Yoga for Stress and Anxiety Relief
I hope this post on Yoga for stress and anxiety calms, soothes and restores. As we relax the physical body it becomes possible to release stress and anxiety from the entire being. Yoga is fantastically successful at managing stress and anxiety. The following poses are particularly effective. Forward bends are naturally soothing -a balm for anxious thoughts and worries. Bowing in guides the gaze inwards. This brings acknowledgement and understanding. Forward bends teach “going with the flow”. Back-bends teach life’s challenges. Seated and standing forward bends foster great love and self-acceptance. Inversions restore the chemical balance in the body, flushing the brain with fresh blood, oxygen, nutrients and hormones. When we rest the forehead and head in poses we surrender worries and racing thoughts. Try Balasana if you ever near breaking point. Its simple effectiveness is surprising. All poses listed are gentle. Do what you can. Be kind and loving towards yourself. Oh child, give yourself permission to take a break!
This need not be from the floor. Ideally we want to lengthen the spine (It keeps us alert). If getting into cross legged position feels too much on certain days, just take a chair. Sit up straight. If you can’t manage that just sit. Begin. Begin somewhere.
For stress-relief, try to be comfortable. If you are not very practiced in this pose, lean in against a wall or the back of the chair. Widen across the collar bones. (By widening the shoulders, perhaps bringing them back against a wall) Prop yourself with cushions if necessary.
Watch the journey of the breathing
“Cools” & calms the body and mind. Allows detachment from overthinking. Follow the journey of your breath from beneath the nostrils down past the diaphragm. Observe the the inhalation & exhalation. Watch curiously. Accept everything else (anxious thoughts, worries, planning etc) Let thoughts pass like clouds, keep bringing your gaze back to the breath. Practice this for at least 3-5 minutes.
Investigate breath expansion & contraction
Step 2: If you are still with me, bring your gaze down to the lower body. The area around the root chakra.
Simply observe any movement in and around the root chakra as the breath moves in and out. Is there a slight expansion on the inhalation? Can you notice a minuscule contraction on the exhalation? Investigate
If you try it, this practice should bring you back into your body, rather than up in your head worrying away! Even though we make no effort to change the breath, the breath will become deeper and calmer. You will feel present.
Gentle and enjoyable flexion for spine. Controlled movement releasing physical tension. Move with the breath, bring a stretch all the way up your back and spine. Remember your neck is part of your spine.
Bring a river of breath up through the feet as you inhale and concave the back. Exhale a river of breath out through the feet as you round the back.
Pull that river of breath up through the feet to the fingertips and back
Bowing in towards ourselves fosters acceptance, self-care and self-love. Allow the pose to be passive. Find a comfortable place and prop yourself up/bend your knees if you need to. Adjust yourself so that your back is relaxed and not achy (avoid overly rounding the back. Use props). Rest your forehead.
Down Dog or supine knees circles
Beneficial for mild depression. Gently energising. If you can find the energy do a really soft Downward facing dog. Keep your knees bent and all of your joints soft. Rest in Balasana after a few moments then try another. Think of this as a refreshing yawn for your spine. Gently does it.
Alternatively lie on your back, hug your knees and massage your lower back rotating your knees in a figure of eight.
A nurturing pose assisting with acceptance. Physically and mentally calming & balancing. Brings blood & fresh oxygen to the head. There are many variations to this pose: Standing Uttanasana, against a wall, or seated. Just make this pose soft. We are communicating with our heart not our hamstrings!
Moving Bridge Pose or Supported Bridge
Uplifting and heart-opening. A gentle stretch for entire spine. A counter-pose for poor seated posture. Releases aches and pains and physical stressors. Make this a moving meditation. Peel your back of the ground like a strand of pearls and lower your body down in the same way. Repeat at least 3 times. Then rest. A great alternative is to use blocks or supports to prop the body. It is divinely supportive and restful!
Balasana or Down Dog
Repeat the steps above. Stretch the spine out again.
Inversions are an awesome tonic for well-being. They are thought to offer an alternate perspective emotionally as well as physically. Let tension melt away. Clear away cobwebs from your mind!
Keep the weight in the back body. Bring hands either side of the head if you feel inflexible or unsure. Otherwise bring the hands onto the heels. There is very gentle massage point pressure on the crown of the head. Turn your gaze in. Watch the breath. If you can find the energy -and you are practiced in this pose- why not try full headstand for further health benefits.
Lengthen the spine again between poses. Allow the forehead and head to rest.
An uplifting easy back-bend that requires little energy. Concave and get a stretch for the upper back. This is a nice, simple back-bend. Bring your forehead or chin to the floor. Keep pushing into the fingers to keep the shoulders in the sockets.
Viparita Karani/Legs up the wall
A Nourishing, restorative pose. All the benefits of an inversion without the exertion. Inversions restore balance and a sense of well-being by literally nourishing the brain. Relax and allow fresh blood, prana and oxygen to flow to you.
Spend at least 20 breaths in this pose. A deep Savasana/Yoga Nidra is believed to offer the benefits of sleep to the body, and more. In Savasana we can experience what it is like to be stress-free and in harmony.
Happy stress relief to you!
Video on “Yoga for Stress and Anxiety” coming soon! Watch this space for the link.