10 Yoga Poses to Relieve Anxiety
Child’s Pose (Balasana)
Benefits: This pose helps to release neck, shoulder, and upper back strain. Additionally, it can help to calm the nervous system through steady, conscious breathing.
How to Do It: Kneel on the floor and sit on your heels. Allow yourself to bend forward and relax into the stretch. You can either rest your chest on your thighs or you can spread your knees out to the sides, keeping your feet together, and lower your torso towards the ground. Your arms can either be stretched out in front of you or reaching back towards your feet.
Corpse Pose (Savasana)
Benefits: Allows practitioners to relax by helping to slow breathing and, in turn, decreasing blood pressure.
How to Do It: Begin by lying flat on your back. If needed, you can modify this pose to bolster certain body parts to alleviate stress, such as a folded blanket under your head, a bolster under your knees, etc. Put your arms and legs out at about a 45-degree angle, hands palms up and allow the feet to relax to the sides. Gently roll your head from side to side to relax your spine, straightening your back to make sure it is properly aligned. Relax into the pose and focus on your breath.
Extended Puppy Pose (Uttana Shishosana)
Benefits: This pose calms your mind and lengthens the spine, releasing tension in the back.
How to Do It: Being on your hands and knees in a neutral tabletop position with your knees under your hips and your hands under your shoulders. Keeping your legs as they are, slowly walk your hands forward, stretching out your spine until your chest is about an inch or so away from the floor. Breathe into your spine and lengthen out your back. To get out of it, simply walk your hands back towards a neutral tabletop position.
Half Lord of the Fishes (Ardha Matsyendrasana)
Benefits: As with all twists, this pose helps to calm the nervous system, quiet the mind, and increase spinal flexibility to release tension.
How to Do It: Begin by sitting on the floor with both legs extended in front of you. Keeping your right leg straight, bend your left knee and pull your foot in towards you. Wrap your right arm around your bent knee and put your left hand on the floor behind you, creating a spinal twist. Turn your gaze out over your left shoulder but be careful not to twist too hard and further injure your back. Repeat on the opposite side.
Half Pigeon (Eka Pada Rajakapotasana)
Benefits: A lot of emotional stress can be held in the hips. By performing a hip opener like this pose, you can help to release some of that stress and, in confronting those emotions, alleviate stress.
How to Do It: Start on your hands and knees in a neutral position. Bring one of your legs forward and put your shin parallel to the front edge of your mat and flex your foot. If that isn’t possible, bring your knee forward but let your leg stay at an angle—but point your toes instead of flexing your foot. Stretch your back leg out behind you, extending your toes towards the back of your mat. You can use your fingers on the mat in front of you for support and sit up straight, opening your chest.
Legs Up the Wall (Viparita Karani)
Benefits: This pose can relieve a lot of tension in the hips, a great source of lower back pain.
How to Do It: Set up a folded blanket beside the wall. Lay on your left side with your hip on the edge of the blanket, as if you are sitting on the wall. Kick your legs up and lay on your back with your legs straight up the wall and the blanket beneath your hips. Relax into this restorative pose and if you can, stay here for at least five minutes. To get out of it, bend your knees to your chest and roll on to your side.
Seated Forward Bend (Paschimottanasana)
Benefits: This pose calms the mind, reduces headaches, and can lower blood pressure.
How to Do It: Begin by sitting up straight with your legs stretched out in front of you, keeping your spine straight and your feet flexed, keeping your legs engaged. When you exhale, lean forward, hooking your fingers around your big toes if you can reach. With each breath, continue to deepen your stretch and find more space between each vertebrae.
Tree Pose (Vrikasana)
Benefits: This pose can increase self-confidence as physical balance improves and by creating physical balance, the same can be mirrored mentally and emotionally.
How to Do It: Begin by standing at the front of your mat with your feet together. Ground your balance into your left foot and slowly fold your right knee. Bring the sole of your right foot to either your calf or your inner thigh, depending on your ability. Just be sure to avoid putting your foot on your knee as that can cause injury to your knee. Once you have your balance, bring your hands together in front of your heart in prayer position. From there, bring your heart forward and lift your hands above your head, creating branches with your arms. Repeat on the other side.
Warrior 3 (Virabhadrasana III)
Benefits: Much like tree pose, this pose can increase self-confidence through physical balance which in turn can cause a boost in mental and emotional balance.
How to Do It: Begin by standing on your mat in mountain pose, feet together. Exhale and fold forward. Step your left leg back so that you are in a lunge with your right knee at a 90 degree angle. Stretch your arms out in front of you, parallel to each other. When you are ready, begin to straighten your right leg and lift your left leg behind you, balancing on your right foot, essentially forming your body into a capital “T.” Repeat on the other side.