Role of Yoga in Anxiety or Depression Therapy

If you’re not already into the practice of Yoga, you may roll your eyes at the thought of getting into a downward facing dog pose (or wonder what the heck that is) while you’re in the middle of therapy. But believe it or not, there is a deep connection between the core concepts of Yoga and many therapy practices, especially for anxiety and depression – and you don’t even have to get into downward facing dog or do a headstand to reap the benefits.

The main purpose of Yoga is to learn how to sit still and breathe in order to clear your head and focus on the present. People suffering from anxiety or depression often struggle with focusing on the moment. Instead, they refer to the “committee” in their head. The best way to deal with these “moments” is to slow down, bring yourself into the present, and fact check yourself about the “now.”

Whether you’re at home, at work or out and about, there are a few things you can do to help ground yourself.

Just Breathe. Oftentimes, simply stopping and taking short inhales, and long, slow exhales can help focus your mind and put anxiety issues into perspective. It is usually the regret we are telling ourselves about the past or the story we are making up about the future that is creating the anxiety. Take a moment and just breathe. Remember that the slow exhales are the most important part of the exercise.

Shake It Off – Literally. Having a bad day at the office? Worried you aren’t living up to expectations at home or work? Step away from the situation. Go somewhere private (like a bathroom) and physically shake it off. Move your arms around. Do a little dance. And if you have a mirror, look yourself in the eyes and give yourself a little pep talk. The physical act of movement and the reinforcement with verbal cues are a great way to “shake off” whatever was going on.

Remember The Four Elements Exercise. Created by Francine Shapiro, The Four Elements exercise reminds us that we can ground ourselves with the elements of earth, air, water and fire. The four elements can be done with eyes open or closed and don’t let the committee come in and tell you that you are doing it wrong. There is only one way…your way.

  • Earth. Starting with the earth element, notice your feet beneath you. Notice all the ways you’re feeling supported at the moment – seated or standing, but strong like a mountain.
  • Air. Now bring your attention to the second element of air, which is your breathing. Let the air go in through your nostrils and out through your mouth. Take shorter inhales and longer exhales.
  • Water. Now bring your attention to your mouth and the saliva inside your mouth. When you get really anxious, the mouth tends to dry out. To remedy this, just move the tongue around and generate more saliva.
  • Fire. Now we’re going to light your imagination with fire or light. Close your eyes and go into your imagination and call up a time or place where you’ve been before that represents being peaceful, calm and relaxing. When you see that place, just remember that you can go there anytime. Notice colors, temperature, sounds, whatever stimulates the five senses, and then reflect back on how you feel. Whatever stress you’re feeling will usually go down a few notches.


Limitless Potentials is a center for Psychotherapy, Mindfulness Training, and Yoga led by Kathy Shafer Ph.D. Known for her expertise as a certified EMDR practitioner and her mindful approach to cognitive behavioral therapy, Dr. Kathy is also a Certified Addiction Professional, and yoga therapist (C-IAYT). She is the author and creator of the FUN(TM) program which challenges thinking and behavior in her tool box of clinical skills to address trauma, challenges in relationships, mood disorders, anxiety, pain, parenting, family dynamics, and chronic health issues. She gives presentations, conducts workshops on these and related topics, and when appropriate, integrates mindful skills in sessions. Group and family therapy are also offered. To learn more, please call (561) 799-6789.


Yoga Nidra Chakra Workshops

The FUN™ Guide to Advance Relaxation. Refresh yourself with rest, mental imagery and learn how to balance your Chakra Energy – in only 1 hour!