Restlessness, being on-edge, having inexplicable pains. These are a few symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder.
The feeling can be overwhelming, tiring. If this is you, know that you’re not alone. During the COVID-19 pandemic, cases of anxiety have increased over 25% globally, and depression has risen by over 27%, according to a World Health Organization brief published in March.
Yoga may be able to help with anxiety.
In one 2013 review, researchers looked at 27 studies that explored how yoga affects people’s anxiety levels. In over two-thirds of those papers, participants experienced a statistically significant drop in anxiety after taking yoga classes.
If you or a loved one is facing a mental health crisis, you should still consider seeking out other resources for help, like a mental health counselor or a doctor.
But think of yoga as one tool of many to manage anxiety. We have a simple breathing practice to try:
- Find a seat, any seat. A chair, the floor. Anywhere. Perhaps the soles of your feet are planted on the floor.
- Take the palm of your hand to your belly and another to your chest. Right or left, either is fine. Settle your gaze. Maybe, for you today, that means closing your eyes. Or, perhaps finding a neutral point to focus on nearby.
- Seated here, spend a moment or two breathing normally but starting to bring awareness to your inhales and exhales. Are they short? Long? Slow or fast? None of the above? All of these are okay—pieces of information to understand where you’re at right now.
- Take an exhale, breathing all your air out.
- Inhale slowly into your belly, feeling it rise underneath your hand. Then, into your ribcage, taking one last sip of air into your chest.
- Then, exhale slowly as your chest, ribcage, and belly sink inwards.
Go through this practice three to five times. If you lose track or find it difficult to disentangle each part of the breath, that’s fine. Stay focused on your slow and deliberate inhales and exhales. Thank yourself for showing up today!
Breathwork with Alethia Paredes
Listen along as Three and a Half Acres Yoga’s Trauma-informed Yoga Teacher Graduate, Alethia Paredes walks us through a breathing exercise below.