yoga teacherBy Faye Martins

If you practice and teach Yoga daily, you probably have a handle on anxiety.  One intern in a Yoga teacher training intensive had entered the course to master a method that would reduce or eliminate his anxiety.  A few years later, he let us know that it had worked for him.  His objective was self-mastery first and possibly to teach Yoga classes down the road. 

Depending on our outlooks and our life styles, we all have some degree of stress in our lives. Some people, however, are so afraid or anxious that these feelings hardly ever go away. Around 40 million Americans suffer from anxiety disorders like panic attacks, obsessive compulsive disorder, post traumatic stress disorder, and phobias every year. According to the April 2009 edition of the “Harvard Mental Health Newsletter,” Yogic exercise helps us to master these conditions.

Regardless of its cause, every real or imagined threat we encounter activates a series of physiological changes in the body, most of which occur simultaneously.

• The brain signals the adrenal glands to release harmful hormones into the bloodstream, preparing the body to flee or to fight.

• Breathing speeds up, and the body releases fats and glucose to supply energy to fend off the danger.

• The heart beats up to five times faster than usual, and blood pressure rises.

• Blood vessels constrict and direct blood and oxygen away from the organs and to the muscles and brain.

• Muscles contract as they prepare for action.

Anyone familiar with Yogic methodology will notice that the body’s reaction to stress is exactly opposite of its reaction to deep breathing, meditation, and asana. While medication and psychotherapy are a vital part of care for some people who suffer from anxiety disorders, Yoga can be an important complement to traditional treatment. It may even reduce the need for medication, but no one should stop taking medication without consulting a professional.

Any pose that calms the nervous system, relaxes muscles, or improves circulation will also reduce tension. While a regular Yoga training is always the best option, there are specific poses that reduce anxiety.

15 Asanas for Anxiety Disorders

1. Easy Pose

2. Bridge Pose

3. Child’s Pose

4. Staff Pose

5. Bow Pose

6. Cat Pose

7. Camel Poses

8. Cow Pose

9. Fish Poses

10. Downward-Facing Dog Pose

11. Extended Triangle Pose

12. Head-to-Knee Forward Bend

13. Seated Forward Bend

14. Half Moon Pose

15. Prayer Pose

In 2007, researchers at the Boston University School of Medicine conducted brain scans of participants immediately following Yoga training sessions and found elevated levels of a feel-good neurotransmitter called GABA. Since a shortage of GABA is linked with depression and anxiety, results look promising for the use of Yogic methodology as an effective intervention for anxiety disorders.

Side Notes for Yoga Teachers

Although one Yoga teacher training course may be enough for one person, it should be noted that our students need to understand that daily practice is the real key.  Even the most emotionally stable people can become overwhelmed by anxiety if they don’t have a solution for dealing with it.

© Copyright 2012 – Aura Wellness Center – Publications Division

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