Since I was little I have always battled with anxiety. Yoga, turned my life around. Yes, I still suffer, but instead of getting stuck on the anxiety train, I now have the means to disembark.
Below are some of my favourite yoga poses and tools to reduce anxiety quickly and effectively.
If you would like to join me for an anxiety reducing yoga flow – scroll down to the bottom of this post where you will be able to access the class
Reduce Anxiety With Some Breathing Exercises.
Taking a few moments to sit or lie down, watching your breath, is one of my favourite ways of calming anxiety when it hits. It works because the breath is the key to calming the nervous system. Try to practise for 2-5 minutes. Work on establishing a full breath aiming to make the exhalation a little longer than the inhalation. If you need an added focus, simply think IN as you breath in and OUT as you breath out.
If you feel too agitated to start with this, get moving on the mat first. Try a sun salutation or several rounds of cat cow. I find this really helps me. The movement shakes off the excess ‘negative’ energy and then I find that I am in a better place for being able to sit and focus on the breath.
If you want to learn more about how to breathe the yogi way to reduce and beat anxiety and stress fast read more here >>>
Cat Cow (reduce anxiety with this simple pose)
You don’t need to do a complicated practice. Sometimes the simplest of movement is all you need.
- Come into a tabletop position with the hands underneath the shoulders and the knees under the hips.
- Root down through the toenails, shins, and gently spread the fingers, rooting through the finger knuckles and pads.
- On the exhale, moving from the tailbone, round the spine, curling the tailbone towards the backs of the knees. Draw the lower belly in and up and hug the front ribs in. Drop the chin and relax the neck and head.
- On the inhale, keeping your foundation strong, take the tailbone back in space, and reach the chest forward as though you want to move it in front of the gateway of your arms. Gaze slightly up.
- Repeat for at least 6 rounds.
Sun Salutation A (the perfect sequence which helps me to reduce my anxiety quickly)
Any variations of sun salutes are great if you need a more vigorous, energetic route back to inner peace. Because you repeat the same sequence of movements the practise becomes very hypnotic and trance like. It is this quality that really helps me to reduce my anxiety; say goodbye to the dark and hello to the light again.
- Come to standing at the front of your mat in mountain pose.
- Inhale and reach the arms up and over head.
- Exhale, bend the knees slightly and fold from the hips into a forward bend.
- Inhale, find halfway lift, reaching the chest forward and gently drawing the lower belly in.
- Exhale, and step back into plank pose (the knees can be up or down), and then drop immediately onto your belly, bringing the hands to the side ribs and drawing the elbows up towards the ceiling.
- Inhale and find cobra by routing the pelvis and curling the tailbone down towards the floor whilst at the same time, lifting the chest forwards and up. Gently squeeze the inner shoulder blades together and soften the tops of the shoulders away from the ears.
- Exhale lower chest, and press up and back into downward facing dog, reaching the sit bones up and back.
- Inhale, step to the front of your mat.
- Exhale, find a forward fold.
- Inhale, root to rise.
Repeat this sequence as many times as you like. It is a beautiful way of connecting your breath to movement and stilling the inner ‘mind chatter’.
Reduce your anxiety and find you inner strength with warrior II (virabhadrasana II). Holding this pose will help you to connect to your inner strength and power as well as focus your mind. It is hard to think about other things when you are finding your inner warrior!
- Come to the middle of your mat and step out wide so that the ankles are in line with your wrists when you stretch your arms out. Once you have the right stance relax the arms for a moment or place the hands on your hips.
- Turn the left foot so that it is facing the long edge of your mat and then turn the right foot so that it is facing the short end of your mat.
- Start to engage the legs by rooting down into all four corners of the feet. Feel the energy of the legs as they switch on and visualise yourself hugging the muscles of the legs to the bones.
- From here, find a neutral pelvis by momentarily tucking and tilting the tailbone until you find neutral. Engage the glutes and the lower abdominals to help you keep it there. At the same time soften the front ribs in and lengthen the tailbone towards the floor.
- Now bend the right knee as much as you can without disturbing the pelvis. Think about hugging the right sit bone under to help engage the right outer glute and help your knee stay aligned. If you knee is facing inwards slightly, then allow the back hip to drop down a little.
- Take the arms out now, extending from the shoulder blades all the way through to the fingers.
- Hold and breath settling into the pose.
- On the inhale, straighten the right leg and raise the arms up above your head.
- On the exhale, bend the right knee and take the arms out to the side.
- Repeat several times and then hold for 5 – 10 steady breaths. Feel your strength and inner power.
- Release and then repeat on the other side.
Practising back bends reduces anxiety by helping us to open up the heart and chest area – the opposite of what we do when we are feeling anxious. Bow is one of the more invigorating backbends. If you need something softer why not try sphinx pose or a restorative backbend. Enjoy.
- Come onto your belly and take a moment in crocodile.
- Bend the knees and grab onto the ankles (reaching back with the hands).
- Once you have them, squeeze the inner thighs back together.
- Pressing the pubic bone down into the floor (whilst rolling the tailbone down as well), start the press the feet back until your chest is pulled off the mat.
- Keep pressing back, making sure that the arms are straight and active, and the pelvis is rooted into the mat.
- Breathe here and enjoy the gentle see saw action of the pose – i.e. as you inhale you will feel a pull up and as you exhale you will gently float down a little.
My next favourite pose is a forward fold. They are great for reducing anxiety as they help us to connect to our inner self. They are wonderfully self soothing poses which work well if you are feeling exhausted.
- Take a seat and stretch the legs out in front of you.
- Firmly flex the feet and aim the second toe up towards the ceiling. Gently roll the inner legs down to the floor.
- Inhale and raise the arms above the head.
- Exhale, leading with the chest come into a forward fold over the legs. As you hold on every inhale, reach the chest forward, and on the exhale, gently draw the lower abdominals in and soften further into the pose.
Yoga Relaxation (Savasana) – the ultimate pose for reducing anxiety
If you choose one restful pose to calm the body and mind then this is the one to go for. If you don’t have time for anything else just spend 5-20 minutes in yoga relaxation. Put some soothing music on and watch your breath gently ease in and out. It doesn’t have to get any more complicated then this. Out of all the poses described this one is certainly the best one for helping you reach a state of zen so please don’t miss this out
- Lie down with the arms a little way from the body and the palms facing up.
- Let the feet flop out to the side.
- Connect to the breath.
- Do a simple body scan starting at the feet and working up to the crown of the head. Think about each body part on the inhale and visualise them releasing on the exhale.
- Stay here for 5-10 minutes and then come out slowly.
Before resuming your day (after practising some or all of the above), just take a moment to check in with your self on a physical, emotional, and mental level. Has there been any change? How do you feel now compared to when you started?
Remember, anxiety rears its head in different ways. Some days it makes me feel so exhausted and tired that I just want to lie on my mat and practice a relaxation or breathing exercise. Other days it pumps me full of excess fidgety energy which makes me pace around and not in a good way.😁 On those days, I go for the more vigorous movements. The key here is listen inwards and go with what your body and mind need on that particular day.
Practice with me online; I have a few different classes on anxiety which will suit your energy levels and time.
Do you have your own ways of soothing anxiety? I would love to hear about them. Leave me a comment below xox