The Surprising Connection Between Yoga and Anxiety: A Functional Patterns Approach
Yoga has long been praised for its ability to promote relaxation, relieve stress, and improve mental well-being. However, recent discussions and findings have led to reevaluations of the relationship between yoga for anxiety management. We will delve into the limitations of yoga poses for anxiety and address common questions and misconceptions. We will also introduce the Functional Patterns (FP) approach, which emphasizes the FP "Big 4" functional movements—standing, walking, running, and throwing—to improve overall health and well-being. By the end of this article, you will have a better understanding of why yoga may not be the best solution for managing anxiety and how to develop a more comprehensive anxiety self-help practice.
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The Limitations of Yoga Poses for Anxiety
While many sources tout the benefits of yoga for relaxation and stress relief, it is essential to recognize that the practice may not always be beneficial for anxiety management.1 In some cases, individuals may report feeling more anxious after practicing yoga. This can be due to the introspective nature of yoga, which might bring up unresolved emotions or past traumas. Additionally, certain yoga poses can exacerbate pre-existing physical imbalances, leading to discomfort or even pain, which can trigger feelings of anxiety.2
The Ineffectiveness of Yoga in Releasing Trauma
Yoga is often thought of as a tool for releasing trauma. However, it is crucial to approach the practice with caution when dealing with traumatic experiences. Some yoga poses for anxiety or yoga practices may inadvertently trigger traumatic memories or emotions, leading to heightened anxiety or stress. When working through trauma, it is essential to collaborate with a knowledgeable instructor who can guide you through a safe, healing practice tailored to your needs. However, even with proper guidance, yoga may not be the most effective method for addressing and releasing trauma.
The Functional Patterns Approach to Managing Anxiety
The Functional Patterns approach focuses on the "Big 4" functional movements—standing, walking, running, and throwing—to improve overall health and well-being. By concentrating on these essential movements, individuals can develop a more balanced and resilient body, which may contribute to reduced anxiety levels.
Incorporating Functional Patterns principles into your anxiety self-help practice can help address the root causes of anxiety by promoting proper muscle engagement, alignment, and movement patterns. This holistic approach not only helps to alleviate anxiety but also builds a foundation for long-term health and wellness.
Gait cycle results by FP practitioner Luis Ponce Jr with client and ex-yoga instructor Jessa Steinman at Functional Patterns South Bay
Developing a Comprehensive Anxiety Self-Help Practice
Given the limitations and potential ineffectiveness of yoga in managing anxiety, it is essential to develop a more comprehensive self-help practice that encompasses various strategies, including the Functional Patterns approach. Here are some tips for creating a well-rounded anxiety self-help practice:
- Focus on functional movements: Incorporate corrective exercises that target the FP "Big 4" functional movements—standing, walking, running, and throwing—into your practice to build a balanced and resilient body.
- Develop body awareness: Identify any muscle compensations or asymmetries during daily activities, such as standing, walking, or picking up objects.
- Prioritize sleep: Ensuring that you get enough quality sleep, stick to a sleep schedule, and get sunlight exposure, can have a significant impact on your anxiety levels.
- Get unfiltered sunlight: Utilize the “Dminder” app to expose yourself to sunlight as close to sunrise, sunset, and when the sun is between 30 degrees and solar noon.
- Avoid grains: Opt for food alternatives such as fruit and root vegetables to reduce bloating and inflammation.
- Stay hydrated: Ensure you consume purified water with enough electrolytes throughout the day.
- Get into nature: Spend time outdoors and connect with the natural environment outside of big cities.
- Tune into the boredom: Set the goal of doing nothing by simply removing all external stimuli, such as music, movement, reading, and video.
Gait cycle results by FP practitioner Russ Van Ness with client Tony at Functional Patterns Paramus
While yoga has been praised for its ability to promote relaxation and relieve stress, it is essential to recognize that yoga poses may not always be effective in managing anxiety. By developing a comprehensive anxiety self-help practice that focuses on the FP “Big 4,” sun, sleep, and other anxiety self-help strategies, you can create a more effective approach to managing anxiety. With patience and training intentionally around the FP Big 4, you can make progress on your journey toward managing anxiety and well-being.
We encourage you to work with a Functional Patterns practitioner near you and learn more by visiting the Functional Patterns articles below.
- A Critical Look At Stretching And Yoga
- Why Stretching Doesn't Work | With Mike Mucciolo
- Functional Flexibility
- The Dysfunctions Of Stretching
- The Top 5 Reasons Yoga Is Overrated
- Naudi Aguilar From Hamstring Stretches, Sciatica, And Knee Instability
This is Functional Patterns reminding you to live intentionally, and not habitually.
-Functional Patterns: 'We Take the Guesswork Out Of Taking Care of Your Body'™
- "Yoga: What You Need To Know." National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 7 Dec. 2021, https://www.nccih.nih.gov/health/yoga-what-you-need-to-know.
- Ingraham, Paul. "Quite a Stretch: Stretching Hype Debunked." PainScience.com, 25 July 2021, https://www.painscience.com/articles/stretching.php.