Ever wonder how Yoga treats anxiety and panic attack? Prescription pharmaceuticals, like those so prevalent in the West, are not recommended — they are unnatural and have too many side effects. What does Yoga recommend? Mantra Therapy — yogic sound healing — and pranayama, conscious breathing exercises. Let’s take a closer look at each.
Mantra Therapy is a powerful sonic tool for healing and higher consciousness. Soothing to the mind and soul, mantra is used in both Yoga and Ayurveda, the healing branch of yogic science, to treat anxiety and depression. For example, chanting Sanskrit mantras like OM (AUM) creates feelings of oneness and harmony. Chanting OM Shanti, Shanti, Shanti-hi melts away anxiety and induces feelings of peacefulness. Chanting the Gayatri, a mantric meditation on the Spiritual Light, leads to higher consciousness, a higher awareness.
Listen to a prolonged OM Shanti chorus now — in this beautiful peace mantra by Swaha, a musical duo from Toronto. Listen and feel soothed:
Sahana Vavatu: A Peace Mantra
Sanskrit is the language of ancient India and also the language of mantra. It’s unique because, unlike other languages, the meaning of the words is secondary. What matters most is the effect of the sound vibration. Human beings and other animals are quite sensitive to sound. Some sounds, like the ocean surf or the sound of a flute, are soothing. Sanskrit chants from India can be soothing, too — in the extreme — even healing. They are nothing less than sound formulas, based on the science of sound vibration.
Why Chant OM?
OM is the most important mantra and the source of all other mantras. OM is not only chanted for oneness and harmony, but it’s also used as a prefix for 80% of other mantras. Why? Because chanting OM takes you right to the highest consciousness, the highest vibration — the OM vibration.
Mantra means a “tool of the mind.” It’s a valuable tool in our alternative medical tool kit for treating anxiety and depression. For many, mantra therapy has become a form of complementary medicine, a sound healing alternative to prescription drugs. I used to prescribe Xanax and Zoloft. Now I prescribe chanting OM, OM Shanti and a family of other mantras effective in inducing feelings of peacefulness and calm.
More on mantra? See my book Mantra Meditation: An Alternative Treatment for Anxiety and Depression.
There’s another anxiety antidote that goes hand-in-hand with mantra: pranayama, or conscious breathing exercises. The combination of the two can melt away anxiety and stress.
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Most of the time our breathing is automatic, on auto-pilot. We don’t give it much thought. Pranayama is about conscious breathing — breathing with a purpose. It’s a powerful tool in our alternative medical tool kit. Some pranayamas, like alternate nostril breathing, are calming while others, like bhastrika (bellows breath), energize the body-mind and flood the brain with an oxygen boost.
How does pranayama help anxiety and panic attack?
The breath can control the mood just like the mood can control the breath. For example, the breath pattern associated with panic attack is hyperventilation, a disturbed breath that is too fast and too shallow.
The antidote for hyperventilation and anxiety is the yogic breath — a calming breath — a special form of long, deep breathing that utilizes the lungs full breathing capacity. It’s the opposite of hyperventilation. The yogic breath, soothing to the nervous system, stops the panic.
Prana = Energy
Prana means “life-force energy.” Pranayama means control of that energy — by using time tested breath exercises. Breath practices like alternate nostril breathing, makes the mind sattvic, or balanced and harmonious, one of the main goals of yoga. These techniques are easy to learn and taught at yoga studios everywhere. In my experience, the breath exercises can calm the mind better than prescription drugs, especially when combined with mantra.
Yoga is now practiced by millions as a moving meditation to promote health and youthfulness. Its poses (asanas) improve strength, balance, flexibility and mental clarity. However, yoga is much more than physical exercise. Central to yoga are mantra and pranayama — yoga beyond the mat.
Mantra Therapy is a powerful sonic tool for healing and higher consciousness. Pranayamas can be calming and soothing and can also be used to energize the body-mind.
Alternative medical books, blogs and online courses.
For more on treating anxiety without pills, see my earlier blog on mindfulness: