Yoga For Stress And Anxiety
We go through moments in life that make us worried, stressed and anxious, our thoughts can become distorted, we may be unable to focus and unable to sleep. Yoga that includes postures, mudras (hand gestures) and pranayama (breathing exercises) can help to alleviate some of these intense feelings.
The following poses will help change your perspective, release tension, and ground you.
Legs Up The Wall or Viparita Karani
- Put your mat against a wall.
- Place your buttocks as close as possible to the wall. It is easier if you curl to your side first, pressing your hip to the wall and then turn when you can stretch your legs straight up the wall.
- Relax your arms by your side with your palms facing up.
- Close your eyes.
- Take deep breaths: 5 counts to inhale, 5 counts to exhale. Allow yourself to relax as you hold for 3 minutes. Feel the tension and stress melt away.
You can tighten or clench different parts of your body, hold for a moment and then release, in this way you can ensure that you are fully relaxing your body. Legs Up the Wall is a rejuvenating inverted pose that brings relief to the legs, feet, spine, and nervous system. It is a gentle way to bring the body into a state of deep relaxation and renewal. It can be particularly beneficial if you are unable to sleep
Child’s Pose or Balasana
- Kneel on the floor on a comfortable mat. Touch your big toes together and sit on your heels, then separate your knees about as wide as your hips.
- Exhale and lay your torso down between your thighs.
- Lay your hands on the floor alongside your torso, palms up, and release the fronts of your shoulders toward the floor. Feel how the weight of the front shoulders pulls the shoulder blades wide across your back.
- Feel each breath moving into your back body. With each exhalation release the torso and enjoy the feeling of the mind quietening and your back relaxing.
Pranayama or Breathing Exercises for Stress and Anxiety
Try these three simple breathing practices to reduce stress, relieve anxiety and quieten your mind.
The Long Exhale
This 1:2 breathing practice involves gradually increasing your exhalation until it is twice the length of your inhalation relaxes the nervous system.
- You can do this lying down, sitting or standing so it is a breath practice you can do anywhere. Place a palm on your abdomen and become aware of the inhale and exhale.
- Breathe in slowly through your nose and count to four. Keep your shoulders down and allow your stomach to expand as you draw your breath in.
- Hold for a moment. The pause gives you a moment of stillness where everything is suspended.
- And now release your breath slowly for a count of eight. Feel your shoulders release
- Continue until you begin to feel more relaxed.
The Bee Breath or Brahmari
Brahmari can be used as a regular daily practice to encourage relaxation or as an on-the-spot remedy.
- Sit comfortably, with the back tall and shoulders relaxed.
- Start by taking a few natural breaths, you can close your eyes if it allows you to be more conscious of your breath.
- Inhale through the nostrils.
- Exhaling, make the sound of the letter M with your lips, essentially a humming sound like a buzzing bee. Sustain the sound until you need to inhale. Repeat 5 to 10 times then sit with long slow breaths and reap the benefits of this practice.
The sound is soothing for a spinning mind, and the practice lengthens the exhalation without strain which helps to relax the body. It’s especially great to do before bed or if you can’t sleep. You can for extra effect, firmly press the index fingers into your ears blocking out all sound while practicing the bee breath, it will allow you to focus on the vibrations in your throat.
Alternate Nostril Breathing or Nadi Shoddana
A few minutes of alternate nostril breathing will balance the mind and release accumulated tension and fatigue. It helps clear blocked energy channels in the body, which in turn calms the mind.
- To begin, sit comfortably, and close your eyes. Block the right nostril with your right thumb and the left nostril with your ring finger. Your index finger and middle finger can rest on your forehead. Let the left hand rest softly in your lap.
- First, close off the right nostril, and slowly inhale through the left nostril.
- Pause, close the left nostril, and breathe out through the right nostril. Inhale again through the right nostril, pause, close the right nostril with your thumb, and breathe slowly out through the left nostril.
- Continue inhaling and exhaling from alternate nostrils. Continue for 2 to 5 minutes then return to normal breathing.
This practice helps to bring the mind back to the present moment, activates the parasympathetic nervous system and is thought to balance the left and right hemispheres of the brain.
Mudras or 'hand expressions of the heart' for anxiety and stress
Mudra means "seal" or "closure" in Sanskrit. These gestures are mostly used in meditation or in breathing practice to direct the flow of energy within the body. Each finger is thought to represent the five elements that exist in the Universe
- Thumb: Fire
- Index finger: Air
- Middle finger: Space
- Ring finger: Earth
- Little finger: Water
Mudras are one way to balance all the elements within us. Different Mudras have different effects on your mind, body and spirit.
Let your hands rest on your knees and keep your arms straight. If you feel like you need more grounding, turn your palms towards your knees, if you are wanting more openness turn your palms up to the sky. Bring your attention to the point where your fingers touch.
Gyan Mudra or Seal of Knowledge
Gently touch the tip of your index finger to the tip of your thumb with the other three fingers stretched out. The Gyan Mudra activates the thumb balancing the fire element; increases concentration and eases anxiety.
Try these techniques out whenever you start to feel anxious or stressed and notice how much more relaxed you feel after completing them. With a regular yoga practice you can become your own healer.
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