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So you’re not into dripping and holding poses in a hot room? That’s all right. But don’t abandon yoga just yet. Did you guys know there’s a form of yoga where all you have to do is relax on a mat, rug, or even your bed? Are you interested right now? Keep reading.

It is said that this form of yoga is that a 45-minute session will leave you feeling as though you’ve taken a three-hour nap. Read on to learn how yoga Nidra could be the response if you’re looking for an easy, pose-free way to calm down and rebound from life’s stresses.

Yoga Nidra – Leading You To A Stress-free Life

Since yoga operates pragmatically based on our whole being, not just the physical body, it provides such a wide variety of healing benefits. Yoga Nidra, also known as yogic sleep, is a highly effective meditation technique that is also one of the most simple to learn and sustain. 

Yoga allows the body and mind to relax deeply. It not only refreshes the mind but also energizes the body. 

Yoga Nidra, or yogic sleep, is a good way to end your everyday yoga practice. It is a simple relaxation technique that should be used at the end of every yoga pose series. 

It helps the body to calm while yoga poses keep it warm. Yoga Nidra requires you to focus your attention on various parts of the body and relieve them.

Yoga Nidra is a type of meditation that can be practiced by anyone. It has enormous benefits for those who find it difficult to let go, as well as those who suffer from insomnia, depression, burnout, and anxiety. It’s also very helpful and has a lot of calming power for everyone who needs to feel more at ease and reconnect with themselves on a deeper level. Yoga Nidra practice brings one into a peaceful, restful state of being. 

We can heal, recover and relax from this place. This sublime practice is gaining prominence around the world as more people become aware of its healing properties, and ongoing research continues to demonstrate its efficacy.

How Is Yoga Nidra Different From Yoga Meditation?

Slowing down and relaxing are key components of yoga Nidra. Meditation has the same impact. Although some people conflate the two, they are both two distinct behaviors.

Yoga Nidra is similar to meditation, but it is not the same. There are some similarities, but there are also some significant variations. 

In Yoga Nidra, you lie down intending to move into a deep state of conscious concentration sleep, which is a more relaxed state of awareness. It is something between meditation and sleep. This condition entails transitioning from waking consciousness to dreaming, then to not-dreaming while still awake. This practice is directed in the same way as some meditation practices are, but it is much more organized.

It is a method of transferring consciousness from our outer environment to our unconscious mind in a methodical manner. 

It induces a deep state of sleep in which our senses, intellect, body, and mind all relax. We are liberated from the constraints of responsibilities and logic. When this occurs, brain activity slows down and the body begins to recover. You remain at a waking level of awareness while focusing on the brain and allowing thoughts to come and go during meditation. 

How Did The Concept Of Yoga Nidra Come Into Existence? 

Yoga Nidra is a centuries-old Indian meditative tradition. Its origins can be traced back to Sankhya philosophy, which was first written down around 700 BC but has been taught orally since 1000 BC. 

Through the non-dualist theory of Advaita Vedanta and the Tantric theories of Kashmir Shaivism, these early teachings were practiced and built upon over millennia.

As previously said, the philosophy that underpins Yoga Nidra is Sankhya philosophy, a dualist philosophy that teaches that the spectator (Purusha) and the being observed (Prakriti), such as feelings, objects, emotions, and other beings, are separate. 

The path to happiness, according to Sankhya, was to become conscious of this dualism.

Centuries later, Advaita Vedanta philosophy and Kashmir Shaivism Tantric teachings established this to suggest that the “things” we encounter are not distinct, but rather a projection of our experience, and that we are bound to them.

Non-dualist ideologies allow us to feel this connectedness by examining artifacts in our consciousness.

Yoga Nidra Practice Today

Yoga Nidra is a form of mindfulness practice in which the practitioner’s body is totally relaxed while the instructor guides them verbally. A 30-45 minute session is normal, sometimes also done after a Yoga session. The student is usually taught while lying down and being guided by an instructor. The student will be led through many stages by the instructor.

It all begins with cultivating focus, asking oneself what we want out of life, and setting practice goals. Meditations on the body and breath assist in the development of an inner resource that promotes a sense of well-being.

The instructor then guides the student to concentrate their mind on their breath, body sensations, feelings, and perceptions, all while seeing and accepting what arises without being engrossed in the thoughts and sensations.

It’s a deceptively straightforward procedure. Yoga Nidra is attracting people who are overwhelmed by yoga postures or conventional seated meditation.

In less than 10 minutes, a simplified version of Yoga Nidra can be taught and practiced. 

Yoga Nidra can also be used as a simple method of meditation for those looking for a way to relax daily.

The Five Koshas And Yoga Nidra

Yoga Nidra, or yogic sleep, is a relaxing activity centered on the five main bodies, or koshas, as described in the yoga doctrines. 

The physical, energetic, mental/emotional, higher intellect, and bliss bodies are among the layers, which are also known as sheaths. Each layer emerges one at a time, as defined in yoga Nidra texts, and then adjusts into place, rendering the practitioner undisturbed during the meditation.

The koshas can be thought of in the same way as consecutive numbers: there is a lack of consistency if one of them is neglected or dissatisfied. make it a point to pay attention to each layer and experience so that when you wake up from yoga Nidra, you feel at one with yourself.

The word ‘Pancha means ‘five.’ Maya means curtain, covering, presence, creative force, mystical power, mystery, as well as to comprise or pervade. 

‘Kosha’ is extracted from the root ‘kus,’ which implies ‘to enfold.’ It means sheath, shield, subtle body, wealth, lexicon.

The kosha’s “maya” is felt as both surreal and as an expression of universal unity. 

The term “Maya kosha” refers to the layers of enclosing sheaths that surround and protect our True Self.

Coming Back To The Point – What Are The Five Koshas?

1. First Layer – Physical Layer:

The physical layer, or annamaya kosha, is the first therefore easiest to recognize. The annamaya kosha, which literally means “food body,” contains all of your organs, joints, ligaments, and connective tissue. This kosha is something you can personally observe. You can see and feel it because it’s your body.

This layer is addressed in a yoga Nidra practice with a physical sensation similar to a physical exam. You could hear things like, “Relax your head, arms, legs, upper torso, back muscles,” and so on. The body is specifically addressed and observed. When approaching the next kosha, our mind and body are relaxed, we activate our subconscious thinking.

2. Second Layer – The Energetic Layer:

The pranamaya kosha, or “energy body,” is the second level. This layer is discernible, but it is far more subtle than the annamaya kosha. Our prana, or energy, passes through inner channels called Nadis and travels on the breath, according to yogic theory. 

While prana is often referred to as “breath,” it is not the same thing. It functions in conjunction with the breath, but it is more subtle. You may be requested to simply follow your inhalation and exhalation, or you may be asked to perform a practice such as Nadi shodhana (alternate-nostril breathing) without ever using your fingers. 

“Breathe into your right nostril,” for example. Take a breather. Exhale slowly and deeply through your left nostril. The goal is for some of the energy constraints in your body to release as you concentrate on your breath. Then, just like the physical layer, this layer vanishes. Let’s explore the next one.

3. Third Layer – The Emotional Layer:

The next two stages of relaxation, pratyahara, and Dharana, which are directly related to the mind, are included in this level. 

The manomaya kosha is one of the most intriguing layers since it is said that our feelings are stored here. When we are overcome by rage or terror, or when we are star-struck. The manomaya kosha reveals both voluntary and involuntary contact with ourselves and others in all circumstances.

We may try avoiding coping with this layer by forcing it down and ignoring it, but when our sentiments rise to the surface (and even beyond), we can reach a point in which we can no longer control our emotional and/or physical reactions. This is why yoga Nidra addresses this layer, allowing us to feel emotions without being controlled by them. In my Psychology degree, one of our Professors always told me that every emotion wants to be felt and for that reason I recommend it.

In Yoga Nidra, this is accomplished by a method known as consciousness rotation. This is basically a body scan in which you switch rapidly from one body part to the next while remaining conscious and detached. This helps to prepare the mind for the next step, which is to concentrate.

4. The Fourth Layer – Intelligence Layer:

The vijnanamaya kosha, also known as the “wisdom body,” is the smarter, more intuitive relative of the manomaya kosha. “Where did that come from?” you may wonder when something suddenly informative comes out of your mouth. Your vijnanamaya kosha is showing itself in this way. Your gut reaction is another example.

The boundary between subject and object starts to transcend at this stage, and duality begins to dissolve. A deeper understanding emerges as a result of the heavy focus.

It’s you who is watching yourself. Isn’t it a little strange? You can imagine yourself wandering through wetlands, witnessing large leaves with pale yellow flowers that become greater and greater until their yellow centers beam light across your entire body, from a heightened place of being where you and I are not different and not distinct. This describes the spiritual aspect of Yoga. And, like the others, this layer disappears completely.

5. The Fifth Layer – The Bliss Layer:

You eventually achieve samadhi as you begin to ascend the ladder towards realization. The anandamaya kosha, also known as the bliss body, is associated with this level. This inherent bliss exists at the heart of any being. It’s both total bliss and utterly indescribable. You are absolutely at one with everything at this point since you have fused with the source. The fusion of the Atman and the Brahman is this.

With just a sliver of distinction between you and what is sacred, this is the slightest tinge of the five koshas. In Yoga Nidra, the student must stay awake for this to happen. This is the real trick because when the brain is in the delta wave state, it is used to resting! It takes a lot of time and effort to train your consciousness in this way. However, as in any yoga practice, it takes time and commitment to see results. With each practice, this will get better.

‘Awareness cures,’ according to yoga. You might realize that you are so much more than your external (your aching head or sickness, for example), your energy (fatigue, for instance), or your emotions and opinions until you realize that you are made up of several layers and that you visit these levels many times per day (regrets and fears for the future, for example).

You can recognize that you have the opportunity to witness all of who you really are, as well as the world surrounding you, with respect. You may come into contact with your everlasting bliss and completeness.

How Does Yoga Nidra Benefit You?

This exercise entails a gradual shift in your consciousness as you scan various parts of your body. You will most definitely feel and foster a sense of physical, psychological, and cognitive relaxation when you do this. 

Yoga Nidra relaxes both the mind and the body at the same time, and it aids in clearing the nerve pathways to the brain.

In this section, we are going to elaborate on studies and articles we have found about its benefits. We wanted to make sure that Yoga Nidra is supportive in dealing with mental issues, but it is no substitute for therapy. 

Following Are Some Benefits Of Yoga Nidra:

  • The body is rejuvenated

The body enters a deep state of relaxation during Yoga Nidra. Regular practice allows the body to enter deeper regeneration and rejuvenation phases. The body functions become limited, the metabolism slows, and the hormonal function increases during this exercise. As a result, the body has the opportunity to start the healing process and remove the toxins from the system.

As a result, the body begins to conserve resources. This procedure relieves exhaustion and revitalizes the mind. You will feel refreshed and energized after the session.

  • Stress is lessened

Stress has become an unavoidable part of our lives. Some tension is good for you, and others aren’t. When unhealthy stress isn’t managed, it leads to physical and mental illnesses. Psychosomatic disorders could be the result of these conditions.

Stress puts us in a soothing activity zone, draining our energy and depriving the brain and organs of the resources they need. As a result, our capacity to think is greatly diminished in stressful circumstances, and we feel exhausted and lazy. As a result, we are unable to adequately interpret information and become confused about what is important and what is not. We gradually became aware of our subconscious as we practiced Nidra daily.

Yoga Nidra Has Some Scientific Benefits Too:

  • Improves ANS response:

The autonomic nervous system (ANS) controls many bodily functions, including metabolism, healing, and development. This device operates without the user’s consent. It is not possible to activate or disable it. The sympathetic nervous system and the parasympathetic nervous system are two subsystems of the autonomic nervous system.

Our muscles and heart receive energy and resources from the sympathetic nervous system (SNS). It becomes active as a result of physical or mental stress. This subsystem’s primary goal is to assist us in dealing with tension.

The brain and internal organs such as the liver, kidney, and intestines receive energy and resources from the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS). It’s turned on when there’s a sense of calm and quiet. This subsystem’s job is to provide the body with the resources it needs to heal, develop, and digest. 

However, in most people, the SNS remains active for much longer due to excessive stress and suppressed psychosomatic stress. And when we need to rest and recover, it remains involved. This obstructs the body’s ability to heal and repair itself, resulting in illness.

The parasympathetic nervous system is activated during Yoga Nidra practice. We teach our subconscious mind to let go of tension and remain calm and aware. As a result, Yoga Nidra aids in the rejuvenation of the body. You will boost the overall ANS control and reaction by practicing Yoga Nidra regularly.

Yoga Nidra Might Be Supportive in Curing PTSD

Check out this article from the Washington Post, which talks about the benefits soldiers had after from Yoga Nidra.

Oddly enough, the road to taking yoga Nidra to a broader audience led through the Walter Reed Army Medical Center, a military rehab facility located in Washington, D.C. at the time. Christine Goertz, an academic scientist at the Samueli Institute, a nonprofit research organization, teamed up with Robin Carnes, a yoga instructor who had taught yoga Nidra as part of a cardiac treatment program at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, in 2004.

Miller’s method was used as the foundation for a pilot study by her and Goertz to see if it could support soldiers struggling with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The findings of a small survey performed with active-duty service members indicated that yoga Nidra may be beneficial in the treatment of PTSD in veterans.

According to Mona Bingham, a retired colonel who is studying yoga nidra at Brooke Army Medical Center, tools like yoga nidra can be vital resources for soldiers adapting to life after battle. She claims that “a lot of soldiers are returning [from combat] with physical, psychological, and moral wounds. “It’s not something that can be treated with medication.” She’s researching the impact of iRest on military spouses dealing with the tension that sometimes follows a deployment’s end.

A randomized, controlled trial with 150 participants was conducted at the Veterans Affairs (VA) facility in Miami from 2009 to 2010 as a follow-up. Another research will start this winter at Chicago’s Captain James A. Lovell Federal Health Care Center. The army is now providing Miller’s iRest yoga nidra practice to wounded veterans at Walter Reed, Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio, Texas; Camp Lejeune, a massive Marine Corps base in North Carolina; and VA facilities in Miami, Chicago, and Washington, DC, based on the findings of the pilot report.

Soldiers also confirmed that some of their most alarming PTSD symptoms, such as hyperalertness, distress, and sleep disruptions, have improved as a result of these continuing lessons. Think about what it could do to you because you haven’t seen war.

Yoga Nidra Can Aid in Emotional Healing And Addiction

As you start to relax in Miller’s yoga Nidra class, you’ll be asked to conjure up your own unique Inner Resource, a perception of and feeling about a peaceful and secure environment. You should return to your Inner Resource to take a break if extreme feelings arise during yoga Nidra or at any other time. You could describe it as an inner safe place.

Charles, one of the men at Henry Ohlhoff North, is a frequent user of the technique. He was a former head chef who retired due to chronic back pain caused by a back injury. He became addicted to drugs and painkillers, and after three drug convictions, he decided to go to rehab rather than prison. Yoga Nidra has helped him reconnect with a part of himself that was previously untouched by addiction and chronic pain.

A friend delighted Charles with a birthday celebration that included alcohol when he was given his first weekend pass two months into his six-month recovery stay. Charles became agitated. He says, “I went out to my vehicle, put my head back on the headboard, and drove into [the practice].” “My breathing slowed down, and I was able to concentrate better.”

Leslie Temme, a researcher in Western Carolina University’s social work department, showed that respondents who practiced yoga Nidra had less depressive moods and a lower risk of relapsing into drug addiction in a study of 93 people at a chemical dependency recovery center. Yoga Nidra seems to help recovering addicts feel more at ease in their own bodies, deal better with stressful feelings, and make better decisions due to its focus on self-awareness.

Yoga Nidra May Lead To Positive Mental Health

Ferreira-Vorkapic and coworkers enlisted healthy adults and randomly assigned them to either practice Yoga Nidra meditation once a week for 45 minutes for 3 months or to a wait-list control group. Anxiety, depressive symptoms, fear, and psychological distress were all measured pre and post-training.

They discovered that participants who practiced either Yoga Nidra or meditation had substantial drops in anxiety, depressive symptoms, fear, and perceived stress when compared to baseline and the wait-list control group. On any of the psychological health measures, there were no substantial differences between the contemplative techniques.

To read the full study check out this research paper 

Yoga Nidra Could Help With PMS (Premenstrual syndrome) And PMS Depression

Women’s issues are generally overlooked in our society, particularly gynecological issues such as menstrual disorders such as excessive or scanty flow. Menstruation dysfunction is a common issue among women in their reproductive years. Amenorrhea (9%) and menstrual imperfection (33%) are common among incarcerated women; psychological factors, stress, and impoverishment have all been linked to menstrual irregularities.

The data indicated that learning and using a Yogic intervention program for patients with monthly irregularities who had psychological difficulties reduced their wellbeing, fear, and anxiety significantly.

Yoga Nidra For Adolescents

In the twenty-first century, adolescent well-being is a top priority for healthcare initiatives. A quantitative study was conducted on adolescent students aged 13 to 15, with the goal of determining the impact of Yoga-Nidra on several aspects of well-being. 

Thirty-six pupils were given 30-minute Yoga-Nidra sessions three times a week for a month. 

Satisfaction, psychological distress, overall quality of life, and emotional general well-being were the primary end measures. Before and after the intervention, these and other experiential characteristics of well-being, such as enthusiasm, attentiveness, quietude, clarity of mind, control over anger, self-confidence, and self-awareness, were assessed.

Yoga Nidra Can Be Supportive In Diminishing Anxiety

The purpose of this study is to see how Yoga Nidra affects stress and anxiety in college students. The research was carried out at Dev Sanskriti Vishwavidyalaya’s Yoga clinic. The practice time was 30 minutes, and it lasted 6 months. 

The results revealed a considerable difference in the practice group, with Yoga Nidra significantly lowering the stress levels of both male and female participants. Several more studies show that Yoga Nidra has a considerable impact on both male and female subjects’ anxiety levels.

Yoga Nidra Could Increase Mental Health Of Professors And Teachers

In this article, sixty college professors, both men, and women, ranging in age from 30 to 55, were assigned to one of three experimental and control groups: Yoga Nidra, sitting meditation, or the comparison group. 

Professors were evaluated twice over the course of the three-month study. Both yoga Nidra therapies appear to be a successful therapeutic technique for lowering anxiety and stress levels, according to pre-post outcomes. 

However, there was a trend towards the Yoga Nidra intervention being more helpful for anxiety, suggesting that it could be a useful strategy for lowering both cognitive and physiological symptoms of worry.

Yoga Nidra Might Help To Control Sugar

Diabetes is a metabolic illness that has become a major public health issue around the world. The participants in this study were 41 type-2 diabetic patients in their forties who were taking oral hypoglycemics. 

These participants were divided into two groups: (a) oral hypoglycemic plus yoga-Nidra (20 patients) and (b) oral hypoglycemic alone (21 patients). Yoga-Nidra was practiced for 30 minutes every day for 90 days, with parameters being recorded on the 30th day. 

Subjects on a Yoga-Nidra with medication regimen had better control of their fluctuating blood glucose and diabetic symptoms than those on oral hypoglycemics alone, according to the findings of this study.

What Yoga Nidra Is Not?

  • It isn’t just a form of relaxation: The word “Yoga Nidra” has become widely used to refer to any type of stress relief. Yoga Nidra is not just a relaxation form, even though it offers deep relaxation. Yoga Nidra is an altered state of consciousness. It’s a dreamless, deep sleep that you’re aware of.
  • It’s not just visualization: Even though directed visualization is often used in the practice of Yoga Nidra, the aim is to transfer focus from the external to the internal environment. Guided visualizations primarily aid in the activation and perception of our senses, as well as the movement of awareness externally.
  • It’s not just proclamations or autosuggestions: Although affirmations and autosuggestions may be used in Yoga Nidra to positively influence the conscious mind, it’s far more than that.
  • It’s not just reverie: It is the fun state of being lost in dreamy thoughts. Yoga Nidra may have a similar impact at first, but it is intended to take the mind into a much deeper domain.
  • It’s not just a dreaming state: At first, it’s possible to have a lot of complex dreams when practicing. Yoga Nidra, on the other hand, isn’t a lucid dreaming state. The senses and the cognitive processes are still completely present when dreaming. The thought patterns of Yoga Nidra come to a halt, our senses relax, and the mind remains clear and calm.

How To Practice Yoga Nidra What Are The Steps?

You cannot practice yoga Nidra by reading the steps, maybe you can but it won’t be as effective as conventional yoga Nidra guided practice. Follow a guided voice, use resources such as youtube if you cannot go to a yoga studio during these tough pandemic times. Checkout Yoga Nidra guided Meditation on YouTube

What To Remember Before Practicing Yoga Nidra:

Yoga Nidra is about ‘conscious relaxation,’ not ‘conscious effort.’

You don’t have to ‘concentrate’ or ‘focus’ on a leg or even touch your nose. You also don’t have to constantly move these body pieces. All you have to do now is focus your mind on them while breathing deeply. The key to Yoga Nidra is to relax with mindfulness, stay effortless, and relax the body and brain consciously.

During Yoga Nidra, it’s normal to be distracted by random thoughts. Do not attempt to restrain them. If you fall asleep on your own, don’t feel bad about it when you wake up. As a result, Yoga Nidra is a relaxing and enjoyable way to finish your yoga practice. Allow yourself to let go, relax, and enjoy the ride.

Conclusion

Many of us find it difficult to slow it down, rest, log off, and rest in an ever-expanding thrilling environment of endless knowledge and events at our fingertips. 

The changing of awareness via your body is the distinction between Yoga Nidra and Meditation. It is usually not done in meditation, especially in guided meditation.

Yoga Nidra combines the benefits of relaxing profoundly while still engaging in contemplative inquiry. The act of lying on the floor for meditation purposes feels nurturing and refreshing. It can even sound like you’re cheating on the power of asanas.! Don’t underestimate the strength of letting go.

A new way of emerging from the emphasis on welcoming and listening. We experience a profound sense of authenticity; we learn to fully trust ourselves, and as we grow to be good friends to ourselves, we improve our ability to listen to others. 

We eventually begin to ‘fall in love with ourselves again,’ as Derek Walcott puts it in his poem ‘Love After Love.’ This is a soothing, kind, and beautiful exercise.

Dr. Rai and Sumeet

Modern lifestyles have been so much fun with fast cultures and quick results. We live more actively on online platforms and feel lonely when alone. We stress out on every small thing, unlike the older generations who could fix things with a cool head. Stress and physical health concerns have been a part of our lives, and they aren’t sugar and spice. Yoga has been an answer for more than centuries for physical flexibility, emotional well-being, and stress-related issues in India. Around 90 percent of doctor visits could be linked to stress-related problems, according to this article. Therefore it is time to find out whether Yoga for stress helps, keep reading.

Interestingly, a small percentage of doctors also recommend Yoga as a practice that could help bring positive lifestyle changes. Let us explore how and why Yoga can be helpful when dealing with stress. If you are interested in having the opinion of a clinical psychologist, keep reading.  

Stress and its Symptoms

Most of us usually prefer not to disclose or even agree that we are feeling stressed. Stress is a silent killer, and it works in ways hard to understand. Though the level of stress might vary from mild to chronic, no one is an exception to it, right from kids to older folks. Psychological stress is a significant factor in depression and neurological issues, e.g., nerve disorders. It is quite difficult to list down the symptoms of stress as they vary from person to person. The kind of stress a kid experiences while performing on a stage is much different from the stress one undergoes after a traumatic life incident or after losing a loved one. 

Some common physical, emotional, and behavioral symptoms are listed below. 

Physical Symptoms

  • Clenching your fists or jaws
  • Tightness in the shoulders
  • Difficulty to sleep
  • Tiredness or exhaustion
  • Frequent digestive problems
  • Trouble having sex
  • Body aches or cramping
  • Feeling a racing heart
  • Weight management issues 

Emotional Symptoms

  • Feeling lonely and sad
  • Easily irritated
  • Irritation towards almost everything
  • Panic attacks
  • Feeling drained 
  • Lack of focus or difficulty to concentrate

Behavioral Symptoms

When in chronic stress, we tend to overdo our natural or routine activities. Binge eating, excessive smoking or drinking, addiction to drugs, an obsession with sexual activities, compulsive shopping, etc., are a few behavioral symptoms in individuals with substantial stress impacts. Keeping an eye on these patterns is necessary as they could be the behavioral symptoms commonly ignored or go unnoticed.

Yoga to Rescue

We can simply define stress as physical and mental reactions to the situations we undergo. We cannot avoid a physiological event but can manage it to reduce the consequences and troubles it brings along. A normal physiological reaction could turn into a stressful event, commonly referred to as the fight-or-flight response, when Cortisol (the stress hormone) levels fluctuate. Chronic stress leads to accelerated biological aging, oxidative stress (plays a role in the aging process and occurs naturally in the body), and chronic low-grade inflammation. Oxidative stress creates an imbalance between the antioxidants and free radicals (oxygen-containing molecules that could easily react with other molecules and create a large chain of chemical reactions) in your body, resulting in DNA damage.  “Oxidative Medicine and Cellular Longevity” published a study on individuals who have practiced 90 minutes of Yoga for 12 weeks (5 days a week) as a combination of asanas, Pranayama, and meditation and have displayed slower cellular aging, lower levels of inflammation, and reduced effects of depression and stress on the body. 

Yoga is a centuries-old, ancient art of developing yourself. It is different from other forms of exercise because it involves ethical behavior towards yourself and others. Yoga trains the nervous system to cope with stress while bringing in a balance at the physical and emotional levels. Yoga teachers and practitioners can cope better with stress and are happy and more content than most. When it comes to managing stress, most of the Yoga styles are beneficial. Still, I would personally recommend going for Hatha Yoga or Restorative Yin Yoga.
The asanas add a pinch of meditation and practice Pranayama (breathing in rhythmic patterns) for greater well-being. In Yogic and Ayurvedic approaches, both the mind and the body are very much connected. The body chemistry varies according to your moods. Likewise, your life quality depends on the thoughts you carry, experience, or hold.

Benefits of Yoga

  1. Yoga can help you reduce the Cortisol levels in your body, which indirectly helps you manage and reduce your stress.
  2. Bringing in a balance in your body and mind through Postures (better known as asanas), Systematic breathing (Pranayama), and meditation might help you fight against sleep disorders.
  3. Studies have shown that Yoga could be supportive in decreasing your stress as well as anxiety.
  4. Yoga activates the parasympathetic nervous system (counter stress response) in the spine and can result in you having a healthier back and puts your aches and pains in control. Did you know that around 16 million Americans experience chronic back pain, resulting in day-to-day restrictions, really stressful.
  5. This article shows that Yoga increases self-compassion and positivity.
  6. Yoga might be used as a complementary therapy if you are trying to quit smoking. A study on 55 women undergoing 8-week group-based cognitive behavioral therapy for smoking cessation was also put through a twice-a-week Vinyasa Yoga and found positive results.
  7. It increases body flexibility and lowers the heart rate.
  8. Yoga is beneficial for respiratory functions and helps you to keep problems like Asthma in check.

Setbacks of Yoga

Yoga needs to be practiced consistently to achieve the desired results. It could be challenging to learn Yoga from books as you might be holding the postures incorrectly, and it is essential to learn from a teacher, which could be pricey. Learning the Poses from Video tutorials online is comparatively better. Still, I would recommend using these online tutorials for a revision than learning them as a beginner.

Simple Yoga Asanas for Stress

Suppose you are someone with uncontrolled blood pressure, severe osteoporosis, risk of clots, pregnancy, etc. In that case, you might have to refrain from holding specific postures. This list of some simple and basic asanas that help you manage stress is listed here in this section. Still, we strongly recommend you consult your doctor about your state of health before experimenting with new forms of exercise.

  1. Sukhasana or Easy Pose – A pose where you sit cross-legged with your back straight helps you improve your body posture and relax the mind. 
  1. Marjaryasana or Cat Pose – Kneel on your fours and place your hands and knees under your shoulders and hips, respectively. Arch your back up, let the head fall between your shoulders, and hold. Try to touch the upper chest with your chin, but do not force it if you are a beginner. This stretch helps you to strengthen your back and release the tension in your upper back and neck.
  1. Bitilasana or Cow Pose – Kneel on your fours and place your hands and knees under your shoulders and hips. Roll your tummy down, trying to create a dip in the back, and lookup. This stretch helps to create an emotional balance, strengthens the spine, and reduces stress.
  1. Balasana or Child’s Pose – Kneel and sit on your heels. Bend forward to touch the ground with your forehead and rest the chest on the thighs. It is a counter asana and helps stretch the spine, thighs, hips, and ankles. It relaxes the brain and relieves stress and fatigue.
  1. Bhujangasana or Cobra Pose – Lie down on your belly and bend back to create a stretch in your spine. This asana helps tone your spinal nerves and improves kidney and liver functions.
  1. Uttanasana or Standing Forward Bend – The standing forward bend pose to reach the ground has many variations to it. As a beginner, you can simply try to bend your back without bending your knees and try to reach the ground. It helps relieve stress in the spine, neck, and back and reduces anxiety, depression, and fatigue. It activates abdominal muscles and helps feel the stretch throughout the body.
  1. Tadasana or Mountain Pose – It is the basic standing asana. You start with your feet together and slowly lift the thighs, waist, and crown with an elongated spine. It helps improve posture and gain a better balance.
  1. Shavasana or Corpse Pose – Lay flat on your back, with palms facing upwards, and close your eyes to consciously thank all your body parts. Try to release the tension by focusing on every part of your body and make it a point to practice the Corpse pose after every Yoga session or before sleeping. It is incredibly relaxing. Do check out the wonders of Corpse Pose in detail?

In addition to these Yoga asanas, try incorporating systematic breathing techniques like Pranayama and meditation as a daily routine to help soothe your mind and body. Remember that Yoga can be used as an exercise to reduce stress in the long run but is not a treatment. Always talk to your doctor or a psychologist for help. 

Sri Lakshmi and Dr. Rai

I had panic attacks and surprisingly didn’t even realize it was due to anxiety. Even as psychologists, we are not immune to it. They were occasional and not consistent, but the fight or flight response prevented me from thinking clearly, and the deep feelings were panicky. Rationalizing my way out of anxiety might not be of real help. Yoga for anxiety is what you need to explore if you are sailing in the same boat. A study conducted on women shows that Yoga could be used as a complementary treatment method in reducing and managing stress, anxiety, and depression. Read through the sections below to understand how Yoga and Meditation practices might help your body and mind.

Anxiety, Stress, Or Depression?

Let us first try to understand these commonly used terms – Anxiety, Stress, and Depression, before we jump in to understand how Yoga helps. I feel these terms are commonly used interchangeably as all three are similar in nature. But mind you, they are all different, and we might be looking at the wrong answers if we are unable to define where we are standing correctly.

Stress, in simple terms, is a physiological response to a situation. Stress is not all bad. A healthy amount of fear is always necessary for growth. The real trouble arises when you experience stress more consistently or for longer durations that might impact your mental health or your productivity in a day. To understand more about stress and how Yoga could help, read our article on Yoga for Stress.

Anxiety is a state that you experience as a response when you feel more stressed. In simpler terms, anxiety is the next level to stress. Anxiety creates a sense of fear and worry due to a stressful event. It tends to keep recurring in situations even when the stressor is absent. Even the thought of such stressful events could sometimes push you to panic attacks.

Depression, on the other hand, is like an anxiety disorder sharing similar symptoms but is mainly associated with low mood, a lost feeling, or feeling inactive and lonely. Just like stress and anxiety, depression also interferes with your daily activities and functioning of life.

Do You Have Anxiety? 

At a personal level, you can check for some common symptoms as listed here to identify if you are experiencing anxiety. But we would always recommend you consult your psychologist for a final word.

  • Excessive Worry
  • Feeling panicky, tense, or uneasy
  • Restlessness
  • Lack of concentration
  • Insomnia
  • Palpitations (the feeling of a racing heart) 
  • Excessive sweating
  • Obsessive or uncontrolled thoughts

Suppose you are experiencing all or any of these symptoms persistently. In that case, you could be experiencing an anxiety disorder which could even push you to depression. So, act now and talk to a therapist!

Yoga To Help! 

Yoga is a rare combination of body postures, Pranayama (special breathing techniques), meditation, and the centuries-old and wise yogic lifestyle. It helped not only me but also the founder of this page. It gave me some control over how much mental suffering I must endure, although it took me a while to reach this level, and I had to work myself up to it.

A 2017 research shows that even a single Hatha Yoga session could help you reduce the level of stress from an acute psychological stressor (a math task, trouble with your partner, increased demands, and so on) and slightly improve the level of self-confidence. Though more scientific studies are necessary, Hatha Yoga has shown promising results for those suffering from anxiety.

We have listed a couple of Yoga poses that you could try and practice to manage stress and anxiety in the long run. You might find some of these poses to be difficult, but make sure you keep trying patiently and stay focused on your breath throughout. Remember that learning to cope with stressful and challenging asanas will make you stronger and help you endure stress in the real world.

  1. Dhanurasana or Bow Pose – This is a back-bending pose that helps strengthen the spine and stretches the abdomen, thighs, ankles, thorax, and other muscles in the front of the body. It helps in improving the posture and stimulates the abdomen and neck. Do not push yourself too much on this pose if you have chronic back pain or any past back-related surgeries. Lie down on your belly and place your hands alongside your torso. Fold your knees towards your back and hold your ankles with your hands and try to find a balance. Lift your chest and hold your face straight, looking forward. Hold the curved position and focus on your breath. Exhale, release your ankles, and relax.
  1. Matsyasana or Fish Pose – A reclining back-bending pose that strengthens the upper back muscles and the back of the neck. Lie on your Matsyasana or Fish Pose: A reclining back-bending pose that strengthens the upper back muscles and the back of the neck. Lie on your back on the Yoga mat. Bend your knees with your feet firmly on the ground. Place your palms below your buttocks, facing downwards, and position your elbow and arms close to your torso. Lift your chest and arch your upper back. Try not to stress your head and avoid crunching your neck. You can either keep your knees bent or stretch out your legs straight and hold. Exhale and relax from the pose back on the Yoga mat. Bend your knees with your feet firmly on the ground. Place your palms below your buttocks, facing downwards, and position your elbow and arms close to your torso. Lift your chest and arch your upper back. Try not to stress your head and avoid crunching your neck. You can either keep your knees bent or stretch out your legs straight and hold. Exhale and relax from the pose.
  1. Sethubandhasana or Bridge Pose – It is a basic back bending exercise, which helps in stretching the thighs, chest, neck, spine, and hips. It soothes the brain and improves the functioning of the central nervous system. Lie in the supine position on the Yoga mat. Bend your knees and place your feet firmly on the ground at hip-width apart and close to your buttocks. Place your arms alongside your torso and parallel to the body. Inhale and slightly raise your torso and push your pelvis and lower back upward. Hold the pose and release to relax.
  1. Paschimottanasana or Two-Legged Forward Bend – This seated forward bending pose stretches your spine, hamstrings, shoulder, and vertebral column. It calms the brain and soothes headaches. It improves digestion and helps in lowering stress and depression. Sit straight with your legs stretched in line with your hip. Extend your arms straight above your head and inhale. Bend forward and exhale, trying to reach your feet. Focus on your breathing and the length of your spine. It is vital to hold this pose and not to bounce back immediately.
  1. Hastapadasana or Standing Forward Bend – This pose is also called the hand-to-foot pose. It helps in reducing belly fat, strengthens and stretches the spine, and improves digestion. Stand straight with arms alongside your body. Inhale and extend your arms up in the air. Exhale and bend forward to reach your feet. Try not to bend your knees while reaching your feet. Stretch your spine and place your palms on your feet or below the feet (if you are comfortable). Release the pose by inhaling while returning to the standing pose.
  1. Vrikshasana or Tree Pose – This pose primarily focuses on balance and improves your neuromuscular coordination. It helps strengthen your legs and improves alertness, concentration, and endurance. Stand straight with equal balance on both your feet. Slowly shift your weight to your right foot and lift your left foot off the ground. Bend your left knee and try to position your left foot on the inner side of your right thigh. Stay focused and retain your balance. Stretch your arms up above your head and try to join them for the perfect posture.
  1. Trikonasana or Triangle Pose – This standing pose helps in stretching and strengthening your thighs, ankles, hips, spine and helps relieve stress. It also stimulates abdominal organs. Stand straight and place your feet shoulder width apart. Stretch your arms horizontally side-ways. Slide your right arm on your right leg to reach the right ankle. The left hand will be in a straight line pointing to the ceiling above and opening the chest. Tilt your head to see the left-hand fingertips and hold for a minimum of 5 seconds. Alternate the sides.

Remember to finish your Yoga practice with Yoga Nidra, as it is believed to flush out toxins from your body resulting in lower stress levels. A Washington Post article on a returned soldier with PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) showed that Yoga Nidra helped him relax and cope. He attended a specialized care program in which 120 other service members participated, of which 90% had PTSD. After adding Yoga Nidra to the program, the results were positive. However, more scientific research is yet to be done on it.

Breathe Consciously – Pranayama

Best results are often achieved through consistency and dedication. If not daily, try practicing Pranayama at least as frequently as possible. Some of the most influential and popular breathing techniques are discussed in this section.

  1. Kapal Bhati Pranayama or Skull Shining Breathing: This breathing technique increases the metabolic rate and helps reduce weight. It stimulates the internal organs, thereby assisting in digestion and blood circulation. Sit in a comfortable posture and relax. Close your eyes and inhale deeply using both your nostrils. Exhale in parts by expelling the air with forceful contractions of abdominal muscles. Repeat the process for a minute or more. 
  2. Bhramari Prayanama or Bee Breath: This breathing technique helps lower your blood pressure and aids in releasing cerebral tension. It promotes sound sleep patterns and relieves stress. Sit in a relaxed cross-legged position and close your eyes. Place your palms on your lap and inhale through both your nostrils. Make a buzzing bee sound while exhaling and try to retain the exhale for long. 
  3. Bhastrika Pranayama or Breath of Fire: This breathing technique oxygenates the blood and energizes the entire mind and body. It calms the mind and increases the vitality of the organs. Sit in a cross-legged position and fold your arms to your shoulders and make fists. Inhale and stretch your hands straight up and open your fists. Exert a slight pressure while exhaling and bring back your arms to shoulders and close your fists. Repeat cycles and relax to normal breathing.
  4. Nadi Shodhan Pranayama or Alternate Nostril Breathing: A simple yet channelized breathing technique helps you stay more focused and pumps more oxygen to the brain. You can sit comfortably, either in a chair or cross-legged on a Yoga mat. Take a few normal initial breaths to settle in. Now inhale through your left nostril by closing your right nostril with your right thumb. While opening your right nostril, close your left nostril with your right-hand ring finger and exhale through your right nostril. Repeat the cycles with alternate nostrils. 

In addition to Yoga Postures and Pranayama, try meditating for a minimum of 15 minutes every day. It will help you break your thought patterns and place you in a better position to make wiser decisions in life. Eat more fruits and vegetables and try to reduce meat consumption. You are what you eat, and if you are eating only dead animals, you might start to feel like one. Eating meat is fine, but we recommend you stop it, especially when you are going through depression or anxiety. Stay positive and believe that everything will fall in the right place. You have already been through so much; we are sure that you will be able to handle your current situation. If you are suffering from anxiety, remember times when you haven’t. Anxiety has come into your life, so it can go away also. Keep practicing!

Don’t try to treat your anxiety through Yoga. Find a suitable therapist and practice Yoga along.

SriLakshmi and Dr. Rai

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