Can Yoga Help Against Anxiety?

This article is gonna be a little bit emotional for me as I’ve suffered from a severe panic attack disorder myself. After reading a blog post a few weeks ago from someone that I’m following, I realized that I didn’t tell at all why I started with yoga. To answer shortly, It was because I was suffering from panic attacks. In such a way that it was controlling my life and making me feel miserable. It wasn’t the nicest period in my life, but I have to say that I’m also grateful that I went through it as it brought me to where I am today.

What is an anxiety/panic attack disorder?

It’s a fine line between the two of them as they both go hand in hand. When I was studying to become a social worker, the panic attacks were a symptom of the anxiety disorder. But when I was doing some research I noticed that the two of them are now categorized into two different disorders. Although anxiety and panic attacks still go a bit hand in hand.

So what is an anxiety disorder? Well, to sum up, the information in the DSM V (the diagnostic instrument for psychiatric disorders) it’s basically when you are worrying too much and when it’s affecting your life. You’ll get some physical symptoms like fatigue or restlessness, etc. While a panic attack disorder is defined by, of course, panic attacks that arise during a period of a lot of anxiety in your life. So I’m mostly gonna tell my story according to my panic attack disorder as that was what I experienced myself.

The symptoms of a panic attack are quite general and everyone has quite some similar effects. Like: pounding heart, chest pain/discomfort, fear of dying, sweating (even when it’s freezing outside), fear of losing control/going crazy, … And there are many more. If you want to know more or you feel like just talking to me, please leave a comment in the section below or send me an email on virendra@theyogilifeforme.com.

My experience

When I was going to college, my world completely changed. Everything was so intense and I was horrified of everything changing around me. Somewhat before my first exams I suddenly felt that I couldn’t breathe anymore, my heart was starting to pound and I didn’t know what to do about it. My first panic attack happened when I was at home. Which makes it even weirder as I was in a safe and calm environment.

Well, to be honest, I think I had some panic attacks before, but I can’t remember them anymore as they were probably very mild at that time and also in situations where it was alright to experience a bit of anxiety.

That being said, the first panic attack I had was actually when I was just lying in my bed studying a bit and from there on it only went downhill. From one moment to another I couldn’t go to class anymore, taking public transport was just alright but for the whole ride, I would just sweat and feel a bit claustrophobic, having all kinds of doom scenarios on my mind. I was already worn out even before my day started.

Also, my social life was suffering a lot because of it as I wasn’t going to the college parties, I wasn’t going into the bars after classes ended, etc.

How I overcame my disorder

In the beginning, it was difficult, I didn’t want to talk to anyone about it as I felt that I was just exaggerating or even making things up maybe. I did talk to a couple of persons, but I could see that they didn’t get it. So for me, it was a struggle, that I had to bear alone. My first advice to anyone experiencing the same is to tell others, tell everything that you feel and don’t be ashamed about it. I didn’t and I’m sad about it, as it might have sped up my recovery.

The first thing that I did was that I went to my doctor. He understood, but the medical world only has one solution: pills. I was at the point where I felt like I wanted to just take the quick-fix solution and get it over with. I wanted a normal life. So I took one pill. And that pill gave me the hardest panic attack that I had ever felt. Immediately I stopped it and decided that I wanted to treat myself a more natural way.

But how to treat anxiety/panic attacks?

Well, first I went to a psychologist. We had weekly sessions about it and it helped me a lot. I was very lucky at that time as there was an in-house psychologist at my college, whom I didn’t have to pay. Which was double the luck as I also didn’t have to tell anyone that I was seeing a psychologist as I didn’t have to present a bill to my parents.

After a while I felt that I had to do something different, the psychologist did do me a lot of good, but I also felt that I wasn’t making the speediest recovery that I was hoping for. At that time I was around 20 years old and I just wanted my life back, I wanted to enjoy and I wanted to live worry-free, or at least with less worrying. So I started looking into some other things to calm me down.

I was already meditating a lot and I felt some good things coming from it, but I missed doing something with my body. And having such strong physical reactions I had to do something with my body (plus I also gained a lot of weight as I was mostly sitting at home doing nothing). Which is why I first started with Tai Chi. It was a very good start to use my body and not only relax my mind but also the physical symptoms of panic attacks.

I felt that it was not only replenishing for my mind, but for the first time, I was also feeling that my body was finding some peace as well. It has been under a lot of stress as well as it was overactive for a very extended time.

After a while I realized that I had to take it to the next level as well, now my body was calm and relaxed, but there wasn’t a lot of challenge for my body doing the Tai Chi. That’s when I found my way into yoga, more specifically vinyasa yoga. And after a couple of months (of course, going through the whole process that I’ve described here) I didn’t have any panic attacks anymore. And I’m glad to say that I didn’t have a (massive) one anymore for years now.

Advise

So I’ve already summed up a lot of things here for you to do if you experience anxiety or if you experience panic attacks. I’m quickly gonna summarise everything here to get a clearer view of what you can/might do, including some links to helpful websites.

So first of all, talk to someone. Talking to someone is the first step of acknowledging that there is something going on and sharing with others can already be a huge relieve of the struggle that you are going through. If you don’t have anyone around you who you can confide in, these days there are already some online programs that you can use to have a chat with. Better Help is an example of that.

Do something with your body. Physical exercise is not only to get you out of your mind and do something that gives you energy. It also stimulates a lot of hormones in your body that makes you feel better. Not only that, but when you are experiencing any kind of down mood, it’s good to do something as your anxiety or your panic attacks are also keeping you on the sofa.

As I said I’ve found my refuge into yoga and that’s what helped me getting out of the whole vicious circle that was keeping the disorder intact. I’m not saying that everyone has to do yoga now, but it can also be a part of the physical routine that you might be getting. Here is a yoga session specifically targeted on people experiencing anxiety or panic attacks. If you might be interested, then also read my article on Yoga Download.

As I mentioned in the beginning I found inspiration in someone else’s article to come out with my story. Here’s the link if you’d like to read his article as he is talking more about what to do during a panic attack as well.

Conclusion

I’m not saying that this is the road that you have to walk to overcome your anxiety or panic attacks. I am a social worker but I can’t diagnose anyone with anything. Nor can I prescribe the way you have to go. I can merely share my story here and hope that people be aware that this ‘disorder’ and it’s effect are horrendously affecting that person’s life. I hope with this story to bring some more light to anxiety and panic attack disorders as I feel that it’s still something that people don’t often talk about.

That was it, for now, I hope you get something out of this article, please let me know below in the comment section if you have any more questions or if you’d like to share something.

10 Comments

  1. C

    Thank you for writing this article. I think that’s great that you found inspiration from someone else’s blog to write your own personal story. It takes a lot of courage to share your personal story that way and it helps a lot of people. I can relate a lot from having had Anxiety and panic issues. I don’t have it as much now but I used to have it a lot more. I’m glad you found some help in your yoga practice and also your picture of phone a friend is good advice to because someone being there for you can really help a lot.

  2. RoDarrick

    Since yoga has the power to maintain calmness and restore peace to one’s mind, then it is surely a good alternative to treating anxiety disorder. I’ve experienced anxiety disorder some times ago and luckily for me, I met with a therapist who is also a yoga instructor and she introduced it to me. Practising yoga was fun at first but when I realised that it is meant for something better, and greater, that was when I started to heal up from my disorder. Though it took quite a lot of time but it did worked for me too. 

    1. Virendra

      Hi RoDarrick,

      Thank you for sharing a bit of your story! I’m glad that you’ve overcome your panic attacks as well. If you feel like sharing, I’d love to hear how yoga helped you heal from your disorder!

  3. Henderson

    Hello, I can totally relate to your story. My panic attack started with exams too in school and it began graduating and I started having panic attacks over little things and anxiety joined in. I had some therapy that helped me over come them. I believe yoga can because it is a spiritual thing for those that perform spiritual yoga. At the and of the day, speaking with someone when one has a problem is a great first step to dealing with it.

  4. Dane

    This is an aspect of someones life we all have to pay good attention to. I can’t quite relate to this post very well because I haven’t experienced it but from your description, I quite understand what panic attacks is now. Although you said your method may nit work for someone else, I’d still suggest seeing a psychologist is one good way to gi about it. I’ll stick around to see other opinion on this. Thanks for this educating post though. 

    1. Virendra

      Hi Dane, 

      Thank you for your comment. I absolutely believe that seeing someone, like a psychologist is an absolute must, especially if the attacks are quite grave. If I hadn’t done that first step, I probably would’ve never gone to the part of yoga. 

  5. MissusB

    You are so brave in facing the challenging situations in your life.  This is really inspiring because you were able to help yourself to find an effective solution for your panic attack disorder. Before, i was misinformed about panic attacks. I thought some people were just doing it for the sake of drama – like they would brand a simple nervousness or a slight fear into panic disorder. Everything changed when I experience it myself. I lost my son in the mall when he was 5 and ai lost all my senses, my reasoning, everything. I can’t breathe or talk, then I would scream and cry. When he was found, I felt that it was still hard for me to pacify myself. I can’t control it. So everytime we go to the mall with my kids, I feel short and sudden attacks of panic if I don’t see them. I am always afraid even though at the back of my mind they are safe.

     Good thing that you have found yoga to get you over the massive attacks. I also agree that talking to someone would help a lot to bring out some baggages one at a time. We are lucky that there are help centers like Better Help where we could also reach out.  

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