essential functions in the body, cortisol is also the main chemical involved in stress response. Cortisol is considered as an indicator of anxiety and depression. Studies show that people with anxiety attacks often have high cortisol levels in the body, causing an imbalance. And even though the cortisol levels are lower in the morning than in the evening, the production of these chemicals is still very easily affected by events and situations.
In a publication from the Indian Journal of Psychiatry in 2013, 76 individuals were studied and subjected to different treatments. Those who were introduced to yoga practice showed a significant drop in cortisol level.
Yoga changes your lifestyle
A lot of things that we are used to in our daily lives can affect our emotions and trigger anxiety. Even our diet and things that we usually consume – caffeine, alcohol, etc. That is why mindful eating is one of the things taught in yoga. Consuming food is one of the most straightforward ways to get healthy physically and mentally.
Mindful eating encourages you to build a connection with the food you eat using the different senses in your body and connect with the present, taking in mind how the food was grown, prepared, and cooked. Through this, you can be aware of what food heighten anxiety symptoms. You can also identify real hunger from what isn’t and prevent yourself from overeating, which may later cause guilt. A healthy body and positive lifestyle changes can definitely help reduce anxiety.
Yoga encourages the release of happy hormones
Exercises like yoga promote the production of hormones and neurotransmitters in the brain and body. These chemicals profoundly impact memory, mood, and well-being. With the postures and breathing techniques in yoga, endorphins levels are increased. These hormones include:
- Endorphins – these are known as the feel-good hormone that boosts your mood and helps you cope with stress and anxiety. With a higher level of endorphins, the sense of happiness also increases.
- Oxytocin – while it is known as a “love hormone,” it is a neurotransmitter that encourages behaviors such as being open to risks and trust. A 2014 study shows that anxiety is more active when a person’s amygdala can’t build a connection with the other regions of the brain, and oxytocin’s role is to serve as a neurotransmitter for the amygdala and other brain regions.
- Serotonin – is also a chemical that impacts your emotions. It can naturally stabilize your mood and regulate anxiety. While overactivity and deficiency of serotonin can cause anxiety and depression, with a balanced level, it is very beneficial.
- Dopamine – like the other chemicals, having too little or too much dopamine can also cause anxiety and depression; however, when balanced, it stimulates the connections between neurons and brain regions that lessens scattered and unhealthy thoughts and sense of self.
Yoga helps your mind and body relax
The combination of the postures, yogic breathing, and meditation in the practice of yoga can relax your mind and body. One of the signs of an anxiety attack is hyperventilation. These short, shallow breaths can cause lightheadedness and prevents focus. You can normalize your breathing and be able to focus again by deliberately and gradually inhaling and exhaling.
Aside from breathing techniques, meditation is another way to relax the mind and body. It helps reprogram the neural pathways in the brain that help regulate emotions that usually causes anxiety. Since meditation teaches awareness, through this, you can learn to manage and cope with anxiety.
Everyone feels anxious now and then. But when anxiety starts to disrupt your daily life, you must take care of it and regain control. The best and simplest way to do it is through yoga. This practice has proven a lot of benefits, and one of them is in reducing anxiety. The different techniques that are incorporated into practice are sure to help you fight anxiety.