Practice these poses to effectively ease your anxiety.
Anxiety and stress are common problems in our society today. Many people are constantly on the move, leaving them with little time to relax or actually think about what they are doing. This mentality causes many to become quite anxious. While there are a number of ways to cope with anxiety, such as meditation, medication, and changing your eating habits, one of the best ways to effectively reduce anxiety is through yoga.
Below are five poses you can practice right now to calm down and lower your anxiety levels. These poses can be done anywhere, but it’s best to find a quiet place free of distractions.
Breathing is one of the foundations of yoga, and along with Ujjayi, the technique that is used during a sequence of asanas in a yoga practice, there are a number of specific breathing (pranayama) exercises that can help calm the mind and minimize anxiety. By slowing the breath, you can slow down your heart rate and draw focus away from racing thoughts in the mind.
Bound Angle (Baddha Konasana)
Start sitting up straight with your legs out in front of you, in staff pose. Fold your knees out to open your hips and place the soles of your feet together, bringing them as close to your groin as you can. Your legs should make a diamond shape. Take note of your back again and make sure it is nice and straight, not rounded. You can close your eyes and take long, slow yogic breaths in through the nose and out through the nose. From here, you can lean forward, and if you’re able to reach the ground beyond your feet, you can rest in that position, stretching out your back and hips.
Start in tabletop position, with your hands and knees on the ground. Make sure your knees are directly below your hips and your wrists are directly in line with your elbows and shoulders, knees hip distance apart. As you inhale, arch your back and reach your tailbone and head towards the sky, and as you exhale, round your back so that your spine is curved towards the ceiling, dropping your head and tailbone towards the ground. Continue at your own pace with your breath for as many rounds as your body feels it needs. This could be anywhere between five and 20.
Extended Puppy (Uttana Shishosana)
Start on your hands and knees with your shoulders above your wrists and hips above your knees then walk your hands forward, keeping your tailbone towards the ceiling, until you feel a stretch along your back. Keep your elbows just off the ground so that your arms remain active. There should be a slight curve in your lower back and you should feel a nice stretch along your spine and the front of your torso. Take some long breaths in the pose and imagine the oxygen moving all the way along your spine and torso into your lower abdomen on each inhale.
Stand with your legs wide (in a triangle shape) and point the toes of your front foot forward, with your back foot on a slight angle towards the outside of the mat. Line your front heel up with the middle of your back foot and make sure your hips and shoulders are directly above your legs, not twisting towards the front. Keep your legs straight and inhale, then, on the exhale, hinge your torso and upper body sideways towards the front of your mat. Keeping your torso stretched, bend your front arm towards your front foot and your back arm towards the ceiling. Keep your body in a straight line, as if you are squeezed in a gap between two walls. That means keeping your chest open and not allowing your body to tip forward. Only move your hand down as far as it can comfortably go without bending your knee or tipping your body. Rest your hand on your leg or in front of your ankle, if it will reach that far. Take a few breaths in this pose and then when you are ready to come back to a standing position, make sure your core is tight, which will protect your back, and lift up on an inhale. Turn your feet and repeat on the other side.
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All images courtesy of Bembu.com.