Anxiety may have gotten a bad rap. After all, it’s helped us avoid harm through the ages; it can prepare us for important events or motivate us to make changes. Anxiety warns us when we need to take action, triggering the fight or flight response that keeps us alive. But if you’re one of the 40 million adults who suffer from an anxiety disorder in the U.S., you may experience it as a near-constant sensation, not just something that kicks in during a dangerous situation. While professional help and/or medication are important components in managing anxiety, there are also natural ways to manage anxiety that can either take the place of medication or pair as a supplement to them. A yoga practice is one of those ways, and these six yoga poses to relieve anxiety are the perfect example.
Yoga teaches you to find the calm within your breathing. It teaches you how to find a position (an “asana”) and stay in the moment—the here and now. It helps you harness an inner calm no matter what is going on around you, or what your anxieties are for the future. So whether you’re dealing with an anxiety disorder, or even mild stress, use these yoga poses to relieve anxiety and tension. We start with the most important component: breathing.
It sounds obvious, but learning how to properly breathe is not only the key to yoga, but could be the difference between getting lost in your anxious moment and moving through it. While most yoga practices END with savasana, this time it comes to you first to teach you the proper breathing technique for all other poses you will practice.
- Lying on your back, close your eyes. Place one hand on your belly and one hand on your chest.
- Inhale through your nose slowly for 4 counts as your belly rises with air. Exhale through your nose just as slowly for 4 counts. You should feel the texture of your breath against the back of your throat as you exhale.
- Try to practice this for at least a minute—several minutes if you can—progressively slowing the breath down.
1) From a standing position, step your left foot to the back of your mat and lower the inside of your foot so that your back foot is at an angle.
2) Bend your right knee 90 degrees and straighten your back leg.
3) Reach right arm straight over right leg and left arm straight over left leg.
4) Relax shoulders and breathe gently in and out. Hold 30 seconds and switch sides.
This is a balancing pose that promotes concentration, focus and awareness.
1) Stand tall with feet together and reach arms straight up overhead.
2) Tighten your core as you slide your right foot up your to rest on your left calf or pull it higher to rest on your inner thigh. Avoid placing your foot on the inside of your knee.
3) Hold as still as possible for 30 seconds and breathe slowly. Switch sides.
Seated Forward Fold
Breathe and practice calm as your hamstrings slowly open up. Since it is not comfortable to stretch the hamstrings, this pose teaches you to be calm and breathe through discomfort.
1) Begin in a seated position with legs stretched out straight in front of you and spine tall and straight.
2) Inhale as you reach straight up overhead to lengthen your spine.
3) As you exhale, reach your middle and index fingers to grab your big toes and begin to bring your body over the top of your legs. Lower until you feel a gentle stretch in your hamstrings and low back and hold.
4) Breathe fully as you continue to lengthen your spine. Hold for at least 30 seconds – more if possible.
This pose stretches the back and promotes a child-like sense of relaxation and safety.
1) Begin with hands and knees on the mat, knees separated to the outer edges of the mat.
2) Sit your tailbone down and back between your heels and lower your belly between your thighs.
3) Stretch your arms long in front of you and relax your forehead onto the mat. Breathe fully and hold as long as you’d like.
Legs Up The Wall
This pose is a basic inversion. Inversions help calm the body and switch the flow of blood, relieving tension. You may do this pose against an actual wall, or just free-style on your mat.
1) Lay on your back with legs straight up in the air over your hips and arms resting by your side. (If you are against a wall, legs go up the wall and a towel, mat or blanket can go under your hips.)
2) Make sure your buttocks and hamstrings are touching the wall.
3) Close your eyes and practice the calm breathing staying in this pose for several minutes if you can.
4) Exit by taking you legs slowly either right or left down the wall.
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