I began taking yoga in 2009 to cope with the anxiety I experienced as a victim of bullying. I was getting ready to transition to college, and living away from home. My mom suggested I try the yoga studio she attended. I found great relief from my anxiety through yoga, and I fell in love with the practice. Now that I have been practicing yoga for over eight years, I want to share some of the benefits I have found in the hopes that yoga may be able to help others.
Yoga helped me cope with my anxiety by introducing me to mindfulness. In the past, therapists encouraged me to practice deep breathing techniques to slow down my rapid breathing and heart rate and calm my anxiety. I really struggled with this technique. The more I focused on my breathing, the more I panicked. I would worry that I wasn’t breathing deep enough, long enough, or that my throat was closing up. Deep breathing exercises seemed to just cause small panic attacks.
Yoga was a more effective way for me to learn mindfulness and deep breathing techniques because it pairs motion with breathing. Instead of focusing on my breathing, I became focused on my motions; breathing in as I raised my arms, breathing out as I swan-dove into a fold, breathing in as I lifted my head, etc.
Reduced Chronic Pain
Another area of my life that yoga helped was my chronic back pain. I began experiencing chronic back pain in 2009. I went to chiropractors, orthopedic doctors, physical therapists, and acupuncturists but no one could tell me what was wrong or relieve my pain. I already knew I didn’t want to go on prescription painkillers for my back pain because of the potential for addiction, so I began to feel hopeless that I would ever feel relief from my back pain. That is, until I started practicing yoga.
It probably helped that my yoga instructor also worked in a physical therapist’s office; she knew exactly how to manipulate my back so that I would get a good stretch but not be in additional pain. After a few weeks of practicing yoga two times a week, I felt like a whole new person! My back no longer bothered me, even during long car rides which usually caused painful lower and mid back spasms.
Beneficial for Therapy
Yoga had and continues to have such a positive impact on my physical and mental health. I know that this useful practice can also benefit other people with mental health and substance use disorders. Much of anxiety, depression, and other disorders has to do with being focused on the past or future. Yoga teaches you to live in the present. Many mental health disorders and substance use disorders are impacted by physical pain. Yoga addresses this physical pain without addictive medications. If you are considering experiencing the healing therapy of yoga, I strongly encourage you to look up some of the studios in your area and try a class.
Article Written by Shaylyn Forte, LPC, CAADC