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Growing Medical Recognition of Yoga as a Treatment for Anxiety

By Dr. Sat Bir S. Khalsa Perceived stress and anxiety can be a normal and healthy response to life circumstances. But for some, the fast pace and uncertainty of modern society causes debilitating levels of stress and anxiety. Chronic, unmanaged stress hurts our quality of life and is responsible for an increase in health issues and disorders across the world. It is a psycho-social crisis that has been accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Rates of anxiety in the U.S. have more than tripled in the second quarter, from 8.1% in 2019 to 25.5% in 2020. [1] The resulting negative emotions are not only traumatic, but also make our immune systems more vulnerable. Managing these draining emotions is difficult but doable.  Exercise, breathing techniques, relaxation and meditation have all been shown to mitigate anxiety. It is no surprise that traditional yoga — a practice that combines all four techniques — is what more people are relying on to manage their anxiety. However, yoga has not received the same level of attention from medical research. That is beginning to change. Health care professionals and researchers, like myself, are finding consensus around why yoga is such a powerful tool for regulating emotions and reducing anxiety.  Yoga as a Mind-Body Treatment If anxiety increases, it may start to interfere with everyday activities and overall well-being and thereby meet the criteria for an anxiety disorder such as generalized anxiety disorder (GAD). Mentally, this includes pervasive day-long exaggerated worry and tension, inability to relax, difficulty concentrating, anticipation…

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