ZEN TIP TUESDAY #34
It’s been a while since the last Zen Tip Tuesday post but lovely to kick it off again with this week’s post from Tsvetty, a Social Work & Psychology student. As someone who has struggled with anxiety and depression for most of her life, Tsvetty is passionate about Mental Health and has a website called ‘Mental Health Memo’ – a space to learn about mental illnesses, find advice on coping strategies, navigate healing, and feel supported. You’ll find a link to her website in her bio at the end of this post. Today Tsvetty shares with us what she feels are the biggest benefits of yoga for anxiety, and check out how cute her dog Cookie is!
If you would like to contribute your very own ‘Gem of Zen’ as part of the Zen Tip Tuesday series please go here to find out how (you might also like to visit all the Gems of Zen we have so far). I would love to hear from you!
Ever since I was little, I’ve been anxious. This anxiety often came forth in many forms, until the eventual diagnosis of Panic Disorder with Agoraphobia and Social Phobia Disorder. I went through extensive therapy for many years and have experimented will all sorts of prescription medications to ease it.
These things did prove themselves very useful, and did improve my anxiety. But there’s one more thing that found its way into my life about 3 years ago that has drastically helped reduce my anxiety: yoga.
I’ve been practicing yoga almost daily for a few years now, and have noticed huge shifts in my body, my mind, my mindset, and my anxiety. There are a few reasons why yoga has proved itself incredibly effective in relieving my anxiety, as well as many others.
1. Yoga is Grounding
One reason yoga is incredibly beneficial for anxiety is that it’s grounding. Often with panic attacks and anxiety in general, you tend to feel dissociated, out-of-body, and disorientated. Yoga, especially mindful yoga (a slower, more mindfully paced sequence), can really help you to feel grounded.
The moment my bare feet touch the mat, I start connecting to a sense of groundness and I can feel my dissociation lifting almost immediately. Yoga is unique in this way to me, as other exercises like typical cardio or strength training can make me dissociate even more.
To really get the most out of grounding through yoga, pay lots of attention to how your body feels, how it connects to the mat, what sensations you’re feeling, and whether you’re subconsciously clenching in certain areas of the body.
I find it also helps to do yoga bare foot so you can really feel the mat, towel, ground, or grass, and staying in poses that are close to the ground rather than up in the air like warrior poses or tree practices.
2. It Releases Endorphins
Many people assume yoga is easy, but it can actually be a very intense and thorough workout. Exercising does incredible things for not just the body, but also the mind.
When we exercise, we release endorphins. These are happy hormones that help alleviate stress and improve our overall mood. So if you consistently do yoga and release these natural hormones, you’re going to be able to manage your anxiety a lot better in the short-term AND long-term.
Not only that, but because yoga can be an intense workout, it can help as well to create clarity, self-discipline, and it can help you to exert pent up anxiety or emotions.
Every time I finish a yoga practice, I feel so much better emotionally, physically and spiritually. I always feel connected to myself, I feel grounded, happy, strong, and ready to face the day (since I do my yoga in the morning!). Without it, I tend to feel depleted, sad and more irritable.
3. Relieves Muscle Tension
Tight muscles are a common symptom of anxiety, especially chronic anxiety illnesses like the ones I have. I’m not lying when I say anytime I go for a massage, the person says I have so many knots in my neck they can’t tell if I’m actually 21 or 100 (except maybe they phrase it a little nicer!).
My muscles are incredibly tight, inflexible, and clenched.
Since starting my yoga practice, I have not only been able to become a little bit more flexible, but I’ve also been able to relieve some tension in my muscles. I have found spaciousness in my muscles I never thought I’d have.
This has led to my body feeling a million times better, and to having an ability to relax my muscles in a way I couldn’t before.
4. Encompasses Breathing Techniques
When we’re anxious, stressed or having a panic attack, our breathing gets labored because we’re in that fight, flight or freeze mindset. When this type of labored breath becomes your regular way of breathing due to chronic anxiety, it can have an impact on your quality of life.
A big part of yoga is maintaining a mindful rhythm of breath. You want to maintain a deep breathing pattern despite being in poses that make you out of breath. Even if you’re not in difficult poses, you still want to keep the deep breath going.
Personally, my breathing has always been very shallow and quick, and it still is to this day. However, my ability to control my breathing and do deeper breathing techniques has greatly improved due to practicing deep breathing through yoga. I am much more mindful of my shallow breathing, and I try to deepen and slow it down whenever I notice it. So instead of having labored breathing 100% of the time, I maybe have it 60% of the time now.
This to me is a great accomplishment, especially since noticing my breath has always been a trigger for me. It has also made me much calmer because I’m able to go to the breath and use it to cool down if I’m feeling very emotional or distressed.
5. Creates Strong Connection to Self
I know it’s the cliché to say that yoga changed my life and made me learn things about myself I never knew. But there’s a reason everyone who practices yoga says that. Because it’s true! My mind, spirit, and body have significantly grown in ways I never imagined ever since I started yoga. I feel much more connected to myself, my needs, my strengths, and my weaknesses. It has truly been a beautiful journey that I am still on and still learning from.
If you have been thinking about starting yoga, especially for your anxiety, I strongly recommend you do so! Not only will your symptoms of anxiety improve, but so will your entire life. You’ll be more grounded, calmer, positive, strong, vulnerable, and connected to yourself and those around you.
It’s not just some weird yogi/crazy holistic lady stuff! I’ve been through the clinical and medical and it has absolutely been helpful, but yoga has done just as much if not more.
So give it a try, and let Min and I know how it goes for you!
All my love,
Tsvetty is a mental health blogger and Youtuber. She decided to create content about mental health because she’s struggled with mental illnesses since she was a kid, dominantly anxiety and mood disorders. But on top of that, she’s also an undergraduate student for Social Work & Psychology, where she’s learning the practitioner side of the mental health sector which previously she’d only known as a patient. She enjoys putting her lived experience and professional knowledge together to provide the most informative articles and videos possible. Here’s where you can connect with Tsvetty: