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Yoga Techniques for Anxiety Attacks

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Updated April 29, 2012

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What makes you anxious? Public speaking? Enclosed spaces? Heights? Airplane travel (otherwise known as moving way too fast in an enclosed space that is way too high)?

Yes, it's the last one that puts me over the edge. While many anxiety disorders require prescription medications and therapy, it's also useful to have some coping techniques in your arsenal. When I felt myself headed toward full meltdown on a plane recently, I dipped into the yoga bag of tricks.

Breathing

Focusing on the breath works on both a mental and physical level. Taking full, deep inhales and exhales, while concentrating exclusively on this task can help relieve the mind of the crush of thoughts that feeds anxiety. When we move into panic mode, the breath usually becomes rapid and shallow and the heart races. Making a conscious effort to regulate the breath can have a calming effect, counteracting the onset of anxiety.

What to Do:

Breathe in and out through the nose, filling the lungs completely on each inhale and emptying them on each exhale. Focus on the coolness of your breath on your upper lip on the inhales and the warmth on the exhales.

Mantra

Repeating a word or phrase with each inhale can also help take your mind off your anxiety. People often feel intimidated by the mantra technique because they think they need to use Sanskrit words or a mantra that is somehow "official." While this is an option if you know one, a mantra can be any word or phrase that pops into your head at the moment.

What to Do:

If you're using the above breathing technique, "cool air" is a nice mantra. It just describes the present moment in a soothing, neutral way. "Just one more" is another mantra I've used to get me through some difficult moments.

Stretches

Anxiety causes you to lock down and clench, holding tension in the body. Working in reverse, if you can take away the physical response that anxiety provokes, you can also relieve the anxiety itself. If you are in a situation where you can move around, a few basic stretches will loosen your body and stop you from tensing up.

What to Do:

This series of yoga stretches that you can do at your desk addresses the major areas of the body that hold tension, such as your neck and shoulders. If you feel anxiety creeping up, you can do a few of these stretches almost anywhere.

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