I’m often asked if yoga will help people with anxiety.
And as tempted as I am to say, ‘yes, yoga helps with anxiety’, it’s not so straightforward.
The truth is, anxiety will often get worse before it gets better.
If there was a quick fix for anxiety, we would have found it by now. Yoga is no quick fix. The results aren’t instant and it can take weeks or even months of practice before its effects are noticed.
And in those weeks of fiercely practicing yoga in the hope of overcoming anxiety, the anxiety often increases. This is because yoga makes us pay attention. And paying attention to ourselves and our anxieties can initially make them worse. The important thing to remember is that anxiety and those uncomfortable feelings were always there, it’s just that yoga has made us aware of them.
Yoga doesn’t cause anxiety, it makes us aware of it.
And this is when yoga can make us feel like shit. So why practice something that feels like shit?
Mindfulness, meditation and yoga have long been prescribed as ways to manage anxiety. And what they all have in common is paying attention and becoming aware of the present moment.
This awareness will heighten all of our experiences, the pleasurable ones, and the uncomfortable or painful ones.
Yoga teaches us to practice both awareness and acceptance. Accepting the experience of the present moment without trying to change, control or fix it. So instead of trying to control the thoughts and feelings, yoga teaches us to become aware of them, to feel them and to let them be there within our field of awareness.
We don’t have to ‘do’ anything with our thoughts and feelings other than ‘hold’ them in our awareness.
Once we’re able to hold and accept our thoughts and feelings, something weird happens.
The intensity of the thoughts and feelings dissipates. All of a sudden this experience that has had such a powerful grip on us fizzles out.
Stress, anxiety, fear and pain can all be lessened with practice, patience, acceptance and awareness.
But sometimes it gets worse before it gets better.
And this is where we make a decision, which is worse: the pain of being present with our thoughts and feelings or the pain of anxiety?
If you’re thinking about trying yoga for anxiety, our Brisbane yoga studio offers heaps of beginner-friendly yoga classes as well as classes for intermediate and advanced practitioners.
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All artwork in this blog by my favourite artist : Henn Kim