Yoga Therapy for Chronic Stress & Social Anxiety

Photo: Natalia Figueredo on Unsplash

by Adriana Buenaventure, Ananda Certified Yoga Therapist

Have you ever felt successful in one area of your life, but helpless or frustrated in another?

Growing up, I was known for my powerful focus and self-discipline. Even as a child, I had the kind of spirit that, if I set my mind to something, I knew it was only a matter of time before it would happen.

Adriana Buenaventura, Certified Ananda Yoga Therapist

Whatever I wanted to do or learn or become, I succeeded. Being at the top of my class was a constant. In time, I graduated as an engineer, knowing that I could attain anything that I set my mind to.

My powerful determination has inspired me to make courageous changes, including leaving the security of a stable job to switch careers and pursue my passion for helping others. 

You may ask, “So you’ve been highly successful. What’s the problem?”

There was an area of my life, quite apart from my outward career success, where I felt completely helpless. It was an extremely important part of my life where, no matter what I did or how hard I tried, I felt weak and devastated.

As a child, I was assertive at home but afraid and nervous with other people. I could never understand why I was so completely overwhelmed by stress in certain situations.

There were places and people that would trigger a terrifying chain of physiological responses in me: pounding heart, heavy sweating, chest tightness, and other symptoms of what I now know to be acute anxiety and chronic stress.

Worse, I felt that something was wrong with me for feeling this way.

The repeated experience of losing all control over my body’s reactions caused me endless suffering.

It happened without warning, over and over. And it seemed to arise most often in social settings, especially during meetings and (needless to say) whenever I was required to do public speaking!

Turning my powerful determination to address these issues, I set about to find permanent relief from these debilitating experiences. That was when I discovered the path of yoga and meditation.

When I began to practice the yogic methods of physical relaxation and meditation, I learned to make peace with some traumatic experiences that I had suffered as a young child. I learned to turn those uncomfortable bodily sensations into friends, and to free my heart and mind from worries and anxiety – and especially, to find a deep, comforting peace within.

Better still, as a welcome side effect of what had initially been a search for relief from my traumatic stress experiences, my new practice brought me a subtle sense of inner joy that I had never suspected would be possible. My sleep improved, my mind grew clearer, and my productivity increased.

Untreated chronic stress can set us up for serious health conditions such as anxiety, insomnia, muscle pain, high blood pressure, and weakened immunity. Chronic stress is a feature of too many people’s lives today, and yoga therapy offers specific techniques for bringing ourselves back to our healthy, balanced selves. 

Using the Breath to Calm Anxiety

Here’s an easy but very powerful yoga therapy breathing exercise that you can practice when you’re feeling stressed, fearful, or overwhelmed by worries.

Take a few deep “belly breaths.” Feel your belly gently expanding with each inhalation and gently relaxing with exhalation.

Breathe comfortably at first – don’t force the breath to be longer than feels natural. As you gradually feel more comfortable, slowly lengthen the exhalation side of your breathing.

If it helps you to stay focused, you can mentally count while inhaling and exhaling.

Practice this breathing technique for five minutes, and I’m sure you will feel the calming effect on your nervous system. In time, you’ll discover that you can practice it anywhere, whenever you want to return to your center and rest in a very enjoyable sensation of inner peace.

Yoga therapy offers us marvelous tools for learning to control our reactions and live more in a natural state of inner poise and peace that is our divine birthright.

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Adriana offers private yoga therapy sessions at Pacific Naturopathic. Give us a call to schedule your session, or for more information. 650-961-1660.