Exactly How To Use Yoga To Calm Anxiety (even if it hasn’t helped in the past)

Whether I have a million tasks to get done or have absolutely nothing to do, the presence of anxiety seems to be constantly looming.

My go-to in order to manage anxiety used to be running or working out. During an intense workout, I would experience peace. It was one of the few activities that would calm the racing thoughts in my head.

However, having struggled with a restrictive eating disorder, intense exercise isn’t something I should rely on for dealing with anxiety. I tried several other coping skills, such as coloring, reading, and walking outside. None of these were very helpful…

But thankfully, yoga was.

I was introduced to yoga while in an inpatient eating disorder treatment center. At the time, the idea of laying still on a mat while catastrophic thoughts went through my mind didn’t sound appealing.

However after leaving treatment, I knew I had to find a healthy way to cope with anxiety if I wanted to maintain the progress I had made in recovery. This is when I decided to give yoga another try. 

8 weeks = habit

I read somewhere that it takes 8 weeks of practice in order to make something a habit. With that in mind, I decided to give 8 weeks of yoga a try.

Every other day, I made time to take out my mat, and practice various forms of yoga. Some days, I tried a meditative aspect to yoga by listening to guided meditations while laying down. Other days I did vinyasa flow routines by watching videos on YouTube.

For every day I took the time to take out my mat and practice, whether it was for 5 minutes or an hour, I put a smiley face sticker on a calendar in my room.

This continued for only a couple weeks, until practicing yoga became engrained in my everyday routine.

Yoga didn’t work (at first)

At first, yoga was not an efficient tool in relieving the anxiety I held. It was more like a chore to check off my to-do list.

But with practice, yoga has become an effective outlet for the stress and tension I hold in my body.

While moving through poses, I actively think about the functions my body performs in order to keep me living. This in turn has helped me find more gratitude for my body as whole, which has decreased the intensity of body dysmorphia I regularly struggle with.

I set aside “yoga time” as my time in the day to consciously release any worries, fears or anticipations I’m holding. Whenever a thought about an upcoming exam or an undermining self-belief pops up, I try to bring myself back into the present and focus my attention on moving deeper into a pose.

With consistent practice, your body and mind begin to automatically connect yoga to mindfulness and serenity.

Fitness posters, athletic brands and media usually portray specific types of yoga, but there are several different forms out there and can be tailored to meet our mental and physical needs. So don’t give up on the idea after one class or one try.

Practice creates habit!


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