5 Yoga poses to help reduce stress and anxiety

“Yoga takes you to the present moment, the only place where life exists” 
Karin Heller

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I’ve spoken a fair amount on my blog already about my love for yoga, and how it has really helped me this year through times of stress and diagnosis of an acute anxiety disorder. Anxiety creates feelings of limited control, of crippling low self-esteem, constant fear, panic, frustration, and feelings of defeat. I still have anxious moments, anxiety attacks, panic attacks, and my diagnosis is still with me, but yoga gave me that release that I needed. It gave me confidence in myself and somewhere to escape to. I found the grip of anxiety releasing, realising it doesn’t have to control me.

I thought it might be helpful to guide you through a few poses that can help in releasing stress, anxiety and help quieten the mind.

“The quieter you become the more you are able to hear.” Rumi

Even if you don’t suffer from an anxiety disorder, we all have day-to-day stresses, overwork and over think and don’t always make time to think about our mental health so these basic poses could help you take that break for your own wellbeing.

You don’t need a class, special clothes or be athletic to do these poses. You can do these five asanas whenever you’re feeling anxious, to help bring you to the present moment.

  1. Balasana (Child’s Pose)

This is known as a place of rest in yoga, and is used to relax and regroup in between more challenging poses during a class. It incorporates calm breathing, and releases tension in the back, neck and shoulders. This is where we mainly hold a lot of our stress, so this pose really promotes relaxation and steady breathing.

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Begin on your hands and knees. Spread your knees wide apart whilst keeping your big toes touching, resting your bottom on your heels. Sit up straight and inhale, lengthening your spine. Exhale as you bow forward, allowing your torso to rest on or between your thighs with your forehead on the mat.

Begin on your hands and knees with your big toes touching. Your hands should be directly under your arms and your legs hips distance apart. Exhale as you bow forward allowing your torso to rest on or between your thighs with your forehead on the mat. Keeping your arms long and extended, press into your hands keeping your sit bones on your heels. Keep your arms long and extended, palms facing down. Press back slightly keeping your bottom in contact with your heels. Allow all the tension in your shoulders, arms and neck to leave your body as your breath deeply, keeping your eyes closed.

Hold this pose for as long as you need to, and then gently use your hands to walk your torso upright and sit back on your heels.

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2. Uttanasana (Standing forward bend)

This pose makes me feel so calm, it literally feels as though my worries and noisy thoughts are leaving my body and mind through the top of my head and out to the ground. I feel focused on my body, on how flexible and strong I feel and it always gives me a boost.

Begin by standing in Mountain pose (Tadasana), with feet parallel and hip distance apart. Inhale as your raise your hands to the sky, and then exhale as you swan dive towards the floor, hinge at the hips and fold forward over the legs, bringing the torso over the legs. Take as much of a bend in the knees as you need in order to release any tension out of the lower back, and allow your head to hang heavy towards the floor. Your arms can reach for the ground, reaching your fingertips to the floor, or press the palms against your calves to deepen your stretch. Stay for a few breaths, letting go of any tension.

To come out of the pose, take a slight bend in the knees, place your hands on the hips and extend all the way back to your mountain pose keeping your back straight.

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3. Uttana Shishosana (Extended puppy pose)

This is a great pose for focusing your mind and breathing steadily, releasing any tension.

Come onto all fours (Tabletop) with your shoulders above your wrists and hips stacked directly above your knees. Exhale as you walk your hands forward a few inches, resting the tops of your feet on the mat and toes pointing straight back. Keep your feet parallel and hip-width apart. Allow you chest to melt toward the floor, releasing your chest to the floor and keep your gaze toward the top of the mat. Your hips should be at a 90 degree angle to the knees, and a slight curve in the lower back.

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4. Bitilasana – Marjaryasana (Cat-Cow pose)

This is a very gentle flow between two poses, opening the chest and encouraging the breath to become slow and deep, and the co-ordination of the movement between the two relieves stress and calms the mind as well as bringing balance throughout the body.

Begin in Tabletop (on your hands and knees), shoulder hip-width apart, knees directly under your hips. Inhale as you drop your belly and lift your chin and chest into Cow Pose, gazing towards the sky, drawing your shoulders away from your ears.

Fluid, like water, exhale as you move into Cat Pose, drawing your belly to the spine, rounding your back towards the sky like a cat stretching it’s back. Release the crown of your head to the floor.

Inhale back into Cow Pose, and exhale returning to Cat Pose. Repeat this pose as many times as you like,before sitting back on your heels with your torso upright.

5. Setu Bandha Sarvangasana (Bridge pose)

Begin lying on your back with your hands besides the body,. Slowly bend your knees and place your feet flat on the floor, hip-width apart. Inhale as you push down on your palms, lifting the pelvis and waist upwards and squeezing your bottom. Hold this pose for around 5-10 breaths, before releasing back down to the mat. This inverted posture  increases a flow of oxygen and blood to your brain, having a wonderful calming effect.

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“In the midst of movement and chaos, keep stillness inside of you.” Deepak Chopra

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