Unlocking Inner Peace: 14 Ways Yoga Eases Anxiety, Stress, and Depression

Last Updated on February 14, 2024 by Lifevif Team and JC Franco

Woman sitting on her mat finding refuge in yoga practice
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Due to the society that we live in, anxiety, stress, and depression are expected reactions to modern lifestyles. Most people suffer from these problems to different degrees. For some, these issues are more serious and prevalent than for others. Whether you suffer mild anxiety from time to time or have a bad case of anxiety, stress, and general depression on a daily basis, yoga can make a real (positive) difference. 

According to Harvard University, there are a growing number of studies that prove just how beneficial yoga is for relieving stress, depression, and anxiety, by effectively modulating the body’s stress response.

Want to find out more about how yoga relieves all of these potentially distressing afflictions? Below are just 14 ways in which yoga can help to reduce the level of anxiety, stress, and depression you feel in your life. If you are interested in joining a yoga class for your general wellbeing, read on.

14 ways yoga can help you with anxiety, stress, and depression:

1. Yoga eases physical discomforts and tensions.

Stress and anxiety are not just mental afflictions. They can present physical tension and discomfort too. Because of the nature of these aches, pains, and tensions, it can be hard to treat with medication. 

man beginner laughing having fun trying to do yoga pose
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Someone with anxiety or stress might feel tense, tightness of the muscles, strain, and even sensitive in certain areas. Asanas, which are yoga poses, are able to relieve the build-up of tension, relax stiffness, and ease discomfort, which in turn reduces the amount of stress and anxiety a person feels. If you are feeling stiff and pent up; yoga can help.

2. Yoga practice fosters a mindset of acceptance.

If you suffer from depression and anxiety, it probably stems from some other issue with yourself. There is no denying that yoga is based on principles that focus on acceptance and peace. In order to practice yoga, you must understand and practice these very principles. 

Yoga also helps practitioners foster a sense of self-acceptance. During yoga practice, you will be gently taught to accept where you are, who you are, as well as your body image, physical limits, and abilities. Once you accept who you are, you can start to work towards personal growth from a non-judgmental view of self. When we learn to stop judging ourselves and focus on our unique strengths, we can genuinely adopt a more positive mindset.

3. Yoga decreases Cortisol levels.

People, who suffer stress, anxiety, and especially depression, generally have high levels of cortisol coursing through their bodies. What is cortisol? Cortisol is a stress hormone that has a rather dramatic impact on just how much serotonin a person’s body has access to. 

Exercise International Group Relaxation Fitness Concept yoga

High levels of cortisol can lead to stress and depression, as well as anxious feelings. Doing yoga is proven to actually reduce cortisol levels, which in turn reduces the symptoms of stress, depression, and anxiety.

4. Yoga provides a good form of physical exercise (endorphins).

Anyone suffering from depression, stress, or anxiety could do with a healthy dose of endorphins. These are neurotransmitters that work in the brain to make you feel happy and relaxed. Unfortunately, just feeling anxious, stressed, or depressed is not enough to kick-start the body into producing endorphins. Exercise is the best way to spur on endorphin production, and yoga is actually a great form of physical exercise. 

5. Yoga provides a distraction from negative thoughts.

Yoga has a way of interrupting negative thought processes. If you tend to think and over-think problems and worries, you are sure to get caught up in your head. This cycle of consistent negative thinking can only exacerbate feelings of depression and anxiety. 

While you might take your stresses with you to your yoga class, the breathing, focus on poses, and meditation will provide a welcome distraction from everything that has been on your mind. Many newbies to yoga stop obsessing over their problems and start obsessing over yoga instead.

6. Yoga breathing exercises calm body and mind.

woman practicing yoga at home
Fizkes / Shutterstock.com

When someone has a panic or anxiety attack, one of the first things that they need to do is practice deep, calm breathing so that they can find inner calm. Many people do not realize just how closely our breathing patterns are linked to our nervous system. Yoga teaches practitioners to become fully aware of breathing and also teaches different breathing techniques to help with balance, focus, and meditation

7. Yoga promotes healthy living.

We all know that in order to combat the effects of stress, anxiety, and depression, a healthy lifestyle is strongly recommended. Eating right, exercising, and focusing on positive things are all effective ways to minimize the negative impact of feeling bad about yourself, or finding difficulty in dealing with anxiety and stress. 

Yoga is not just a hobby or fitness class; it’s a lifestyle. It promoteshealthy lifestyle, and practitioners soon adopt a yoga way of life. This particular lifestyle is somewhat healthy and can do great things for those who are suffering from stress, anxiety, and depression.

8. Yoga offers the opportunity to meet like-minded people.

Often stress levels and depression are at their worst when people isolate themselves or do not feel part of a society, community, or group. Attending a yoga class provides a good way to meet like-minded people. Because yoga is not a rowdy type of class, you can be as interactive as you want to be before and after.

Sometimes just being around other cheerful people who are living life is an excellent boost for someone who is suffering stress and depression.

people sitting on mats in circle relaxing talking before yoga
Fizkes / Shutterstock.com

9. Yoga promotes whole-body and mind relaxation.

It is challenging to relax body and mind if you are feeling stressed and anxious. Chances are that you continuously feel tense, wound up, and panicky. If you want to eliminate these feelings, yoga can help. Yoga poses involve a variety of pose holds and stretches that are designed to relax muscles and put the mind into a meditative and relaxed state. 

10. Practicing yoga provides the opportunity for self-compassion.

In stressful and busy lifestyles, it is easy to put yourself last or even be hard on yourself for not achieving everything you expected to. This is detrimental to your physical, emotional, and mental health.

Putting yourself first is essential, and you can do so in various ways, such as exercising, getting enough sleep, eating healthy, and surrounding yourself with positive people. You also need to take the time to think about yourself in a positive light, and a yoga session provides the ideal break from the day’s hustle and bustle to do just that.

11. Yoga teaches a positive life philosophy.

Your life philosophy plays a significant role in how anxious, stressed, and depressed you might feel on a day-to-day basis. Yoga principles teach practitioners to love and understand the self as well as others. It also requires a healthy approach to life in terms of diet and exercise. 

Yoga’s philosophy is to live mindfully, and that is a positive way to approach life and also helps to reduce stress, depression, and anxiety.

woman sitting in lotus position yoga
Andrey I / Shutterstock.com

12. Yoga presents a challenge to focus on (purpose).

It is a common theme that depression sufferers often feel a type of listlessness in life, or a lack of purpose. Having a regular activity to attend and actually leave the house to do is essential in boosting a sense of self-worth and purpose. By attending yoga sessions, practitioners can feel challenged and have something to focus on and work towards.

13. Yoga improves stability (physical and emotional).

If you have ever had a panic or stress attack, you will know that it presents itself in blurred vision, dizziness, and a general feeling of emotional and physical instability. Yoga poses are designed to teach breathing and balance, which really does boost an individual’s ability to balance and be stable when faced with an anxiety or panic attack.

14. Yoga promotes safe spaces.

There are not many places where someone can feel truly safe these days. Our world is based on criticism, judgment, and general distaste for each other.

Yoga spaces are spaces that encourage love, peace, and acceptance. That sounds like a safe and stress-free space to be in, doesn’t it? You can relax, unwind, get focused, and generally feel removed from the world’s ugliness for a while. This type of environment is known to reduce stress and anxiety.

Last word

group of women in yoga class resting on mats

If you are struggling with stress, anxiety, and depression, yoga classes are highly recommended. If you have not incorporated yoga as part of your treatment plan, now might be the time to do so. 

JC Franco

JC Franco is a New York-based editor for Lifevif. He mainly focuses on content about faith, spirituality, personal growth, finance, and sports. He graduated from Mercyhurst University with a Bachelor’s degree in Business, majoring in Marketing. He is a certified tennis instructor who teaches in the New York City Metropolitan area. In terms of finance, he has passed the Level I exam of the CFA program.