A new study published by researchers at NYU Grossman School of Medicine has found that yoga improves symptoms of generalised anxiety disorder, a common and undertreated condition in which someone is continually and disproportionately worried about different things whether anticipating disaster or having fears about issues including money, health, family, work etc. that affects their daily life. The 226 people in the study were randomly assigned to three “treatment” groups for three months, either structured talk therapy in the form of cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), Kundalini yoga, or stress-management education.
Whilst CBT is the most effective treatment, many people are unable to access this because of no local therapists or long waiting lists, or they may simply be unwilling to try it. In contrast, yoga is safe and widely available and is not linked with medical personnel or hospitals, which is important to some people.
What is yoga?
Yoga is not only about improving anxiety, it is a practice that can restore a sense of personal balance in mind, body and spirit for anyone feeling under pressure. Through breathwork, meditation, movements, and relaxation, the body can feel renewed, with increased strength, improved balance and more flexibility and the breathing exercises and meditation help in the letting go of stress.
If you think a loved one could benefit from a yoga class, check to see what is available locally and gift a first visit free for them to try it out. You can go with them if they would like some company, perhaps nervous about attending a class on their own. You can even book a private class at home for a truly focused yoga session.
Gifting self-care is precious in a world where it is easy to forget to care for ourselves or appreciate the impact of the challenges we face daily. If you a husband wondering what to get my wife for our anniversary, consider an experience gift like a yoga class as you could be opening up a whole new world for her or book a session with a top yoga instructor if she is a more experienced yogi, which she will be sure to always appreciate. You can always add a physical gift as a daily, visual, reminder that she is loved.
How yoga helps
Anxiety creates feelings of tension and an increased sensitivity to pain. Asanas, or yoga postures, can relieve the physical discomfort through stretching and balancing muscles by releasing the stiffness in the muscles. The yoga poses are usually taught in sequences that help to ease not just the physical but also the anxiety issues. Meditation, visualisation, and focused breathing releases fear and worry through relaxation to create a sense of calm. One of the less frequently talked about positives about practising yoga is that taking a class with others offers a sense of community that is often missing for those who are lonely and isolated by their anxiety. Some yoga classes are specifically geared toward certain issues, such as anxiety or depression.
The study used two-hour Kundalini yoga sessions once a week. The participants were shown the physical postures, breathing techniques, relaxation exercises, yoga theory, and meditation/mindfulness practice that they were asked to continue at home for 20 minutes daily. The NYU study found that yoga offers significant value and several health benefits to those with anxiety, some of which are not related to anxiety at all. The more options there are to treat anxiety, the better for the millions of people who suffer so that better treatment recommendations can be personalised.