How does yoga help with anxiety?

Pic: Sideia, Milne Bay, Papua New Guinea. My 2 grandmothers were born here and my mother, so Milne Bay holds special significance for me! 🙂

Have you heard of the fight-or-flight system?

This is also called your sympathetic nervous system and is a critical part of the human body because it will be activated in emergencies. For example, if you see a car swerving out of control while you walk down the road, your brain will detect a potential threat and automatically take you to a safe place without thinking. This is your sympathetic nervous system kicking in and physically when you are in this  mode, your breath quickens, pupils dilate and you are more alert to move to safety swiftly.

Your parasympathetic system is the opposite to this system and is your calming system which helps to relax you.

Yoga helps with anxiety because of the one-breath one-movement approach to practice which means yogis bring awareness into their breath and movement. Taking focus towards a single point and increasing and lengthening the breath. This act of deepening the breath in a conscious and purposeful way activates the calming system, and takes the brain out of stress-mode into a relaxed state.

There is healthy anxiety or stress which is part of daily life, but it is when this anxiety or stress is constant that it leads to constantly activating your flight-or-fight system that can potentially lead to depression.

What is anxiety?

Anxiety can be described as having a stressor removed, but your body continues to physically react as if you are under threat even though you are physically safe.

Why is prolonged anxiety unhealthy?

Prolonged anxiety can lead to shortness in breath which means oxygen is not moving to the brain efficiently. This can lead to a lack of clarity, confusion and also dizziness. I write this from the standpoint of a yoga teacher’s standpoint after completing yoga teacher training…and also from the standpoint of someone who has lived anxiety. It can be crippling! Emotionally, mentally and physically. It is awful. However, with the right care and guidance from counsellors, doctors and therapists recovery is possible. Yoga is an incredible tool that combined with the right support from doctors and counsellors can heal.

How can box breathing help anxiety?

Box breathing activates the parasympathetic system or calming system.

How do I do box breathing?

Inhale for 3 counts
Pause for 3 counts
Exhale for 3 counts
Pause for 3 counts
Repeat 5 x bring attention to each inhalation and exhalation

Let me know how you go with box breathing! Love to hear about your progress! Always reach out to doctors, therapists, friends and family for support with depression and anxiety. rather than struggle in silence.

With love,
Roxy xo

Always reach out for support! Friends and family are there for you. Plus check out these organisations:


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