It is impossible to ignore the effects of stress and anxiety in today’s modern world. If you have been feeling anxious or restless lately, it might be time to turn to your yoga mat. Yoga is highly beneficial for anxiety as it helps us unite body and mind to feel more calm, stable and grounded. The tools yoga teaches us – steady breath, steady mind and steady movement – help us find support and peace in times of anxiety.
There are many styles of yoga for anxiety and all can be beneficial; it really is about finding your personal preference. However, in general, slower paced practices tend to be more helpful that higher energy flows in promoting feelings of calm and serenity through the body and mind. It’s also a good idea to keep a gentle awareness on your breath as you move through your poses.
With these tips in mind, use the following poses as inspiration for your yoga for anxiety relief sequence:
Reduce Anxiety through Heart Openers
- Setu Bandha Sarvangasana, also known as bridge pose, is a gentle backbend. Press into your palms and soles of feet to lift the hips high. This pose opens the heart, chest and shoulders. You can also place a block under the sacrum to come into a restorative version.
- Matsyasana, also known as fish pose, is a heart and throat opener that stimulates the thyroid. Energetically, this pose is grounding and opening. Try working up to the full expression by placing a block under the shoulder blades and a block under the head while letting the arms come out to the sides.
- Cat/Cow Pose gently activates the spine and calms the nervous system. Inhale to arch the back and look up for cow pose; exhale to round and curl in for cat pose. Get creative and tune into your body by adding any other small movements here that feel good!
Ground Your Energy through Forward Folds
- Paschimottonasana, also known as seated forward bend, is a forward fold with many variations. You can keep the spine long to intensify the sensation in the back of the legs or round through the lower back for more of a back stretch. To make this more restorative, you can bend the knees to let the front body drape over the legs, similar to in Padagusthasana. With each exhale, allow yourself to melt deeper physically and turn inward mentally.
- Padagusthasana, also known as big toe pose, is a forward fold using your peace fingers to hold the big toes. If the backs of the legs feel tight, bend your knees a lot in this pose. To make it more restorative, bend your knees enough to let your torso drape over your thighs. Hold for 5-10 breaths.
Find Serenity in Restful Yoga Poses
- Viparita Kriyani, also known as waterfall pose, is a restorative inversion where your hips are alleviated onto a block with legs extended up to the sky. This pose reverses the bloodflow; sending fresh oxygen to the heart and to the brain. If you do not have a block, try legs up the wall for the same effect.
- Savasana, also known as corpse pose, is a final resting posture. Allow yourself to release any tension or effort to find space to be still. Let the eyes close if comfortable and stay for 5-10 minutes.
To increase the benefits of yoga for anxiety, try practicing a short sequence each day. It does not need to be a lengthy session to provide benefits; simply use the time you have, even if it is just 10 to 15 minutes per day. Find a calming and quiet space in your home that is inviting for your daily practice. And remember, seeing the effects of yoga take time and consistency! Be patient and loving with yourself as you develop a daily yoga routine.
Alexa Bull is an Ayurvedic Health Coach, Yoga Teacher and Aromatherapist based in Brooklyn.