Best Yoga for Anxiety
Have you ever thought of trying yoga for social anxiety?
The combination of a stress-relieving exercise with a social component (if you do it in a group setting) could make yoga a prime candidate for reducing social anxiety.
I know that whenever I exit a yoga class, I always have a feeling of calm and serenity that I didn’t have before the class.
But, does yoga actually work for social anxiety? Let’s take a look at what the research says and then I’ll share some poses that you could get started with.
Is Yoga Good for Social Anxiety?
I found two review studies of yoga for anxiety and results seemed to be positive but encouraging more research.
In a systematic review, it was shown that people with diagnosed anxiety disorders (using the DSM-5 criteria) did not benefit from yoga.
However, those with anxiety identified in other ways did show a benefit.
In another review of yoga for children and adolescents, there was evidence that it helped to reduce anxiety.
There hasn’t been any research specifically about yoga for social anxiety, but all anxiety has two things in common: tension in the body and run away thinking. These could both potentially be helped by yoga.
How Yoga Might Help Social Anxiety
How exactly might yoga help your social anxiety?
First, it can lead to physiological changes in your brain that reduce anxiety. In other words, the connections in your brain could actually change. Amazing!
Beyond that, your psychological habits might change as you learn how to be present in the moment (which kind of goes along with your brain pathways changing).
This means that the benefits last long after the yoga class is finished.
Yoga teaches you to be present in the moment.
To stop reacting and practicing being more mindful.
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And you learn how to breathe in a way that lowers your heart rate and blood pressure.
In fact, a single session of yoga could be helpful to deal with an acute anxiety reaction. So, the next time you find yourself in fight-or-flight mode, find a quiet spot and practice some of the poses I’ve outlined below.
Or, get into the habit of doing a few of these poses each day, or download an app such as the Yoga Studio App and complete one of their beginner programs.
Best Yoga Poses for Social Anxiety
I did some digging around and found yoga poses that have been recommended for anxiety in general.
I narrowed those down to the ones I am most familiar with (which means you probably are too).
Ah, the tree pose. I remember many a yoga class, standing on one foot swaying in the breeze.
I’m not the most coordinated person, but my balance is pretty good. The trick to standing on one foot is to find a spot across the room and fix your gaze on it.
Then magically, you’ll stop feeling like you are going to fall over.
To do the tree pose, put all your weight on one foot, and slide the other foot up the standing leg, placing the sole of the foot on your ankle, calf, or thigh (not your knee).
Put your hands in prayer or by your sides.
Hold for a few minutes and then switch sides.
I love the triangle pose for opening up your chest and getting a good stretch.
To do this pose, stand with your feet wider than your hips.
Point one foot forward and the other out at an angle.
Lift your arms and extend them out from your shoulders with palms facing down.
Then, lean forward and place one hand on your foot or the floor and extend your other hand up to the ceiling.
Hold for a minute and then switch sides.
Standing Forward Bend
The standing forward bend is a good pose to get rid of tension in your head and neck.
Simply stand with your feet hip-width apart.
Exhale and bend forward at the hips with a slight bend in your knees.
Drop your hands to the floor and place your chin on your chest or let your head hang.
Let go of any tension in your hips and lower back.
Hold for one minute before switching to the next pose.
I enjoy the chid’s pose as a way to relax while exercising. Plus, it’s really simple.
From a kneeling position, sink back into your heels and bend forward at the waist.
Put your hands out in front of you on the floor and let your torso sink into your thighs.
Place your forehead on the floor and relax.
Hold for a few minutes.
Seated Forward Bend
You can do the seated forward bend one leg at a time or with both legs out in front.
Sit with both legs out in front and a slight bend in the knee.
As you inhale, raise your arms overhead, and as you exhale, hinge at your hips and stretch your arms out in front and place them on your legs or the floor.
Stay in this pose for a few minutes. If you are doing one leg at a time, switch sides (the opposite leg will be bent with sole of the foot placed on the leg that is outstretched).
The legs up the wall pose is helpful for releasing tension in your back.
Start by sitting with your side up against the wall.
Then lie backward and swing your legs up the wall.
Relax your back, neck, and chest and let yourself sink into the floor.
Hold for up to 10 minutes.
Before Getting Started
As with any exercise, be sure to check with your doctor, especially if you have any issues with your back or neck.
If you are doing yoga for social anxiety, you might want to do it in a group setting for the added social benefit.
But if you are struggling emotionally, it might be helpful to start out by practicing at home while you release emotions and build up mental strength.
Doing yoga for a few weeks before you enter a group situation will help to relax you as well as make a group yoga class seem less threatening.
Yoga for Anxiety Videos
Are you looking for more instruction or yoga videos? Like I mentioned, the Yoga Studio App is one option.
Another option is to follow Youtuber Yoga with Adriene for free yoga content.
I also like the Fitness Blender yoga/stretching videos if you are looking for a low-key introduction to yoga.
Over to you. Do you use yoga for anxiety? Or will you start?
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