As someone who has not mastered the art of controlling stress and anxiety, these 10 yoga poses that I am about to talk about definitely help me! People typically talk about how to do the poses and the benefits of them, but I actually want to share how doing these poses directly make me feel.
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Yoga for Stress & Anxiety
If you have read most of my blog posts, you can probably tell by now that I have issues with anxiety. It has been so difficult for me to manage over the years, but I have made conscious efforts to find relief. Yoga has definitely been my top pick thus far. I have been doing yoga almost daily for over 3 months now. (Check out the beginning of my journey here.) So, I’ve kind of found some poses that I am particularly fond of, which I will discuss in a bit.
When I first started yoga, it was difficult for me to concentrate on the mindfulness component while trying to keep my balance, breathe through the moves, and find my shape. However, overtime, I have been learning to integrate all of those moving parts. So, I truly am getting the most out of my yoga practice, now. I notice that certain poses make me feel different types of ways. In particular, I notice that poses that provide the deepest back stretches, for me, make me feel the best. The poses that I’m about to talk about are 10 (of many) that provide back stretches that I’ve noticed relieve stress and anxiety for me. They include:
Extended Child’s Pose (Utthita Balasana)
Forward Fold with Clasped Hands (Uttanasana)
Downward Facing Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana)
Wide Legged Forward Fold (Prasarita Padottanasana)
Low Crescent Lunge (Anjaneyasana)
Happy Baby (Ananda Balasana)
When my anxiety escalates and I am on the verge of breaking down, I remember that downward facing dog has taught me how to breathe through things in order to remain calm.
1. Extended Child Pose (Utthita Balasana)
Extended Child’s Pose
When I first started practicing yoga, I could not get into Child’s pose. It’s still a little difficult for me. The way people do Child’s pose, I just knew that it was supposed to be very beneficial and feel good. So, when I couldn’t get into that shape, I was frustrated. Gravity seemed to pull my head and front body down to the mat faster than I was ready. However, when Extended Child’s pose was introduced, it was an instant hit!
In Extended Child’s pose, it allows me to melt my heart and head to the mat. I can feel the stretch down the sides of my torso, to my arms, and ending with my fingers. I feel like I am submitting myself to God, breathing deeply and letting the stress move out of my body through my finger tips. It is such a calming pose that I could probably be in all day.
2. Forward Fold with Clasped Hands (Uttanasana)
The first time I got into this pose solidified that me and Yoga was in this thing together forever. The crack that went up my spine felt like it had needed relief since I was born in ‘92. I don’t think I’ve ever walked the same since I discovered this one. Okay, I’m exaggerating, per usual. But seriously, I felt so good. I felt as if I had let go of all the stress I had held onto over the years. It literally feels as though old weight is lifted off your shoulders.
3. Downward Facing Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana)
Downward Facing Dog
I’m sure at some point in your childhood, you giggled when you saw someone do downward facing dog and call it by that name. I know I did. However, now I know that it is nothing funny about that pose!
When I first started doing yoga, downward facing dog was my worse enemy. My arms felt like Betty Spaghetti every time! I could barely keep myself up. But now, I look forward to doing it because it makes me feel strong. I trust my body and my mind to keep me feel in control. When I feel like I’m going to fall, I whisper to myself “I am strong” and although I feel like I’m Harlem shaking, I breathe through it. It gives me a sense of calmness. When my anxiety escalates and I am on the verge of breaking down, I remember that downward facing dog has taught me how to breathe through things in order to remain calm.
4. Wide Legged Forward Fold (Prasarita Padottanasana)
Wide Legged Forward Fold
Honestly, just looking at this picture makes me feel good. I can just feel the stretch in my lower back. Whew. A Wide Legged Forward Fold allows me to stretch my back, arms, groin, hips, and hamstrings while I am building strength in my stomach, arms, and legs. While I’m in this pose, I let my head and heart drop completely, releasing all the tension in my neck and the stress in my chest. This makes me feel very calm.
I haven’t gotten to the stage where my head touches the ground, yet, but I’m definitely getting lower than when I began. When I first saw this pose, I thought it would be easy, but it actually requires some concentration. If your foundation (feet) is not grounded, as you are bending over, your head may end up on the ground, but not on purpose. When I connect my feet to earth and lean forward, I feel grounded as I let the stress flow out of me.
5&6. Cat/Cow (Marjariasana/Bitilasana)
Cat/cow is a 2 for 1 pose. The most important thing with this pose is to sync your breathing with the movement, otherwise you’re just dancing. I start with cow pose. As I sink my belly towards the earth, I am breathing in deeply. Then, as I transition to cat pose, I exhale out an audible long breath. I am intentionally coordinating my breath with my movement, which mentally takes a conscious effort. Connecting my mind, body, and spirit (breath) always makes me feel emotionally stable. Every time I transition between the cat/cow, I feel my body kneading out any tension that it feels.
7. Low Crescent Lunge (Anjaneyasana)
The low crescent lunge is another pose that requires a secure foundation or else you will fall every time. If I am not mentally together when getting into this pose, I will wobble until I get it together or until I fall down. I have to get into this pose intentionally, breathing, planting my feet, and pushing my legs together for stability. It makes it even harder when I raise my arms over my head. Therefore, this pose cannot be half-assed.
A low crescent lunge may not directly relieve my stress and anxiety, but it gives me more energy to deal with it. I just threw this one in because I like doing it hehe.
8. Garland Pose (Malasana)
I end my flows with Garland Pose from time to time. After an intense flow where I am going back and forth between standing and seated poses, this pose allows me to wind down, focusing my attention back on my breathing and forcing me to concentrate on balancing. It can be very intense as I can feel the stretch in almost every part of my body. But, as I am breathing through it, I find stillness. This is great for my anxiety because I could have a million thoughts racing in my head at a time, but when I start bringing my attention back to my breathing and focusing on one task, it relieves me from those thoughts.
I also believe that Garland pose is one of few poses, that I do, that helps me loosen up my hips. I can feel the results just transitioning out of the shape. This is definitely a plus for me because I love to dance, especially with my lower body and when I am dancing, I am the happiest I can be!
9. Happy Baby Pose (Ananda Balasana)
Probably hands down my favorite pose! It makes me feel so youthful and childlike! I feel like all of the innocence that I once had is restored! Seriously, you’re grabbing your feet smiling, enjoying the stretch. Because I feel very youthful in this pose, my mind almost always wants to go to a time in life when things were simple, which was my childhood. I experience a sense of joy and lightheartedness in Happy Baby pose. It makes the rest of my flow more bearable. It also makes me look at the rest of my day as more bearable.
This pose puts very minimum strain on the body, but the stretch feels AMAZING, especially if you have lower back pain.
10. Corspe Pose (Shavasana)
Most of my yoga flows end with corpse pose. Usually, I am doing some butt kicking yoga for weight loss or deep stretching. So, to end the session on my back with my palms up, surrendering my body to the earth is very calming.
This pose to me me signifies the calm after a storm.It may look silly and people may think it’s not really a pose, but there is so much power in this pose. When I flip my palms up, I feel like I am receiving positive energy from the universe. I also feel like it shows reverence to my ancestors and it invites them in to guide me. While in corpse pose, I usually find myself so relaxed to the point where I can fall asleep, but instead, I proceed with my day as peaceful as I can.
So, now that you have learned 10 different yoga poses for stress and anxiety, which one are you going to do first?!
Until then, keep sipping…
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