With everything going on this year (2020), it’s not a surprise that anxiety levels are at an all-time high. This is just one of the reasons why we love Yoga, there even are specific Yoga poses for stress and anxiety!
You and pretty much everyone else on the planet… are going through difficult times, and your anxiety is the body’s response to these stressful times.
Maybe your anxiety comes in moments and then it passes.
Or maybe, it’s life-impacting in really big ways.
Anxiety can create limiting beliefs, low self-esteem and that persistent fear or panic of what is coming. It can look like irritability, fatigue and create physical symptoms like panic attacks.
We all have different triggers that cause anxiety and we all have different coping mechanisms and tools to move through it.
What works for us, might not work for you.
But one thing we know for sure is that focusing on the NOW, living in the present and not letting the whirlwind of future thoughts and worries (which are not even real!) consume your mind will help.
And this is where Yoga comes in. Yoga is one of the best ways to get you present, and grounded.
It helps you feel balanced and it’s actually scientifically proven to help shift and balance your brain chemistry.
It’s not just us saying it, the scientists do too (wanna join us on the mat… for free? Sign up to our Free 7 Day Trial of MerryBody!).
Really, any type of Yoga will help your anxiety. Even just sitting and breathing for 5 minutes will help your anxiety.
But these 6 Yoga poses are our go-to poses to help deal with the anxious thoughts that sometimes come up. These Yoga poses for stress and anxiety will really help you through tough times.
Here are the top 6 yoga poses to help with anxiety:
Child’s Pose (Balasana)
Child’s Pose yoga is a restorative, mild inversion pose. This provides a stable and calming effect as you allow your head to drop down below your hips and heart. You can imagine your thoughts melting out of the brain. You’ll stretch your back, hips and ankles which will help ease stress, fatigue and anxiety. This grounding posture gives you a sense of calmness which helps you sleep better.
DO THE POSE: From a kneeling position, fold forward and lay the chest over the thighs and reach the arms out long (you can also do this with knees apart and toes together). Rest your forehead (third eye) on the floor, keeping your arms extended or if it feels better rest them alongside your body. Hold for 10 deep breaths.
If you’d prefer to be guided through these poses, come and do Move Through It Yoga inside MerryBody Online Studio OR Quick 10 De-Stress Yoga.
Legs-Up-the-Wall Pose (Viparita Karani)
Yogis believed that the Legs-Up-the-Wall pose is THE cure-all pose. It’s restorative and allows the body and mind to completely relax.
It also helps to move Lymph through the Lymphatic System, which is the body’s way of removing toxins from the body. This might just be our favourite pose of all Yoga poses for stress and anxiety!
DO THE POSE: You can use a bolster or a few folded blankets OR you can use no support. Shimmy yourself close to the wall with your knees bent, then roll to the side and onto your back while taking your legs toward the sky and up the wall. If you’re using a bolster, you’ll place your booty on the bolster before you roll and extend the legs.
Hold this pose anywhere from 5 to 15 minutes. When coming out of the pose, slide off the bolster first then turn to your side, or simply bend your knees and push your feet against the wall to lift the booty and slide the support out. Be sure to stay on your side for a while before coming up to a sitting position.
Seated Forward Fold (Paschimottanasana)
This pose is an intense seated stretch for the hamstrings and back. If you’re feeling overwhelmed with your thoughts, this seated forward fold will allow space for you to turn inward and reconnect.
DO THE POSE: Support your booty with a folded blanket and stretch your legs out long in front of you (if this is too much, you can place a bolster or rolled-up blanket/towel under your knees). If you are quite flexible you won’t need either support. Inhale feel the spine lengthen and as you exhale, hinge from the hips bringing your belly toward your thighs. Rest your hands on your thighs, calves, ankles or floor. Hold for 10 deep breaths.
Fish Pose (Matsyāsana)
This pose helps relieve chest and back tightness. It also strengthens the neck, quadriceps and upper back while opening the shoulders and stretching the chest. This pose is quite advanced and we don’t really like it! We’d recommend you do this particular pose with a trained Yoga Teacher as you need quite a few poses to work up to this one.
DO THE POSE: Lying down flat, place your hands underneath your booty with palms facing down and thumbs close together. Squeeze the booty and lift the chest off the Earth so your forearms are still grounded. Inflate the upper body with breath and keep your chest lifted. If it feels good, allow your head to relax back towards the floor, add a block or cushion to the head for extra support. Hold for 5 deep breaths.
Standing Forward Fold (Uttanasana)
Standing Forward Fold provides physical benefits especially for the neck, hamstrings and back. You will relieve all tension from the back of the body. As you inhale imagine the breath travelling up the back of the legs and as you exhale feel the breath wash over the back of the body. Focus on letting your thoughts just fall out of the brain.
DO THE POSE: Stand with your toes together, heels slightly apart. As you inhale lift the arms above the head and feel the spine lengthen. As you exhale, hinge from the hips and fold the torso down toward the thighs. Reach for the floor, calves or thighs. Be sure to bend the knees as much as you need to make this feel good. Keep your chin tucked into your chest, let your head hang toward the floor. Hold for 5 deep breaths.
Tree Pose (Vrksasana)
This balancing pose requires full presence and therefore brings a one-pointed-focus. You will calm your busy mind and ease anxiety. Tree Pose promotes concentration, awareness and focus, allowing you to give your body full attention.
DO THE POSE: From a standing position, slowly lift your right knee into your chest. Allow the knee to turn out to the side and place your inner right foot to the inner seam of your left thigh, calf or ankle. Bring your hands in prayer position at the heart or you can reach them high, like a blossoming tree. Focus on something not moving on your horizon line. Hold for 5 breaths and then swap sides!
These poses are not here to get rid of your anxious feelings, instead, use them to help you move through your feelings of anxiety. It’s like a toolbox of Yoga poses for stress and anxiety, pull the right ‘tool’ or the right Yoga pose out when you need it most.
The goal isn’t to ‘turn the feeling off’. It’s to move through them in a more easeful matter.
Ahh seriously, we joke and say this often…
… where would we be without Yoga?
Really, it’s not even close to a joke. Yoga is our tool to look after our health, most importantly our mental health.
We are so grateful for this practice, and we feel honoured to share it with you inside our MerryBody Online Yoga, Pilates, and Meditation Studio.
If you’d like to see what The MerryBody Method is all about… sign up for your free 7 day trial and do a class today!
Emma + Carla
Smile, breathe and go slowly.
— Thich Nhat Hanh