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Relax: Five Yoga Poses to Ease Anxiety

Posted on April 14 2020

Yogi at home in forearm wheelOne of the best things about an online yoga class or at-home practice is that waterfall of calm that washes through your mind, body, and spirit during Savasana (Corpse Pose). Suddenly, life doesn’t seem so confusing. Everything’s clear. Prioritizing is easy. You’re eager for the next challenge and ready to succeed. And, then you walk out into your car, head off to the grocery store only to forget half of what you went for and, somewhere along the line, remember five urgent emails you didn’t answer at work.  You go from feeling like Superwoman to feeling like you can’t grab at the thoughts that are flying in and out of your head. Maybe that big work presentation makes you want to "call in" sick. Maybe it’s the thought of trying to homeschool your kids. Or, it may other be something as serious as keeping your family safe during these uncertain times.

In the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic, anxiety “happens” to everybody. You’re stressing out about 10 things at once, or you’re running late for your Zoom meeting and can’t catch up. Maybe, you’re in a difficult place in your relationships, work or financial circumstances. You might feel overwhelmed. It’s normal, but it’s not necessary. You can use your yoga practice to help quiet your mind and stop the spiral before anxiety takes over.

Don’t make "change" one more stressor. Take it one step at a time and make those steps easy to take. When you are on your mat, try to leave your worries at the "door." That’s easier said than done, of course, but stressing about what might happen won’t help create a better outcome. This is your time to exercise your discernment and figure out the difference between concrete steps to alleviate that tension and pointless fretting. So, in your at-home practice, when the online teacher suggests a challenging pose, think about how to approach it. Don’t pressure yourself to achieve it right then and there. Assure yourself that you need to learn to build the strength, flexibility and/or balance required for that pose.  Learning just means trying different things until something works. There are no mistakes, no failure.  As every class reminds you, you don’t have to go it alone and you don’t have to win a medal. It’s about enjoying what you do and connecting with people who share that job.

Yoga is also a good antidote for people whose anxiety stems from worry.  Use your yoga class time to help you learn to focus on the moment. When you’re unrolling your mat, tell yourself that for the next hour and fifteen minutes (or however long you plan to practice), each moment is all that you have to think about. As Hindu sage Ramana Mararshi said, “Take care of the present, the future will take care of itself.”

Here are some poses to help you focus on the here and now:


Balasana "Child’s Pose"  

Benefits: Pressing your forehead into the mat in this pose helps you slow down your thoughts.   

How to do it: Begin by kneeling on the floor. Put your big toes together and open your knees slightly wider than your hips. Lay your torso on your thighs and let your head rest on the mat. Bring your arms back to your sides, palms up. Remain in this pose for one to three minutes.



Urdhva Dhanurasana "Wheel Pose"  

Benefits: Backbends open your chest, releasing the physical strain that often accompanies anxiety. 

How to do it: Start by sitting on an exercise ball. Slowly lean back and place your hands on the floor. Adjust your placement on the ball so that it supports your lower back and hips. Focus on the stretch across your chest. Stay in the pose for 10 to 30 seconds, then release.



Parivrtta Trikonasana "Revolved Triangle Pose"

Benefits: The grounding of this pose gives you a sensation of security.   

How to do it: Begin in Tadasana (Mountain Pose). Step or hop your feet three-and-a-half to four feet apart. Raise your arms until they are parallel to the floor. Leave your palms facing down. Turn your left foot in and your right foot out. Make sure your right heel is in a line with the arch of your left foot.  Hinge from your hips to place your right hand on the ground or on a block. Extend your left arm to the ceiling. Depending on what’s comfortable for you, you can look at the floor or up at your hand. Hold for 30 seconds to one minute, then release and repeat on the other side.  If you slip in the pose YogaPaws are great to lock you in place.



Ardha Chandrasana "Half Moon Pose"

Benefits: This balancing pose forces your mind to come into the present as you attempt to find physical stability.  

How to do it: Begin in Utthita Trikonasana (Triangle Pose) on the right side. Inhale and reach your left foot closer to your right. Bring your right hand about a foot in front of your right foot. Leave your left hand on your hip if you are new to this pose. Shift your weight into your standing leg and hand. Lift your left leg until it is parallel to the floor. Remain in this pose for 30 seconds to one minute, then release and repeat on the other side.



Anjali Mudra "Salutation Seal"

Benefits: This calming pose can be done anywhere and allows you to focus on your breath, which often gets constricted if you’re anxious.  

How to do it: Sit or stand in a comfortable position. Bring your hands together and press your thumbs into your chest. Make sure both hand press equally—you may tend to have one or the other dominate. Lower your chin slightly. You can hold this pose for one to five minutes.



As you practice these poses, you can take this time to step back and look at the issues that cause you anxiety. You’ll often find that either the outcome isn’t all that bad or that you feel much more prepared than you realize. Take that serenity off the mat, breathe deeply, and find appreciation in your space.


Yogi pictured: @odette_hughes


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