Alleviate Anxiety- Top Yogic Tips From My Mat to Yours
Updated: May 17
Maybe you’ve noticed it too. There’s a correlation. The higher my anxiety climbs, the more imperative my yoga practice becomes. And for good reason.
I need the relief of interlacing my fingers together behind my back in yoga mudra and forward folding just to hear the oh-so-good, snap, crackle and pop that ensues. Each time I hear one of those relief-filled pops or notice an inadvertent sigh escape my lips in the lateral stretch of a good side stretching pose, it was worthwhile to step on my mat. Oh, to be rid of the tension!
Everyone is anxious at some point. Whether it is suffering from a situational, generalized or acute anxiety disorder, anxiety can create the feeling of being out of control, having low self-esteem, persistent fear, panic, anger or self defeat. Maybe all of the above.
Here are some anxiety busting techniques that get the most props from me and my students over the past eighteen years, especially the teens.
Feel like wringing your hands in frustration? Try a mudra instead. Mudra means seal, gesture or mark. These symbolic gestures often practiced with hands and fingers, aid in concentration and meditation. They facilitate the flow of energy in the subtle body and enhance the journey within. Talk about healing hands! If the fingers were wires in an electrical circuit the mudra would complete the energy loop.
Gyan mudra is probably the most well known and is achieved by tucking the index fingers under the thumbs to invite calm, quiet mind, center and ease. Whereas, Prana mudra is recognizable as the peace symbol fingers by i.e., touching the thumb, ring and pinkie fingers to boost focus and feel energized.
Want to scream? How about sounding off a mantra instead? Mantras are words or sounds repeated to aid in concentration and meditation. Here is an English mantra: Inhale the word, “Peace”. Then exhale the word, “Release”.
Holding your breath? Try breath extension or Pranayama as an alternative. Use breathing techniques for self regulation. We calm the breath to quiet the mind. Accessible, Belly Breath calms the central nervous system. First, inhale the belly away from the belly like a balloon away from the spine. Then exhale the belly back into the spine.
Single Nostril Breath: Chandra/ Moon breath is a type of single nostril breathing for a cool, calming effect. It is because our left nostril is associated with our body's cooling energy. With your right thumb close your right nostril and inhale through your left nostril and exhale through the right nostril. Repeat for one to three minutes to relieve anxiety and quiet an unsettled mind. For this reason, it is recommended before bedtime.
Can’t see a way out of anxiety? Try visualization. Imagine filling the torso from bottom to top with breath every time you breathe in through your nose like drawing in sparkling, white light, vibrancy and healing energy. Visualize emptying the torso from top to bottom and releasing any detritus you don’t need like it’s a gray mist from the mouth, every time you breathe out.
Anxious mind and tense muscles? Release the tension from the body to make it a more fit vehicle for a more peaceful mind with a yoga pose aka asana. The postures are useful for that purpose but can also make you strong and flexible in the body and mind, as a by product. Here’s some of our favorites.
Tree Pose is used for balance, building bone density in the standing foot, hip opening, grounding and centering especially when feeling scattered. Visualize roots growing down through your feet into the center of the earth below you in one direction and another line of energy traveling up your body and above it towards the sun. You are a conduit in between by drawing mother earth energy up through your feet with each inhale. With each exhale, imagine drawing down the prana from the sun into your being.
Sleeping pigeon- this forward fold helps bring calm that includes hip opener. Try stacking your forearms to make a cradle for your forehead and take your awareness into your eyebrow center or third eye for calm awareness. Stay open to what comes up in the form of thought, sensation or emotion.
Legs Up the Wall/ Waterfall is a great way to give back to your hardworking legs after a strong standing practice, as well as to calm the nervous system. It stretches the hamstrings. This restorative pose gives the benefits of an inversion, which are a fresh blood supply to the brain, improved circulation, and an immunity boost. It is energizing yet relaxing. Teaches us through both physical example and metaphor that there is always another way to approach the situation/person/problem.
Head-to-Knee pose is calming and relaxing, and can help with anxiety, insomnia, headaches, and mild depression. Physically, the pose stretches the spine, shoulders, hamstrings and groins, stimulates the liver and kidneys, and also improves digestion. One side is a hip opener and the other is a back body stretch.
Child’s pose is yoga's most important resting posture and it is a nice way to gently stretch various parts of your body.It's a chance to stop what you are doing, reassess your position, reconnect with your breath, and prepare yourself to move
forward. Also an aid for digestion.