Yoga for Panic Attacks and Anxiety: What You Need to Know

Yoga for Panic Attacks and Anxiety: What You Need to Know

Yoga has always been that thing that I keep saying “I’ll get to eventually,” but never quite find the time for. While I was initially interested to increase my own flexibility, I’ve recently taken a further interest in yoga for its potential mental health benefits. Can yoga help with panic attacks and anxiety?

For many people, yoga seems to have a positive effect on stress, helping to decrease symptoms of panic attacks and anxiety. Yoga combines psychological and physiological processes in an attempt to enhance the mind-body connection, thereby working to improve mental health.

If this all still seems pretty cryptic and mysterious to you, no worries. Allow me just a few minutes and I can explain exactly what yoga is and how you might be able to use yoga for panic attacks and anxiety symptoms.

So, break your favorite tie-dye t-shirt out of the attic and let’s dive in!

Isn’t Yoga for Hippies and New-Age Soccer Moms?

If you're anything like I used to be, you'll immediately associate yoga with images of new-age soccer moms stretching at the park, or some old guy sitting in robes contorting his body while perched on a mountaintop. I'll admit, I used to view yoga with the same skeptic discontent that I view homeopathic remedies or "healing crystals" with. This was an error on my part. Practicing yoga for anxiety and psychological benefits is actually extremely effective, with well-founded scientific evidence to back it up.

The reason why many people (myself included, in the past) dismiss the idea of trying yoga for panic attacks and anxiety management is likely because of the spiritual connotations that come along with it. The ancient Indian philosophies built around the practice of yoga are some 5,000-10,000 years old, and can be pretty heavy on the spiritualism. Some people may love this, but natural skeptics like myself tend to immediately recoil.

To those not looking for a new life philosophy or spiritual practice, yoga can (from the outside looking in) appear more like a stretching cult than a legitimate form of exercise.

However, the reality is, modern Western adaptations of yoga focus much more on the physical and mental benefits of the exercise; as opposed to Eastern cultures’ more traditional focus on the spiritualism and philosophy behind yoga. Much like meditation, yoga can be an entirely secular practice. You can do it for the physical and mental benefits, no philosophical strings attached.

Meditation vs. Yoga for Anxiety – What’s the Difference?

For people who are totally new to yoga and meditation, the two can seem difficult to unpack and differentiate from one another.

To keep this is simple as possible, I want you to think of it like this:

  • Meditation is a form of mental exercise that involves focusing the mind or redirecting our thoughts in such a way that helps us to practice control over our thoughts and emotions. (You can learn much more about meditating for anxiety here).
  • Yoga is a system of exercises for physical and mental health. It combines components such as breath control, meditation, and bodily postures to help with health and relaxation.

In other words: Meditation is a way to exercise the mind. Yoga is a way to exercise the body and the mind together, typically incorporating meditation into the practice.

So, with a decent yoga instructor, you can basically kill two birds with one stone; you can get some meditation in while exercising. It’s a win-win!

To better illustrate this visually, we have the 8 Limbs of Yoga.

The 8 Limbs of Yoga

the 8 limbs of yoga image

The Eight Limbs of Yoga show how many different physical and mental components combine to create the practice of yoga. As you can see, meditation accounts for one of these limbs, as it is an important facet of the practice. If you're just starting yoga, don't worry about understanding each of these 8 limbs; just follow along with an experienced yoga instructor and be present during the exercise.

learn more about anxiety academy

Yoga for Panic Attacks and Anxiety – The 4 Ways it Helps

Because of how many physical and mental components are combined in yoga, and because of how much yoga can vary in its practice from culture to culture – and from yoga instructor to yoga instructor – it can be a difficult subject to objectively study and research. Despite these challenges, studies have shown that yoga can be an effective way to decrease the symptoms of panic attacks and anxiety.

Personally, there are a number of reasons why I believe yoga is a worthwhile exercise for anyone looking to decrease panic attack and anxiety symptoms:

  1. The Physical Component of Yoga
  2. Yoga Incorporates Aspects of Meditation
  3. Yoga Helps with Breath Control
  4. The Long-Term Benefits of Yoga

Let’s elaborate a bit on each.

1. The Physical Component of Yoga - The Mind Follows the Body

All philosophy aside, yoga is an incredible physical exercise.

If you’ve already read our article about how exercise helps anxiety, then you know how effective physical exercise is even by itself. Just putting our body to work can lead to significant benefits on our anxiety and mental well-being.

Better yet, because yoga involves stretching our muscles out into different postures, yoga can also work like a tense-and-release exercise; which can be a fantastic coping mechanism for anxiety. This helps us to relieve any tension in our muscles that might have built up due to stress.

Best of all is how our mind will interpret the relaxation brought about by this stretching.

Most of us, especially those with anxiety, understand that the body obeys the mind:

  • If we allow the mind to feel fear, the body will follow with a stress response of increased heart rate, breathing, sweating, etc.
  • If we allow the mind to relax, the body will follow by slowing the heart rate, regulating breathing, and calming the nerves.

We all know this.

But what many of us forget is that the mind also follows the body.

  • If we feel our heart racing, breath ragged, and sweat dripping, our mind takes this feedback loop as confirmation that we are in danger; we become even more anxious.
  • If we allow the body to relax and control our breathing, the mind will follow by understanding that we are not in danger. The anxiety will subside.

We rarely think of what we can physically do to relieve our anxiety symptoms; since we are always so hung up on trying to forcibly control our racing thoughts. 

However, if we start by regaining control of our body, we can often get the mind to follow.

Just like the body recognizes when the mind is anxious or relaxed, the mind will also recognize when the body is anxious or relaxed. This alone can do an incredible job of helping the mind to relax.

From the standpoint of physical benefits, some yoga practitioners enjoy Bikram Yoga (hot yoga), claiming the high intensity environment can bring about additional physical benefits.

2. Yoga Incorporates Aspects of Meditation

We’ve already touched on this earlier, but just to reiterate... 

Meditation is one of the eight limbs of yoga, and most yoga instructors will probably help guide you through a meditation as you practice your postures.

Meditation is an absolutely incredible coping mechanism to help stop panic attacks, and an awesome exercise for helping to decrease symptoms of anxiety long-term. Mindfulness meditations in particular are great for helping us to reel our negative thoughts back in and redirect our focus when things get out of hand during a severe anxiety attack.

If you haven’t already, be sure to check out our full article on how meditation helps anxiety.

3. Yoga Helps with Breath Control

Any time we talk about how to stop a panic attack, you can expect some mention of breath control. Breath control involves manually taking control of your breathing to stop any sort of hyperventilating and help the mind and body regain control.

Oftentimes, when I talk about breath control on this site, I just recommend some sort of regular breathing pace like 6 seconds in, 6 seconds out (or a similar method).

One great thing about yoga is that breath control is typically included in the exercises; the yoga instructor, video, or other guidelines will often tell you how to be breathing throughout the exercise.

Because yoga helps with breath control, yoga for panic attack and anxiety relief can become an effective strategy for anyone who struggles with hyperventilation during their anxiety attacks.

Additionally, such consciously practiced breathing can long to additional long-term benefits over time.

4. The Long-Term Benefits of Yoga for Anxiety (Rest and Digest)

It may sound cliché, but all of our stress does build up in little ways that can be difficult to recognize until we're having a full-blown panic attack or mid-life crisis.

The mind and body are often capable of recovering from this stress without expensive therapies or addictive medications, but most of us can't find the time to allow for this self-healing.

Anxiety activates the sympathetic nervous system and puts us in "Fight or Flight" mode, an uncomfortable state of heightened fear and sensitivity. Repeated day-to-day anxiety makes it easier and easier for us to slip into this "Fight or Flight" mode.

Our brain is very good at recognizing and following patterns. Sometimes we experience a particularly bad streak or relapse of an anxiety disorder. This can often be due to our falling into negative, anxiety-promoting, thought patterns. We make it easier and easier to flip the switch and enter "fight or flight" mode.

"Rest and Digest" mode, on the other hand, is activated by the parasympathetic nervous system to calm us down and eliminate anxiety. The more frequently we practice entering our "Rest and Digest" state, the easier it is for us to switch into that mode consciously.

For millennia before the science was even understood, yoga has been used for this exact purpose.

Yoga can be used to help us enter the "rest and digest" state at will.

Through repeated use of yoga for panic attacks and anxiety, we organically become better at entering this state of relaxation at will; even when we are not performing yoga. According to one study, yoga practices appear to enhance vagal dominance and improve autonomic regulation.

The Physical and Psychological Benefits of Yoga


  • May reduce stress and other symptoms of anxiety and depression
  • Regulate breathing
  • Increase overall flexibility, strength, and muscle tone
  • Reduce heart rate and improve cardiovascular health
  • Improve blood flow throughout the body and muscles
  • Boost energy levels and athletic performance
  • Sleep more restfully
  • Improve mood and posture
  • Decrease the likelihood of injuries
  • Decrease inflammation and chronic pain

Different Types of Yoga

For those new to yoga, getting started can feel overwhelming.

After all, there are so many different types of yoga. Just a few include:

  • Hatha Yoga
  • Vinyasa Yoga
  • Ashtanga Yoga
  • Iyengar Yoga
  • Bikram Yoga
  • Jivamukti Yoga
  • Sivananda Yoga
  • Kundalini Yoga
  • Power Yoga
  • and many more

If you are just getting started with yoga, Hatha Yoga classes are most often recommended for beginners.

Hatha is a broad category of yoga that incorporates various other styles.

Hatha Yoga involves both asanas (yoga postures) and pranayama (breathing exercises).

As previously discussed, taking control of one's body in these ways allows the body, and thus the mind, to relax. In this way, we are able to overcome our anxiety in the moment. Over time, we become better and better at learning to control our anxiety. Additionally, our brains become more receptive to parasympathetic response patterns, allowing us to relax more easily in the long-term.

Hatha Yoga classes can be a good place to start, but I wouldn’t worry too much about what type of yoga you try first. Just see what kind of yoga classes you can find nearby and give one a try!

How to Get Started Doing Yoga

This should go without saying, but you should talk with your doctor before trying yoga for the first time. If you have any underlying medical conditions, it’s a good idea to verify that they won’t pose a risk to you while practicing yoga.

I recommend searching online to see what local yoga classes are available near you. If you find something advertised as a beginner’s yoga class, that’s perfect; but if not, that’s fine too – you can just show up to class and follow along as best you can. Any good instructor will be happy to bring you up to speed.

Conventional advice for people new to yoga is to not try and push or overexert yourself with the poses. Follow along as best you can, but do not sacrifice form in an attempt to reach the full pose, or you run the risk of hurting yourself. Just take it slow and go as far with the poses as feels comfortable; you will still reap the benefits, and your flexibility should improve over time.

The benefit of taking a yoga class in-person is the positive social environment, individual support, and sense of solidarity. For most people, this is probably the way to get the most out of practicing yoga. Alternatively, there are plenty of yoga classes that can be found online – either at low cost or totally free. Check YouTube for some good options that can be done from home.

Here’s a good, free beginner’s yoga workout that I found on YouTube:

Whether you decide to go the “yoga from home” route or decide to take yoga classes, I do have a few recommendations that can make practicing yoga easier and more comfortable for you.

Recommended Products

Yoga Mat – Honestly, getting started with yoga doesn’t require much. But the one thing you’re definitely going to want is a yoga mat. A simple yet high quality yoga mat should get the job done and last you a long time. Without a yoga mat you’re in for a very uncomfortable (and unhygienic) time; I’d go so far as to call this a must-have.

Essential Oil Diffuser – This is by no means necessary, but I do love my essential oil diffuser. I find it perfect for any time I am practicing yoga or meditating. Certain smells like lavender, tea tree oil, or eucalyptus just help me to enter the right headspace and relax for these activities. I recommend anyone interested check out this oil diffuser, which includes all my favorite oils for relaxing.


Like meditation, yoga is a practice that has changed quite a bit over the years, having adapted with modern Western culture over time. Although poorly understood by most non-practitioners, yoga is an exercise that everyone can benefit from. For many people, yoga for panic attacks and anxiety symptom relief can prove to be incredibly effective over time.

Getting started with yoga is easy. Just purchase a yoga mat and find a local or online yoga class to jump in on. Stick with it and you’re sure to see many benefits!

anxiety academy on sale

Unlock the Secrets to Managing Anxiety without Harmful Meds

Not next week. Not tomorrow. Today. 

Getting started is easy with our #1 recommended online anxiety course.

For a limited time, click here to watch the first few lessons of Anxiety Academy completely free.
Like what you see? Access the rest of the course, all future course updates, plus lifetime access to our exclusive online community, for a small one-time payment today!

Loved this? Spread the word

About the Author

Years of personal experience with anxiety disorders and panic attacks have led me to devise some pretty creative ways to keep my anxiety in check. In the past, anxiety and panic attacks felt like something I'd have to live with forever. Nowadays, panic attacks are a distant memory for me, and I'm free to pursue passions like writing and traveling the world. Hopefully, the information on this website can help you achieve the same. I do all the writing here myself, so don't hesitate to reach out with questions!

Tyler Ellis

Related posts

Magic Mind Review: Does This Productivity Drink Live Up to The Hype?

Read More

6 Hidden Benefits of Anxiety: How to Turn Your Anxiety into a Superpower

Read More
{"email":"Email address invalid","url":"Website address invalid","required":"Required field missing"}

Subscribe to our newsletter now!