• Kat

Yoga poses for anxiety

Sometimes life just gets too much. It stretches us out in all sort of ways and brings us out of our comfort zone. This almost always leads to fear. We can get anxious of the uncertainty and can feel paralysed, unable to take any action.

There have been times when I self-medicated myself with unhealthy foods or excessive amounts of caffeine. Other times, I've remembered to use what I know already and soothe my anxious mind with yoga poses. It can be deeply nourishing to move into some yoga poses with deep breathing and allow yourself a moment to go within, letting go of all the chaos in your head for a few minutes.

There are so many yoga poses that alleviate stress and anxiety and over time you'll find your own favourites. Here are the few that really do the trick for me. Discovering your go-to poses and adding them to your daily health routine can really make a difference.

1. Child's pose

A woman doing child's pose on a yoga mat. Yoga with Kat, Yoga in Felixstowe.
Sit on your heels, joining big toes together and spreading knees wide. Extend the spine and as you exhale walk hands out as far as you can. Drop the forehead down onto the mat/stacked palms/block. Relax and allow the hips to sink lower toward the heels.

My favourite pose of all time. Even just the name makes me feel like it's a pose in which I should feel safe because as a child you're meant to feel safe, right? You're meant to be able to relax and play carelessly because someone else has got the important stuff figured out. When I come into this pose now, as an adult, I genuinely feel that way. And yes, that other person who has to have it figured out is still me, but taking a moment out of that constant doing/adulting is blissful.

Stress often results in tension in our shoulders and neck. Child's pose helps to release tension in those areas and is an incredible stretch for the whole spine and a gentle hip and shoulder opener, too!

2. Legs up the wall

Woman performing leg's up the wall pose. Yoga with Kat, Yoga in Felixstowe
Bring your mat or blanket close to the wall. Sit by the wall with one hip touching it. Support yourself with your arms as you rotate yourself, swinging the legs up the wall and torso down onto the floor. To support your lower back place another blanket or roll up your mat few times underneath the buttocks.

Another amazing stress reliever. The reversed blood flow will slow your heart rate down and help you to focus on allowing yourself to just melt into the floor/blanket. Taking deep breaths in and out through the nose, on a count of 5 can help further relax your body and mind.

The pose helps to release lower back pain, arthritis, and menstrual cramping. It's also said it can help to reduce insomnia.

And if you work on your feet all day, this feels amazing at the end of the day!

3. Forward Fold

Woman doing a standing forward fold. yoga with Kat, yoga in Felixstowe
Stand with feet hip-width apart. Elongate your spine by bringing arms up. On an exhale, hinge from the hips, bringing a bend into your knees. Rest the belly on your thighs and let the head just hang without tension. You can choose to leave the palms on the floor or wrap the opposite elbows and let the gravity pull you down.

This can be done anywhere without a mat and is great for relaxing and releasing tension in your back, too.

This pose energises your body and stretches out the upper back and spine which are the places where we store a lot of tension when experiencing anxiety and stress.

The vertebrae of your spine get to enjoy a nice stretch and more space around them, which stimulates the nerves situated along your spine.

Another bonus is the increased circulation of blood into the abdomen area, which improves the digestive functions. Can be handy after a moment of over-indulgence ;)

4. Crocodile Pose

Woman doing crocodile pose. Yoga with Kat, Yoga for anxiety, Yoga in Felixstowe
Come down onto your belly, spreading the feet as wide as your mat. Stack the forearms on top of each other or allow them to cross as you wrap palms around opposite elbow. Let the forehead rest on the forearms. Your chest and armpits will be above the ground.

In this pose, you get the opportunity to explore the full, diaphragmatic breathing.

This type of breathing is often referred to as Ujjayi breath... that 'Darth Vader'/hissing sound breath I spoke about before.

Rings a bell? No?

Refresh your memory here.

This will allow relaxing of the abdomen and as a result an opening of the lower back.

5. Supported Headstand

Woman doing headstand. Yoga with Kat. Yoga in Felixstowe. Yoga for anxiety
Start on your knees and elbows. Measure out the correct elbow placement by wrapping palms around the elbows. Place the crown of the head down in front of firmly interlaced fingers and come onto tip toes. Walk the feet toward your face and when your buttocks are stacked on top of shoulders let the feet drift up.

Okay, I realise this is not accessible to all, and nor should you go and try doing this at home right now without any prior guidance!

However, if you've tried it before and you feel confident doing a supported headstand (can be against a wall), then this inversion is a great pose to come to when you're feeling anxious. It forces you to really focus on your breath as you pay attention to the alignment of your body stacked on top of your shoulders. And the more you focus on your breath, the less likely you are to attach to the anxious thoughts in your head.

And if this is not the level of your practice, you may get similar benefits from coming into a shoulder stand, as long as you have no issues with your neck.

Ultimately, you want to find a pose that works for you. We all have different bodies and respond to poses in different ways. Finding one or two that you can find anxiety and stress relief in, and introducing them into your daily routine, as a preventative measure too, can help you take better care of yourself.

In my case, I know I am much better off taking 10-15 minutes a day to practice any 2-3 of these poses, then pouring litres of coffee into my body or snacking on unhealthy foods.

And linking it back to what I wrote about in my last blog - delayed gratification - I know my future self will thank me for choosing 10-15 minute of self-care over self-medicating with whatever my mind is craving to create a short-lived sense of comfort.


What yoga pose gives you stress and anxiety release?

Maybe it's a more fierce one like any of the Warrior poses?

Next time you're on your mat, pay special attention to how certain poses make you feel and create your own personalised wellness guide.

May all your days be anxiety-free friends.

Kat x

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