How to Manage Stress, Anxiety, and Depression

28 09 2011


By Angelina Valesco


What a day: The kids have been fighting, I’m behind on a work project and anxious about an upcoming social event. I can feel my breath move into my throat and my shoulders moving up toward my ears. Stress, anxiety, and depression (SAD) can really impact our bodies and cause us to become overwhelmed in our lives.

Now, I visualize a woman sitting quietly on a yoga mat with a straight spine and a serene expression on her face. Her breath is deep and relaxed and she seems comfortable sitting still. She has found a sense of peace and tranquility by practicing yoga. How did she do it?

There are several aspects of a yoga class that will assist you in stressful times and help you effectively manage depression and anxiety.


In the practice of yoga, you will begin to better understand your breath and how it impacts your body, mind and spirit. We’ve all heard the phrase “cleansing breath,” but what does that mean? A cleansing breath is a deep breath that moves into the belly. Think of an infant lying on her back—her belly rises and falls with each breath.

As we move our breath into the diaphragm and belly, we begin to experience all of the physical benefits of deep breath, as well as the emotional calming that occurs when we breathe deeply. If we are thinking about each inhale and exhale as we move through our practice, our mind quiets and we aren’t thinking about the things that are stressful.


Stretching is another immense benefit of yoga. As we move through the yoga postures, we stimulate our glands, organs, and brain. This will help bring the body back into balance in a natural way. When we stretch in yoga, we also listen to our bodies. If you feel tight or find yourself uncomfortable in a certain posture, it might be the place where you carry stress.

Some of the stretches that we incorporate in our practice may trigger a “fight or flight” response. Keeping the awareness on our breath allows us to work through those feelings and find the benefits of the stretch.


Many yoga poses focus on balance. If we achieve balance in our practice, we might be able to take that balance into other parts of our lives. Balance is something that can’t be forced. Patience, breath, and practice are the biggest allies when practicing balancing poses.

When standing in a yoga pose, we focus our minds in a way that might be a new experience. The wonderful thing about yoga is there is no judgment or competition in the practice. Your instructor should give you several options for each pose so you can begin in the easiest variation.


At the end of most yoga classes, there is a period of time where the focus turns to relaxation. Anxious thoughts tend to creep into this time and muddle our minds. By practicing mindful breathing, you can move into this part of yoga a little more gracefully. Set your intention that you will stay present—don’t worry about what you need to pick up at the grocery store or how you forgot to stop at the gas station. Consider this a time for you to replenish and renew the mind and spirit.

Leaving your yoga class, you should feel peaceful and centered. Physically, you might notice that you are standing taller, breathing deeper, and feeling stronger. Taking what we learn in yoga in other parts of our life can help keep the stress and anxiety at bay.

If you walk, jog, or hike, all of the things we learn in yoga can help enhance our experience. Although breathing and stretching are obvious partners in fitness, the focus that what we learn in yoga will be beneficial in your walking program.

Before you begin your yoga practice, please consult with your physician.



Angelina Valesco, owner of Blissful Energy Yoga Center in Tigard, Oregon, has been a certified yoga and pilates instructor for more that five years. As a yoga practitioner for more than 12 years, she credits it with transforming her life. For more information visit



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