I know what you over-thinkers are contemplating right now, can yoga really do anything to help alleviate my anxiety? I’m living proof that it can make a tremendous difference to your anxiety levels. Yoga is a powerful tool for relaxing the entire mind, which includes that overworked brain of yours. Anxiety is a major issue for me too; that’s how I know this yoga sequence will alleviate your anxiety. It’s helped me tremendously!
This practice is designed to get you fully present on the current moment. We do a combination of challenging and resting poses to force your brain to focus. Plus, the breathing exercise at the beginning is the most useful step for telling your brain everything is going to be okay.
Let the relief begin!
Start Seated with a Breathing Exercise
Focusing on the breath is one of the quickest ways to quiet the mind and relax anxiety. Try one of the breathing exercises suggested in the video above. My favorite is the alternating nostril breath.
You can also just focus on deepening the breath. Notice how long each inhale and exhale is by counting and try to make each breath longer. Continue counting and bringing your awareness to the breath. Allow this to calm the body and the mind.
Bound Angle Pose
Start from seated position with your legs out straight in front of you. Bend into the knees and bring the souls of the feet together, allowing the knees to fall out to each side. Pull the heels as close to the pelvis as comfortable, keeping the hands wrapped around the ankles and lift your chest forwards. Hold here for a couple breaths. Then walk the fingers forwards and allow the head to drop, rounding into the back.
Why? This pose opens up the hips, which is a good way to access the emotions. When we can get to the emotions behind our busy thoughts, we can start to work through the root of the problem.
Caw & Cow Pose
From tabletop (hands and knees), make sure the shoulders are stacked above the hands and the hips are stacked on top of the knees. On the inhale, move into Cow Pose by arching the tailbone towards the ceiling, lifting the chest forward, and gazing upward with the head. On the exhale, move into Cat Pose by tucking the pelvis underneath, rounding through the spine by drawing the bellybutton upward, and roll the head downward. Repeat back and forth at least five times.
Why? The combination of these two poses allows true relaxation in the spine and calms the mind with the added bonus of moving with the breath.
Start from standing on your knees, with the knees directly underneath the hips. Bring both hands to the lower back, with the fingertips wrapped forward towards the hips. Pull the shoulder blades together and open the chest towards the ceiling while pressing the front of the thighs and hips forward. Remain in this position if it is enough of a stretch for you, allowing the head to drop back if it feels okay on the neck. Option: Bring one or both hands down to the ankles, continuing to press the front of the legs forward. If you cannot easily breathe in this pose, you are going too far.
Why? This pose enhances the blood circulation in the body, which allows more oxygen. The added oxygen helps us to heal the mind and the body through calming.
From hands and knees, bring the big toes together and take the knees out as wide as the mat. Sit back onto the heels and walk the hands forward, bringing the forehead down onto the mat. Allow the belly to drop between the thighs and sink into the hips. Reach through the fingertips, but allow the shoulder blades to stay in place.
Why? Think of this pose as a peaceful surrender to your anxiety.
From hands and knees, place the hands directly underneath the shoulders, pressing into the palms, and lifting into the tops of the shoulders. Tuck the toes and step each foot back, bringing your body into one straight line. Tuck the pelvis, pull the bellybutton up towards the spine, and press the thighs together. Aim to make one long line with the body, not allowing the tailbone to lift or the hips to drop too low.
Why? The challenge of this pose brings your full awareness into the body and out of the head. Plus, the challenge can also boost some confidence.
From standing, step or jump your left foot back, about 3.5 to 4 feet apart. Reach both arms out to the side, actively reaching through the fingers with the palms facing downward. Turn the right foot towards the front of the mat and angle the left foot at ninety degrees. Bending into your right leg, try and get the thigh to be parallel with the ground and the knee directly stacked on top of the ankle. The left leg will remain straight and strong. Continuing to reach through the fingertips, pull the shoulder blades back and lift into the chest, gazing at your right fingertips. The torso should be stacked directly above the hips, not reaching forwards or backwards.
Why? This is a strong pose. It is a reminder that we are warriors and we can take control of our anxious thoughts.
Start in mountain pose and step your feet 3 1/2 to 4 feet apart. Raise your arms parallel to the floor and reach them actively out to the sides, shoulder blades wide, palms down. Turn the right foot towards the front of the mat and turn the left foot out to a ninety degree angle, heels in line. Reach forward into the right hand, extending the torso, and drop the right hand onto the right shin or ankle. Extend the left hand up towards the ceiling. Keep the body in the same plane, as if pressed into an imaginary wall behind you and do not let the chest fall forward.
Why? This is an unnatural pose that has us twisting in some odd ways. This helps us get out of our head and focus on the body.
Stand at the front of the mat with the feet about hip distance apart. Spread the toes wide and press all four corners of the feet into the mat. Activate the legs, tuck the pelvis slightly under, and pull the bellybutton in towards the spine. Arms should be by your sides, palms facing forwards, allowing the shoulder blades to pull down and back, expanding the chest. The top of the head presses up towards the ceiling as the feet press into the floor, lengthening the spine.
Why? This is a place halfway through the flow to root down and reconnect with the breath.
Beginning in mountain pose, plant your left foot firmly on to the ground, spreading the toes and energizing the leg. Bring your right toes to the side of the left foot and open the right knee out to the side, hands pressed together at heart center. To intensify this balancing pose, place the bottom of the right foot to the inside of the left calf or thigh. If stable, hands can be extended overhead. To find stability in this pose, pull the belly button in and focus your gaze at one point directly in front of you. Repeat on the other side.
Why? Anxiety can make us feel very scattered and all over the place. Tree pose is one of the best poses for grounding into the earth, making us more present and focused.
Stand in Tadasana. Bend your knees slightly, lift your left foot up and, balancing on your right foot, cross your left thigh over the right. Point your left toes toward the floor, press the foot back, and then hook the top of the foot behind the lower right calf. Balance on the right foot. Bring your arms in front and stack the right elbow on top of the left, twisting the forearms around each other so the back or the fronts of the hands touch. The upper arms should be parallel with the ground.
Why? This is another challenging pose that requires a lot of attention. Additionally, we direct our gaze onto the hands, pinpointing our focus on one thing instead of the anxious thoughts.
Standing Forward Fold
Start standing in tadasana. On an exhale, hinge forward at the waist with a straight back and bring your hand towards the ground. Depending on flexibility, bring your hands to the shins, floor, or yoga block. You can also keep a slight bend in the knee. Allow the hand and shoulder to relax downwards.
Why? Releasing the head and arms to drop, even with a little bend in the knee, can help us feel grounded. Standing forward fold calms the nervous system. This is also a pose that can be done without a mat, so if you find yourself anxious at work, you can practice this anytime!
Seated Forward Fold
Start seated with both legs straight in front of you (staff pose), making sure to be seated up on the tailbone. On an inhale, reach both hands overhead and fold forward on the exhale. For an active pose, grab your feet or ankles and gently pull yourself forward throughout the pose. For a yin version, fall forward and release the hands, shoulders, and head, allowing yourself to simply hinge forward and hang there.
Why? Allowing the head to drop here will help release stress and tension. It also helps relieve headaches.
Lying on your back, bend the knees and place the feet on the floor, close to the tailbone and about hip distance apart. Place the hands palms down on both sides of the hips. On an exhale, lift the hips and the buttock up towards the ceiling. Try to keep the thighs parallel to the floor and roll the shoulder blades underneath. Option is the clasp the hands together below the lower back, continuing to pull the shoulder blades together.
Why? When we lift up into this pose, we open the chest and open the lungs. We also enjoy a back bend, which helps to calm and chill ouf the brain.
Supported Shoulder Stand
Lying on your back, place your hands on both sides of the hips with the palms down and bend the knees, placing the heels on the mat close to the tailbone. On an exhale, lift the feet off of the floor and bring the knees up towards the chest. Continue to lift by curling the pelvis and then the back torso away from the floor, so that your knees come toward your face. Binding your elbows, bring your hands the the lower back to support the body. Raise the pelvis above the shoulders, lifting the feet up towards the ceiling, and continue using the arms and shoulders for support, walking the hands higher up the back as needed.
Why? When we get upside down, we get out of our minds. This pose flips us over, literally, and allows us new perception.
Legs Up! (Option to use wall)
Start laying on your back, bring your legs up onto the wall and scoot your tailbone as close to the wall as is comfortable. Allow the arms to rest out to the side, palms up. This allows the shoulders to rest back. Option – Use this pose as your final Savasana. Relax into this posture. Allow the weight of the body to be fully supported by the ground and wall. Release control of the mind, the breath, and the body. Enjoy this pose for as long as feels good (suggest more than 10 minutes).
Why? Lifting the legs up and allowing the blood to flow in the opposite direction is actually really soothing and helps melt stress away.
Don’t skip this one! This may not seem like it, but it is the most difficult yoga pose that you can accomplish. Laying flat on your back, bring the arms to your side with the palms up, allowing the shoulders to roll back. Allow the toes to fall out to the side and tuck the chin in slightly to make sure the back of the neck is straight. Relax the body as much as you can and rest here for 3-5 minutes.
Add a mantra: Some of my favorite things to think when I am anxious are: “I am not defined by my anxiety,” “I am calm and relaxed,” or “I am in the process of working through my anxiety.”
Ready to work up a sweat with this full body workout? Keep this routine nearby you by printing out this one page PDF.
Questions about the routine or how to get a workout with yoga? Comment below and let’s keep the conversation going!