With yoga against fear

08. August 2022

The number of anxiety disorders has increased enormously in recent decades. In Germany, almost 9 percent of men and almost 20 percent of women fall ill every year. But not all sufferers receive support, not least because of a lack of therapy places. Now, however, more and more studies are coming out with a treatment supplement that can easily be done from anywhere – yoga. Of course, yoga is far from replacing psychotherapy, but for all sufferers it’s worth thinking outside the box

Facets of an anxiety disorder

Nobody is free of fears. They accompany us through life every day: Whether crossing the street, leaving the house alone in the dark or preferring to put on a helmet when riding a bicycle – and that’s a good thing! It only becomes problematic when anxiety occurs in situations where it is not at all necessary and is unusually intense, which significantly reduces the quality of life. Typical symptoms of an anxiety disorder are:

  • Inner restlessness
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Irritability
  • Palpitations
  • Trembling
  • Sleep disorders

The following anxiety disorders are particularly common:

Specific phobia: Pronounced fear of specific objects or situations such as animals, heights, the sight of blood, or vomiting

Social anxiety disorder: Persistent fear of social or performance situations in which individuals may be scrutinized or judged by others

Panic disorder: repeated unexpected panic attacks (abrupt episodes of intense fear with a peak within a few minutes) with concern about the occurrence of further attacks or consequences

Agoraphobia: Fear of not being able to escape or get help in the following situations: Public transportation or places, enclosed spaces, crowds, or alone outside apartment

Generalized Anxiety Disorder: excessive anxiety regarding multiple events or activities with marked physical symptoms and difficulty controlling worry

Help with anxiety

The most effective treatment for anxiety disorders is still psychotherapy, especially cognitive behavioral therapy. The aim of this is to understand the thought processes that lead to anxiety. On the basis of this, new thought processes can be initiated and a confrontation with the feared situations can take place. In the course of time, patients can experience that their fear in the otherwise feared or avoided situations eventually subsides and find their way back to everyday life

Now, however, therapy places are very rare and there are often long waiting times, which makes it necessary for patients to take action on their own. There are also sufferers who are still hesitant to seek help or need an approach other than talk therapy to manage their anxiety. In addition, for many individuals, there may not yet be a need for therapy, but they want to seek preventative support. This is precisely where yoga can be a useful complement to therapy.

Chanting, Breathing, Stretching – The Yoga Practice

The following techniques can be used in yoga practice specifically for anxiety disorders:

Pranayama
Pranayama exercises intend to bring the body and mind together through breathing exercises. The focus is on a steady and prolonged inhalation and exhalation, which is intended to promote self-determination. In the case of stress and anxiety, it also lowers elevated cortisol levels and increases happy hormones such as dopamine, serotonin and endorphins

Asana
In states of anxiety, individuals are often tense or feel powerless. This is where asanas, resting body postures, come in in yoga. Intensive stretches relieve tension in the fascia and increase blood flow to the tissues. It is also well known that forward bends, backbends or hip openers can dissolve the shy and bad postures in anxiety patients. Sitting asanas are also great, as they provide a sense of security and grounding by being close to the floor. One should stay in a position for at least half a minute, even if it is unpleasant, so that one learns to endure unpleasant feelings, which in turn provides control over one’s own body

Dharana
Dharana is learning to direct one’s perception in a certain direction and to have the upper hand over fear in spite of it. The point here is not to prevent fear completely, but to direct the mind to something positive in those moments. Methods such as mantras, autosuggestion, dream journeys or affirmations are used here

Chanting
The fact that music and singing have a great influence on our psyche becomes clear when listening to our favorite songs. Chanting can also be done during yoga practice, popular are mantras like OM. Chanting is especially effective when toned before a pranayama exercise

Once the above techniques have been internalized and practiced, they can be applied in any everyday situations and even improve sleep. In addition, people with other medical conditions such as depression or obsessive-compulsive disorder can also benefit from yoga. There, too, those affected are permanently under stress due to the symptomatology and have not infrequently lost access to their body

An exercise for the quick help

Finally, here is the exercise of square breathing from yoga practice, which you can do in acute anxiety situations or preventively anytime and anywhere. The breath is brought into a rhythm by counting

Inhale-2-3-4, hold-2-3-4, exhale-2-3-4, hold-2-3-4

If this is too difficult, you can count to three instead. This exercise should be done for at least two minutes to have an effect.

References
  • Deutscher Ärzteverlag GmbH: https://www.aerzteblatt.de/nachrichten/115590/Yoga-lindert-Angststoerungen-in-Studie#:~:text=In%20core%20yoga%20is%20a,of%20generalized%20anxiety%C3%B6rungen%20become%20employed., Retrieved 03.08.2022.
  • Robert Koch Institute: https://www.rki.de/EN/Content/Health_Monitoring/Health_Reporting/GBEDownloadsT/Tabellen/angststoerungen_daten.pdf?__blob=publicationFile. Retrieved 08/05/2022.
  • Wagner, Karo; Kramer, Anna: Yoga for anxiety and panic attacks. Petersberg, 2019.

Categories: Therapy Uncategorized

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