Anxiety Symptoms and the Yoga Tools That Help Ease Them

Posted April 26, 2022

Anxiety Symptoms and the Yoga Tools That Help Ease Them

We spend our days running around, to-do lists a mile long, family issues, friendship obligations, work challenges, so much is demanded of us. How many of you have felt like those 3-5 minutes in savasana at the end of a yoga class are the only moments in your day where it feels like it is only YOU? Yeah, me too.

Some of us may be living with symptoms of anxiety and not even realize it. Our health can change in small, often hardly noticeable ways over time. Before we know it, this becomes our new normal – sometimes so quick we miss it! Following years of these small changes adding up and having greater effects on my life, I was finally diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Generalized Anxiety Disorder. What started my journey of uncovering and learning more about what was going on with me? I began getting curious about how I was feeling and wondering if I had space to live a more optimally healthy life.

Spoiler alert, I did…and you do, too!

After a decade in the wellness industry, practicing and teaching mindfulness, taking trainings from master teachers and classes with doctors, regularly attending therapy sessions, reading countless books, etc… I found the tools below to be the most helpful for me in combating my 3 scariest anxiety symptoms:

1. Dizziness/ off-balance/ blurry vision

2. Chest pains/ tightness/ shortness of breath

3. Shaking or trembling uncontrollably

Symptoms: dizziness / off-balance / blurry vision: When you are anxious, your breath changes and typically becomes short and quick. This can sometimes limit the amount of oxygen getting in and in turn the amount of carbon dioxide in the blood, hence leaving you feeling lightheaded.

Your yoga / mindfulness tool: Find a place to sit or lay down. If you can’t, that is ok, too. Start to focus your attention on your breath. Breathe in for 1…2…3…Hold for 1…2…3…Exhale for 1…2…3…4…5…6. Take your time, the hold is important.

Symptoms: chest pain / tightness: Our bodies are smart. When anxiety comes about, your brain will send a bunch of cortisol and adrenaline throughout your body. Sometimes this can cause your heart to race and blood pressure to rise, leaving you with feelings of chest pain and/or tightness.

Your yoga / mindfulness tool: Remind yourself that your body’s chemicals are causing this and rather than fixate on the tightness, redirect your focus to your breath. Using your ocean-sounding / straw/ ujjayi breath will help turn on your parasympathetic nervous system, resetting the body into a state of rest and digest, where your stress hormones will drop and tightness will subside. To start, take a deep inhale through the nose. Place your hand in front of your face and breathe out your mouth as if your hand were a mirror your were fogging. Do this 2-3 more times. Then, deep breathe in through the nose, STILL act like you will fog a mirror, but close your mouth and breathe out through your nose. It should sound like an ocean and feel almost as though you’re breathing through a straw. From here, see if you can lengthen your breath to 3-4 count inhales and exhales. Do this for at least 5 minutes.

Symptoms: shaking / trembling: Anxiety sends your body into fight or flight mode. Just as above, the overdose of adrenaline is intended to give your body energy to fight or flee the perceived danger. When there is no actual danger to fight (hopefully there’s not a bear or tiger or robber chasing after you!), your body does not know what to do with all of the excess stress hormones and adrenaline, so it starts to tremor or tremble to rid itself of them.

Your yoga / mindfulness tool: Shaking… yes, really! Shaking is the SINGLE most powerful tool in my toolbox next to breath-work.

Hear me out: think of an animal after it is attacked, falls or experiences some form of trauma. It gets up and shakes it off. We forget that we are animals, too. Shake your entire body – hands, feet, legs, arms, swinging side to side, bouncing up and down… do it all. Turn on a song, and do it for at least 5 minutes. You won’t believe the difference.

These are just a few of the many symptoms that can accompany living with an anxious brain/body. When I am in the throws of an anxious moment or simply living everyday life, these 3 symptoms can feel the most scary. They can cause the brain to spiral into a health panic, which only escalates symptoms. Try these tools on for size, and while doing so remember… your body isn’t your enemy, you are doing your best, and you are enough.

Be well.

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Chelsea Bragg is a 500 hour certified yoga teacher who has been teaching yoga classes and workshops in the Columbus, Ohio area for nearly a decade. Due to her own life experiences, she has developed a deep interest in and passion for understanding how the tools of yoga and mindfulness can be utilized in helping those who have general anxiety as well as those who experience post traumatic stress disorder. She has found tremendous benefits from her yoga practice in improving her state of mind and overall well-being and loves to help others find a greater sense of peace, worth and purpose.