What is mindful yoga and meditation? And why is it a successful tool for working with anxiety?

Clients often ask me why and how mindful movement works for soothing their anxiety.

It's good question which science has been catching up with.

Essentially, mindful yoga and meditation use movement, words and visuals to direct your attention to an action, object, person, idea or stimulus.

Simply put, that attention training, over time, helps you to lower your anxiety levels as you are more able to shift your attention away from threatening stimulus which is causing you distress and towards calming stimulus which activates your "safe mode".

This helps develop greater nervous system regulation - working more comfortably between the parasympathetic "safe mode" and the sympathetic "threat mode" - so that you can develop increased range and tolerance which enables more resilience and a stronger baseline of feeling safe as your "threat mode" has permission to switch off and so isn't always alert and ready to fight or flee.

Additionally, theta brain waves are stimulated during mindful practices. Theta oscillations assist with safe and steady alertness and the ability to process information quickly. Higher theta is associated with lower anxiety.

Lastly, if you are experiencing any anxiety and want to explore yoga as a therapeutic tool please note that not all yoga (as well as any somatic movement based practice, meditation or breathwork) works to activate your "safe mode" so it is importnat to find a practitioner who understands the role of the nervous system so that the practices offered to you are designed to serve your needs therapeutically.

Original sources:

  • 2012 study: Theoretical and empirical basis for meditation as an intervention for PTSD
  • 2015 study : Meditation and yoga can modulate brain mechanisms that affect behaviour and anxiety - Aamodern scientific perspective
  • full text at www.theyogatherapyspace.com/blog

On May 13, 2021