Yoga Poses Can Help Calm Anxiety

These yoga moves can boost mind-body balance.

Apr 13, 2020

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While you always want to feel your best, it isn’t always easy to do. When you are surrounded by unsettling news it is bound to have an effect on how you feel. There are yoga poses that can calm your nerves and help you achieve the balance you need.

When you feel anxious, afraid, or just plain stressed out, you experience those intense emotions in different parts of your body according to a study that mapped the areas of your body where these responses occur. 

Over time, emotions trigger bodily changes that can store tension in the different parts of your body and that can affect your long-term physical and emotional wellbeing. Stretching and mindful breathing in yoga not only increases strength and flexibility, it also helps to release that tension and calm down nerves by activating the relaxation branch of the nervous system. Here’s how:

Stress refers to the body’s reaction to any change that requires adjustment or response. In high-stress situations, the sympathetic nervous system (SNS) goes into alert mode, or “Fight or Flight” mode and blood pumps faster, your heart rate increases and your sugar levels rise.

The other branch of our nervous system is called the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS) and that is the relaxation response. It gives people  the ability to recover from stress by slowing down the heart, lowering blood pressure and returning to a relaxed state. 

In yoga practice, certain poses can activate either the SNS (high alert) or PNS (relaxation) parts of the nervous system. When you’re feeling sluggish or tired, activating the alert SNS with back-bending poses (like camel, wheel, or locust) can help to wake up and feel energized. But when you feel anxious or restless, then it’s time to for calming, forward-bending poses that trigger the relaxation response of the PNS:

Standing Forward Bend (Uttanasana)

Exhale as you bend forward from the hips. Draw your chest forward as you lengthen the front torso. Bend your knees if you can’t straighten the legs. As you build flexibility. try to keep your knees straight as you bring palms to the back of the ankles. Breathe deeply.

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Child’s Pose (Balasana)

This yoga pose brings total relaxation to your body while also stretching your lower back and opening your hips. Enter child’s pose by extending your  arms forward while spreading your knees apart and keeping your toes touching. Lower your torso to the middle of the thighs. Inhale and exhale slowly.

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Downward Facing Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana)

Downward facing dog releases tension in your entire body while also calming your brain and relieving stress. Start in plank position with palms spread on your mat. Next, lift hips upwards and lengthen the tailbone. Engage arms and legs with your head between your upper arms.

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Prayer Hands (Anjali Mudra)

This peaceful pose allows you to center your breath in a gesture of prayer and acceptance. Sit with your back upright and legs crossed in comfort and steadiness. Then bring palms together at the heart center. Focus on your breathing and your heart rate will begin to slow down.

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Sleeping Pigeon Pose (Eka Pada Rajakapotasana)

Sleeping pigeon pose is a hip opener that feels super relaxing when held for several minutes at a time on each leg. While on all fours, bring one knee forward while bringing the other leg backwards behind you. Slowly lower your front torso and allow the forehead to rest on the mat.

 

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Reclining Buddha

This iconic pose appears all throughout Asia in Buddhist art. Chill out, Buddha-style, by laying on one side, with knees pulled towards you. Use your left arm as a pillow. Breathe and relax.

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Corpse Pose (Shavasana)

Despite the seemingly morbid name, corpse pose gives the opportunity to let old, unhealthy habits die and welcome new beginnings. Enter corpse pose by laying flat on your back with hands and arms facing upwards. Concentrate awareness on each inhale and exhale. Allow your thoughts to settle. Enjoy the moment to release stress and invite inner peace.

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ALLISON MICHELLE DIENSTMAN, CONTRIBUTOR
Working from her laptop as a freelance writer, Allison lives as a digital nomad, exploring the world while sharing positivity and laughter. She is a lover of language, travel, music, and creativity with a degree in Chinese language and literature.