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7 Powerful Yoga Practices for Burnout, Anxiety & Stress Relief

January 12, 2022

Last updated : February 9, 2024

Work, stress, and anxiety. These three words seem inseparable in our daily lives, don't they? As a result, many of us find ourselves constantly seeking some sort of relief from the overwhelming weight of the world. And in this quest for peace, I’ve found that one practice stands out as truly extraordinary: yoga

Yoga provides us with the tools to find healing, rest, and balance in our lives. Renowned yogi B.K.S. Iyengar once shared a profound insight that sums up this up perfectly: "Yoga is a light, which once lit, will never dim. The better your practice, the brighter the flame."

Intrigued? Join us as we unravel the transformative powers of yoga for stress relief, anxiety and burnout and discover a path that leads to a brighter and more balanced life.

What Are Stress & Anxiety?

Stress is our body and mind's response to pressure from the world around us. It's a normal part of life, but when it lasts too long and we can't cope with it, it can harm our well-being. It can make us feel overwhelmed, irritable, and exhausted.

Anxiety is the feeling of worry or fear of something that might happen in the future. It's closely related to fear. Some experts think anxiety is a feeling only humans have, while fear is felt by animals too. 

Another difference is that fear is a normal reaction to a real danger, while anxiety can be an exaggerated response to a present or future threat we perceive.

Types of Stress: Positive V.S Negative

Positive stress? Yes, not all stress is bad. We have been programmed to assume that stress is a bad thing, but, stress is your body's response to what needs focus or action. As a result, a healthy dose of positive stress every so often can actually help you hone your focus and achieve something great. 

Let’s take a deeper look at the different types of stress we experience: 

1. Eustress (Positive)

Eustress is the kind of stress we experience when we feel excited, motivated, or challenged in a positive way

Imagine you have a goal you're determined to achieve, an important interview you must attend, or a crying child who needs your immediate attention. In these situations, you rely on the fuel provided by your sympathetic nervous system, or “flight or flight” response, to take action and get things done (we explain this in more detail below). 

Renowned clinical psychiatrist Dr. Michael Genovese explains that eustress plays a vital role in our well-being by keeping us motivated and driven in life. It serves as a healthy form of stress that propels us forward, helping us accomplish our goals and maintain a sense of fulfillment.

2. Distress (Negative)

On the other hand, distress is a type of stress that overwhelms us and leaves us feeling helpless. It occurs when we lack the necessary resources to cope with a situation, and this negative form of stress can lead to anxiety, depression, and burnout. 

Finding ways to cope with and manage these feelings becomes essential during times of distress. By practicing yoga, we can regain control of our mental health and learn how to better navigate and overcome challenging circumstances. 

Is Burnout Stress?

Burnout is work-related stress. However, it’s not just having a bad day at work. When you are burned out, you feel tired all the time, start to doubt things, and can't work as well as you used to. These symptoms show that you've been exposed to too much unhealthy stress at work for a while.

It's important to recognize and address the specific factors causing your burnout to create a healthier and more productive work environment.

Differences Between Burnout & Stress 

When we are stressed at work we experience it as:  

  • Reactive emotions
  • Having a sense of urgency
  • Experiencing anxiety
  • Over-engagement in work activities

When we are burned out,  we experience:

  • Blunted emotions
  • A sense of helplessness
  • Feeling depressed
  • Disengagement in work activities

How we interact with people and the state of our relationships have a significant impact on the levels of stress we experience. There are yogic ways to build stronger groups and relationships, like deepening the connection to oneself through meditation, or learning how to connect with others through yoga philosophy and principles.

How Does Stress Affect the Nervous System?

Stress Affect the Body

The nervous system is the command center of our body that responds to the stimuli in our environment. It has two main parts: 

  • Central nervous system (brain and spinal cord); and 
  • Peripheral nervous system (somatic and autonomic nervous systems).

The autonomic nervous system plays a crucial role in our stress responses. It consists of two branches. 

Sympathetic Nervous System:
  • Activates our “fight, flight or freeze" response when we encounter perceived threats or stressors. 
  • Releases of stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline, which prepare our body for action. 
  • Survival mode kicks in, causing the heart rate to increase, blood pressure to rise, and breathing to become more rapid. 
Parasympathetic Nervous System:
  • Activates our "rest and digest" response when a threat or stressor has passed.
  • It brings our body back to a state of balance, causing the heart rate to slow down, muscles to relax, and blood flow to increase to vital bodily systems. 
  • Promotes digestion, lowers blood pressure, and conserves energy.

In a stressful situation, the sympathetic system activates the body's "fight-or-flight" response, preparing us to deal with a threat.

While this response is important for survival in the short term, prolonged chronic stress can harm the nervous system and disrupt the balance between the sympathetic and parasympathetic systems.

This imbalance can cause a prolonged activation of the sympathetic system, resulting in elevated heart rate, increased blood pressure, and a state of hyperarousal. It can also impact digestion, immune function, and sleep patterns.

Furthermore, prolonged exposure to stress hormones can alter neuronal connections, particularly in areas related to emotions and memory. This can contribute to mood disorders, anxiety, and attention difficulties.

By learning to tap into our parasympathetic nervous system, we can find relief from stress and cultivate resilience. Yoga is a common practice used for stress relief, and you may have experienced this calming effect during relaxation poses like Shavasana at the end of a yoga class.

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Learn how to practice, modify and sequence 250+ yoga postures according to ancient Hatha Yoga principles.

Benefits of Yoga for Stress Relief

Unhealthy stress often becomes a habitual part of life, making it difficult to recognize. Long-term stress has damaging effects on health. While you may not control stress sources, you can modify your reactions. 

Yoga for stress relief is a valuable tool. Numerous studies have revealed yoga’s positive impact on stress in the body, helping us re-establish positive patterns and learn to relax. Here are some of the most significant findings of yoga for stress relief

Enhances Stress Relief Response

The vagus nerve is a key element of the parasympathetic nervous system. It plays a crucial role in vital bodily functions like immune responses, digestion, and heart rate regulation. Activation of the vagus nerve in a healthy and non-intrusive manner like yoga can lead to improved vagal tone. This determines how quickly your body can find relief from stress following a triggering event.

Boosts Bodily Functions & Well-being

When stressed, all bodily functions such as digestion and sleep are thrown out of balance. If prolonged, it can cause many common ills such as diabetes, depression, anxiety, heart disease, and high blood pressure. Yoga’s soothing effect on the nervous system can help restore balance and regulate bodily functions, with proven benefits for digestion, sleep, high blood pressure, as well as depression

Restores Optimal Balance

One study found that yoga reduces the accumulated stress-related 'wear and tear' on the body. This positive influence subsequently restores your body’s optimal balance, or homeostasis. Mel Robin, author of the acclaimed Physiological Handbook for Teachers of Yoga Asana, agrees. He believes that the practice of yoga can increase control of the vagus nerve, which regulates the shifts between the parasympathetic and sympathetic nervous systems. This integration of your body and mind helps you find stress relief. 

Increases GABA Levels in the Brain

GABA is a significant neurotransmitter in the central nervous system that reduces neuronal excitability. Low GABA levels have been linked to stress and depression. Researchers measured GABA levels in yoga practitioners before and after a one-hour Hatha Yoga session that focused on postures and breathing. The results showed a remarkable 27% increase in GABA levels among yoga practitioners. 

A follow-up study involved beginners learning and practicing Iyengar Yoga for three months. It revealed an increase in GABA levels (13%), along with improved mood and reduced anxiety. This suggests that yoga postures and breathing exercises are more effective for stress relief and have long-term benefits compared to moderate or vigorous exercise.

More -How Ujjayi Breath Began & How To Practice Ujjayi Pranayama 

Promotes Parasympathetic Dominance

Certain yoga asanas, especially inverted ones, or any when the forehead rests on the floor, may shift the autonomic nervous system toward parasympathetic dominance, through stimulation of the vagus nerve.

Other studies have shown that yoga practices correct under-activity of the parasympathetic nervous system and GABA system (in part through stimulation of the vagus nerve) in addition to reducing accumulated stress-related wear and tear.

See More - Pranayama Versus Breathing Exercises

7 Yoga Practices for Anxiety, Stress, & Burnout Relief

The ancient practice of Hatha Yoga focuses on stimulating and balancing our nervous systems, which forms the bedrock of yogic techniques. By regulating our breathing, muscle tone, and mental attitude, we can achieve a harmonious nervous system. Try these seven daily yogic techniques designed to bring you stress relief and aid in your burnout recovery:

Classical Surya Namaskara

Classical Surya Namaskara - Hatha Yoga

Surya Namaskara is an ancient ritual of twelve steps that warms up the body, preparing it for yoga practice. Practicing four to eight rounds of Surya Namaskara and then resting in Shavasana, can have a positive effect on your mental state.

The benefits of this yogic practice includes improved blood circulation and strengthened heart functionality. It also stimulates a rhythmic breathing process as breath is synchronized with each movement. This empties the lungs more vigorously, refilling the body with oxygenated air. 

Shashankasana Breathing

Shashankasana, also known as Child’s Pose, is a yoga posture that involves a forward bending motion with deep and controlled breathing. This deep breathing helps activate the parasympathetic nervous system, promoting a state of calmness and relaxation. It increases oxygen intake, which can also be beneficial for people with mild-to-moderate asthma.

  1. Sit in Vajrasana with hands on the thighs.
  2. The upper body is upright and relaxed.
  3. Inhaling through your nose, raise both arms above the head.
  4. While exhaling through your nose, fold forward.
  5. The arms and head move together and remain aligned.
  6. The forehead and arms should rest on the floor in front of the knees or on appropriate props.
  7. The buttocks remain on the heels (or on a block/ cushion placed between your calves).
  8. Breathing calmly through your nose, remain in this position for a few breaths.
  9. Relax the whole body, especially the shoulders, neck, and back.
  10. Take a deep breath in through your nose and, without rounding the spine, raise the upper body and arms.
  11. Exhaling through your nose, return to the starting position.

Legs-Up-the-Wall Pose (Viparita Karani)

Legs-Up-the-Wall Pose (Viparita Karani)

Viparita Karani, also known as Legs-Up-the-Wall Pose, offers numerous benefits for the body and mind. This inversion of the legs and hips has a calming effect on the nervous system and can help balance the adrenal glands, which play a crucial role in the body's stress response system.

As you recline on your back with your legs elevated, you also improve blood circulation, encouraging relaxation and improving your overall well-being.

  1. Begin seated beside a wall.
  2. Position yourself so that your hip and shoulder lean against the wall.
  3. Gently lower your upper body down to the ground.
  4. Lift the legs up against the wall.
  5. You can wiggle closer toward the wall or away from the wall until you are in a comfortable, relaxed position.
  6. Use various props for support in this position, like a folded blanket or pillow.
  7. Your head and arms are relaxed.
  8. In this position, relax and focus on deep breathing and relaxation.

Brahmari Pranayama

Brahmari, or bumblebee breathing, is an effective pranayama breathing exercise to calm the mind and silent the senses. You can focus on the exhalation, but be sure to take it slow and move at a pace that feels right for you. You can even incorporate a simple flow for stress to help recenter yourself. Try adding our 15-Minute Yoga Practice for Stress Relief.

  1. Sit comfortably with your eyes closed.
  2. Place your index fingers on your ears. There is cartilage between your cheek and ear. Place your index fingers on the cartilage.
  3. Take a deep breath in and as you breathe out, gently press the cartilage. You can keep the cartilage pressed or press it in and out with your fingers while making a loud humming sound like a bee.
  4. You can also make a low-pitched sound or a high-pitched one depending on what feels comfortable to you.
  5. Breathe in again and continue the same pattern six to eight times.

See More- Prana Demystified: The 5 Vital Energies & How To Increase Each

Sun Gazing

Sun gazing is essentially gazing at the sun. This sounds simple; however, there are various safety precautions to gain benefits of the practice rather than cause harm to the eyes. Sun gazing, when done correctly, absorbs sun energy which is beneficial for your brain and well-being.

  1. Start slowly, even with a few seconds and be aware of any feelings of discomfort or pain. Stop immediately if you do.
  2. Face toward the sun and gaze at the sun. You can also start with the eyes closed.
  3. Remove glasses, contact lenses and avoid using an instrument to sun gaze.
  4. Gaze at the sun while focussing on your breathing. Every time you breathe in, imagine that you are absorbing the life-giving, rejuvenation energy of the sun. Every time you breathe out, exhale any mental, emotional, or physical tension.

Note: Sun gazing is best practiced at the beginning of daylight in the morning (sunrise) or the last hour of daylight (sunset). It shouldn’t be practiced when the sun is very strong. During the winter months, when the sun is weaker, it can also be practiced during the day.

Mala Japa

Using a mantra with a mala is a beneficial and easy way to start your meditation practice. A mala is a prayer bead necklace containing 108 beads and a guru bead. By repeating a mantra, you enter into meditation and this has various mental health benefits.

Yoga Nidra

Yoga Nidra holds benefits for all those who struggle to let go, or suffer from insomnia, trauma, burnout, and anxiety. Similar to meditation, it can act as a gateway for anyone who wants to experience a deeper sense of peace and re-connect more profoundly with themselves. The practice of Yoga Nidra leads us into a state of harmonious, restful being. 


Yoga practices can have a positive impact on us. It can help with the prevention of chronic stress, anxiety, and burnout. It is important that we find a consistent and safe yoga practice to help us “rest and digest” after the challenging stimulus we face in the world. This brings us back to center, to calm. After all, “Yoga is a light, which once lit, will never dim. The better your practice, the brighter the flame."


1. Evans, Dwight L., Edna B. Foa, Raquel E. Gur, Herbert Hendin, Charles P. O'Brien, Martin E.P. Seligman, and B. Timothy Walsh., 2005-2008. "Defining Anxiety Disorders." In Treating and Preventing Adolescent Mental Health Disorders: What We Know and What We Don't Know. A Research Agenda for Improving the Mental Health of Our Youth.
2.Jain, R. and Hauswirth-Jain, K., 2017. Hatha Yoga for Teachers and Practitioners: A Comprehensive Guide.

Internet resources

3. Johannes Gutenberg Universität Mainz. "Burnout can exacerbate work stress, further promoting a vicious circle." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2020/11/201110112522.htm 
4. Burn-out an "occupational phenomenon": International Classification of Diseases

Get a free copy of our Amazon bestselling book directly into your inbox!

Learn how to practice, modify and sequence 250+ yoga postures according to ancient Hatha Yoga principles.

About the author

Kalyani Hauswirth Jain

Kalyani Hauswirth-Jain is the Creative Director and a senior teacher at the Arhanta Yoga Ashrams. Prior to joining Arhanta Yoga Ashrams in 2011, Kalyani studied Modern Dance in the Netherlands where she discovered her passion for the body-mind connection and personal leadership. In 2007, Kalyani began teaching yoga professionally, and four years later, she was training yoga teachers at our ashrams.

Now with over 11000 hours of teaching experience, Kalyani is a lead teacher for the 200- and 300-hour Yoga Teacher Trainings, as well as a number of 50-hour courses at the Arhanta Yoga Ashrams. When she’s not adjusting postures in class, Kalyani is writing informative blogs and guides for fellow yogis, and co-authored the critically acclaimed book, 'Hatha Yoga for Teachers & Practitioners.'

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