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These days yoga is widely known as a dynamic and versatile practice that harnesses the practice of physical and mental exercise. Combinations of breathing techniques, postures, and meditation can lead to a long list of benefits such as reducing stress, chronic pain, and anxiety, increasing flexibility and strength, as well as improving sleep and overall quality of life.
For me, yoga has had a tremendous role in my journey with severe anxiety, panic attacks, and stress, all which have also impacted my migraines. The following yoga poses for anxiety provide so much positive as well as serve as retreats in times of chaos. In addition to searching for the best yoga poses for anxiety, I highly recommend learning more about hatha yoga, yoga nidra, and inversions – which I’m excited to share more about throughout Dealing With Migraines.
I now introduce one of my favorite instructors, June Li. A 200-hour E-RYT certified yoga instructor with a background in martial arts, June began her practice in yoga in 2006 after a series of back & knee injuries. She was advised by her physical therapist to try yoga to help heal & regain some flexibility. It was this advice that began her journey into the world of yoga. It was not long after that she was able to see the benefits of yoga, especially as a great counterbalance to the intense training she had been doing. She noticed improvement in the elasticity of her muscles as well the strengthening of core but it did not stop there.
As her body slowly healed and became stronger, she also became more calm and aware of her body and its needs. After a number of years, she realized that she wanted to understand more about yoga and the alignment of the body. Thus began her 200 hour teacher training course, receiving her certification in 2015 at Mind Body Soul Yoga in Manhattan.
With a focus on the styles of hatha and vinyasa yoga, she strives to bring a welcoming environment to her classes while creating a sense of empowerment and ease. Take a look at some of June’s favorite (and highly requested) yoga poses for anxiety that you can do from the comfort of your own home and beyond.
Pose 1: 2:1 Ratio Breathing Technique
This is a breathing practice which involves lengthening your exhales until it is twice as long as you inhale. By doubling the length of your exhales, not only does it release carbon dioxide and toxins from the body, it also allows tension to ease from the body bringing a restorative response to calm the nervous system. This technique can help reduce insomnia, sleep disturbance, and release anxiety.
Pose 2: Supta Baddha Konasana or Reclining Bound Angle Pose
This is a great pose that stretches the hips, inner thighs, groin, and knees. Because this pose helps to open the hips, an area we tend to hold tension and stress, it can also help relieve mild depression, anxiety, and fatigue. It also helps to stimulate the heart and improve circulation throughout the body, especially the pelvis that can help to soothe menstrual discomfort, menopause, and sciatica. Combined with supports underneath you and 2:1 ratio breathing technique, this pose helps to bring a sense of support, while allowing tension to ease the body to calm the nervous system.
Pose 3: Dirgha Pranayama or Three Part Breath
The three part breath includes the abdomen, ribcage, and chest area. By gathering the breath in the belly and gathering more air in to travel up through the ribcage and then releasing the air completely in the reverse flow – this helps to promote full and complete breathing, increasing oxygen supply to the blood and keeping the lungs healthy. With deep breathing, the muscles in the body become relaxed, releasing tension, calming the mind and body which can reduce stress and anxiety, preparing the body for a deep meditation.
Pose 4: Vajrasana or Thunderbolt
The thunderbolt pose stretches and increases flexibility in the knees, ankles and thighs while improving posture with the upright alignment of the spine and also increases circulation of the legs and feet. This yoga pose for anxiety can also aid in digestion as it tones the pelvic muscles while used for breathing exercises and meditation. Combined with Dirgha Pranayama or Three Part Breath technique, this helps to bring a sense of balance and focus, reducing stress and anxiety.
Pose 5: Balasana or Child’s
Child’s pose is a great calming and restorative posture for all kinds of stress relief and even trauma. This pose helps to gently stretch the hips, thighs and ankles while relieving tension in the back, shoulders, and chest. It can also help to lengthen and stretch the spine, while normalizing the circulation of the body. This pose encourages the breath to become steady and strong, helping to calm the mind and body while relieving stress and fatigue.
Pose 6: Uttanasana or Standing Forward Fold
Forward folding allows blood to flow to the head, helping to calm the mind, allowing the body to relax to relieve stress and slowly cool down. This pose can also help to relieve insomnia, fatigue, anxiety, and alleviate headaches and symptoms of asthma. It additionally helps to stimulate the kidneys and liver, and improve digestion. Last but not least, it also stretches the hamstrings, claves and hips, while strengthening the thighs and knees.
Pose 7: Matsyasana or Fish
This is a great pose to stretch the entire front body with an emphasis on chest, throat, abdomen, and hip flexors. This pose works to improve flexibility of the spine and posture by strengthening the upper back muscles and the back of the neck. As this is a back bending posture that opens the chest, fish pose also helps to improve breathing by opening up the lungs that can relieve respiratory ailments, something that can be an issue during allergy season. This yoga pose for anxiety stimulates the muscles of the abdomen that can help relieve constipation and menstrual pain. With consistent practice, this pose can also help to relieve fatigue and anxiety by energizing the body. Last, but not least, this pose also helps to neutralize pressure on the spine and neck.