Monday, June 6, 2016

Yoga Poses for Releasing Anxiety

First up in the yoga for healing series: yoga for anxiety!

This little series of poses is near and dear to my heart. I found yoga because of anxiety, and found that the practice was incredible for calming my nerves and letting go of stress.

On days when you are feeling anxious, nervous or worried, try these yoga postures to help you ground your energy and release fear.

If possible, do 3 rounds of sun salutations to warm up the body and link movement with breath.

Otherwise, simply begin in Tadasana, mountain pose. Stand with your feet firmly planted on the ground, soften your knees a little bit, and reach up through the crown of your head. You can even tuck your chin just slightly to feel your spine get even taller.

Notice what it feels like when you are in this tall, confident standing posture.

Feel free to bring your hands together in front of your heart and close your eyes. Take five deep breaths, picturing the breath lighting up your entire body with vibrant energy and a sense of peace.

Each time you exhale, picture sending your worries or frustrations down through the soles of your feet, letting them go, right here and now.

Next, take a mini backbend. Reach your arms over head and look up. As you reach through your fingertips, picture inviting peaceful energy into your body.

Fill up. Maybe even smile for a moment :) 

Take five breaths here in this standing pose, lifting through the heart center and the crown of your head.

Next is seated cat/cow. Sit comfortably on your mat or on a blanket.

As you inhale, pull your heart forward and arch your spine.

As you exhale, round your spine, curling in, chin to chest.

You can have your hands up or your palms resting on your knees as you do this motion.

Keep the movement linked to the breath -- inhaling forward, exhaling back.

Do five to ten rounds.

As you inhale, invite peace. As you exhale, release fear and tension. You can even vibrate the mantra, I am at peace.

Come back to center. Sit up tall. Take a clearing breath, inhaling through your nose and then exhaling audibly through your mouth: ahhhhhh.

Next, do a few side bends. Let one arm slide down, elbow to the ground. Reach up and across with your other arm. Let your neck relax as you breathe into your side body.

Stretch each side, pausing for five to seven breaths on the right and the left.

As you return to center, notice new space you've created in the mid-body, the area around the heart and in the middle of the upper back, where the shoulder blades are.

Picture the energy there feeling calm and centered.

End your practice with a few moments in lotus mudra. Draw your thumbs and pinky fingers together to touch, and fan your other fingers out wide. Place your thumbs near your sternum.

Close your eyes and breathe.

Notice the sense of calm in your body.

You are this sense of calm. Your very nature is here, in a loving, nurturing, relaxed place. If at any time you need to remember this feeling in your body, you can bring your hands back into lotus mudra and take a few deep breaths.

Here's a summary of the YOGA FOR ANXIETY practice:
  • 3 sun salutations to warm up
  • Mountain pose, tadasana
  • Mountain pose with a baby backbend, arms overhead
  • Seated cat/cow pose
  • Clearing breath (audible exhale!)
  • Seated side bends
  • Lotus mudra at the heart

May your yoga practice be an act of kindness toward your body, and a key to finding healing and peace. Namaste.

Photos in this post by Tom Huynh (1), Brynna Bryant of Respiro Photography (2, 3, 4, 6) and Felipe Silva of @the_lost_coast (5). Graphic illustration created using Canva.

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