Yoga Poses for Anxiety

Your schedule is overbooked and your needy boss keeps adding more daunting tasks to your plate. You have many people to serve, a dozen deadlines to crunch, stacks of bills to pay, a family conflict on the rise… (and let’s not even dive into that fight with your partner last night). 

You go about your day with a racing mind, churning tummy, pressing chest, pounding heart and non-stop pulsing in the ear. If this sounds like you, then you may be experiencing one or two of the most unwanted feelings that most people are far too familiar with: stress and anxiety.

As a long-time stress-cadet myself, I’m well acquainted with these symptoms and would try to suppress them by indulging in bad habits like binging on TV and food. And the more I allowed stress and anxiety to pent up, the harder they were to manage. I just finished reading Dr. Samantha Boardman’s brilliant article on How to Outsmart Stress. She inspired me to add one more scientifically proven and holistic solution: practicing yoga.

According to Harvard Health, American Psychological Association and other groups, yoga is one of the most comprehensive approaches to manage your stress and anxiety. When one merges simple movement with focusing on their breath, they learn to control their thoughts and calm their mind. Instead of moving to the couch to binge on Netflix and chocolate, I’ve made it a habit stretch out my stresses on the mat.

Here are 5 asanas that can be a lifeline whenever stress and anxiety start to kick in.

Easy Pose with Twist — “Parivrtta Sukhaasana”

1: Cross your legs at the shins, knees wide
2: Balance your weight evenly across your sit bones
3: Inhale and sit up straight and tall by elongating the spine and reaching the crown of your head toward the ceiling
4: Exhale and twist to your right, placing your right hand on the floor behind you and left hand on your knee
5: Inhale and elongate your spine
6: Twist deeper as you exhale and gaze over your right shoulder
7: Repeat for 5-10 breaths
8: Come back to your starting position on an exhale
9: Change the cross of your legs and repeat on the left side
*Modification: sit on a block, pillow or folded blanket if your hips are tight; but place knees on the ground in front of you.

Extended Puppy Pose — “Uttana Shishosana”

1: Come onto on all fours. Shoulders above your wrists, hips above your knees.
2: Walk your hands forward a few inches
3: Curl your toes under
4: Inhale
5: Exhale and move your buttocks toward your heels — don’t allow your elbows to touch the ground
6: Forehead touches the floor or blanket allowing the neck to relax
7: Inhale and spread the fingers and activate the arms by pressing your palms into the ground while pulling your hips toward your heels
9: As you exhale elongate your spine in both directions
10: Hold for 30-60 seconds then exhale and release your buttocks onto your heels

Seated Forward Bend — “Paschimottana”

1: Sit with your legs extended in front of you at a 90 degree angle from your upper body
2: Keep feet together and flexed as you press through your heels
3: Inhale and elongate your spine as you stretch your arms overhead
4: Exhale and hinge from your hips, keeping spine elongated as you fold over your legs and hands reach toward feet
5: Place hands on outside edges of feet, tops of shins or thighs
6. Relax letting your breath do the work
7: Come out on your inhale keeping a flat back

Legs Up The Wall — “Viparita Karani”

1: Sit beside a wall with your sit bones on the ground or bolster then gently lie down on your back
2: Pivot yourself so the backs of your legs and sit bones are pressing against the wall
3: Let your arms and hands rest on your belly or down by your sides
4: Stay in pose for 5-15 minutes as you breath deeply and allow your head to be heavy and face soften
5: To come out, gently roll to one side before returning to a seated position

Child’s Pose — “Balasana”

1: Kneel on floor with your big toes touching and knees as wide as your hips
2: Exhale and drop your buttocks toward heels as far as it can comfortably go
3: Lay your torso between your thighs
4: Rest your forehead on the ground
5: Lay arms by your sides or stretched out over your head
6: Come out on an inhale lifting from your torso