Yoga views anxiety disorders as a rajas imbalance. The three gunas / qualities of rajas, tamas and sattva all have beneficial qualities when they are in balance.
Rajas is active energy. It gets things moving. When unbalanced, it can have an anxious, frantic, aggressive or agitated quality. Heavy, driving rock music or someone screaming at another driver are examples of this.
Calming and grounding yoga poses help stabilize our prana / energy. Even more important than the right yoga poses is training the breath in an even, deep, smooth diaphragmatic breathing pattern.
When people are anxious or scared, the breath becomes choppy, faster and mostly in the upper part of the chest. Anxiety causes over-arousal in the sympathetic nervous system. Breath retraining reduces sympathetic nervous system over-arousal (fight or flight system) and increases parasympathetic nervous system activity – the relax, recuperate, regenerate system which calms you down.
The calming effects of breath occur primarily during exhalation. During the heart rate deceleration, the vagus nerve becomes active. With shallow, rapid breathing the period of activity is too short and the vagus nerve doesn’t have time to pacify other nerves.
First, learn to breathe diaphragmatically then develop a deeper, slower breath. Research shows that at around 6 breaths a minute, you get autonomic balance. The calming effect of the exhalation is very helpful to reduce anxiety.
Once diaphragmatic breathing is established, begin to work with lengthening the exhalation to up to twice as long as the inhalation. Be sure the breath is continuous, without any pauses or breaks. To begin, allow the lungs to fully empty, letting the exhalation extend a bit longer than the inhalation. Work within your capacity, gradually lengthening the breath in an effortless manner.
Alternate Nostril Breathing is the next essential practice for equalizing emotion and energy. It is simple, easy to learn and extremely powerful. It balances and brings emotions to center and as such is good for depression, anxiety, agitation, bi-polar disorder and general well-being and joy.