Anxiety can be characterized by excessive tension and worry, and you may also experience symptoms such as irritability, insomnia, high blood pressure, and concentration problems. Fear can interfere with your everyday life, and this is where yoga for anxiety can help.
The deep breathing and performing certain postures during a yoga practice can help alleviate anxiety and allow you to stay calm and relaxed.
In this article, we will further explain how yoga can help relieve anxiety. We’ll also guide you through 13 specific yoga poses for anxiety. Let’s get started…
How Can Yoga Help Relieve Anxiety?
Is yoga good for anxiety? There is a lot of scientific research that supports yoga for anxiety relief. This includes a review of 35 studies published in the journal Alternative Medicine Review in 2012. It found that 25 of the studies noted a significant reduction in anxiety and stress symptoms as a result of a yoga practice.
Yoga may be able to change your brain by suppressing neural activity and impacting your GABA (gamma aminobutyric acid) levels. GABA is a neurotransmitter and amino acid that relaxes your muscles and lowers the activity of neurons that lead to anxiety.
Yoga Poses to Relieve Anxiety
When you feel your thoughts begin to scatter, bring your mind and anxiety to your yoga mat. When practicing yoga for anxiety, you can consult a private yoga instructor to help tailor a routine for you. Each posture can be held for two minutes or more.
You can practice for at least 30 minutes at home or for 60 to 90 minutes with an instructor at a yoga studio.
The following are 13 yoga poses for anxiety that really can help ease your mind.
1. Hero Pose (Virasana)
This yoga pose for anxiety can help you find your center and relieve anxiety.
To get into hero pose, you will assume a kneeling position where your knees are together and your feet are slightly wider apart than your hips.
The tops of your feet will be flat on the floor. If this is uncomfortable, you will want to put a block or cushion under your calves, thighs, or buttocks.
Place your hands on your thighs and sit up straight to open the chest and lengthen the spine. You will want to hold this pose for as long as five minutes.
2. Triangle Pose (Trikonasana)
Another yoga pose for anxiety is triangle pose. This is an energizing pose that can help ease tension in your back and neck, which can calm you down and lead to relaxation.
To get into triangle pose, begin in a standing position with your feet wider than hip-width apart, and let your left toes face forward with your right toes at a slight angle.
Lift your arms and extend out from your shoulders. Make sure your palms are facing downward.
Extend your torso forward and reach forward with your left hand. Bring your right hip back and bring your left hand down to a block, the floor, or your leg.
Extend your right arm toward the ceiling and gaze in a comfortable direction. Hold for a minute, then repeat this posture on the opposite side.
3. Standing Forward Bend Pose (Uttanasana)
Standing forward bend is another yoga pose for anxiety that may help relax your mind and release tension in the body.
For this resting posture, stand with your feet hip-width apart and your hands on your hips. Exhale as you fold forward, and keep a slight bend in your knees.
Drop your hands to the floor or have them rest on a block. Tuck your chin into your chest, and have your neck and head hang heavy toward the floor.
Hold this pose for about a minute or so.
4. Extended Puppy Pose (Uttana Shishosana)
Extended puppy pose is a heart-opening posture that stretches and lengthens the spine and relieves tension, stress, and anxiety.
For this pose, start in a tabletop position, and then extend your hands forward and drop your buttocks toward your heels.
Press your hands on the floor, and engage your arms and lift your elbows. Rest your forehead on the floor.
Hold this posture for about two minutes.
5. Fish Pose (Matsyasana)
Fish pose is an interesting backbend that helps relieve tightness in your back and chest, and this also helps you relieve stress and anxiety.
For this posture, sit with your legs stretched in front of you, and place your hands under your buttocks with your palms face down.
Squeeze your elbows together, expand your chest, and lean back onto your forearms and elbows. Press into your arms and have your chest stay lifted.
If comfortable, let your head hang back toward the floor. Alternatively, your head can also rest on a cushion or block. You can hold this pose for about a minute.
6. Head-to-Knee Forward Bend (Janu Sirsasana)
Head-to-knee forward bend can help soothe your nervous system and therefore relieve stress and anxiety.
For this pose, you will sit on a folded blanket or cushion with your left leg extended and press the sole of your right foot into your left thigh. For support, you can also place a block or cushion under your knee.
Inhale as you extend your arms overhead, and exhale as you lengthen your spine to fold forward. Rest your hands on the floor or anywhere on the body.
This pose can be held up to five minutes. Then, repeat head-to-knee forward bend on the opposite side with your right leg extended.
7. Child’s Pose (Balasana)
Child’s pose is a simple relaxation posture that helps alleviate stress, fatigue, and anxiety.
For this posture, begin in a kneeling position and comfortably sit on your heels. You will fold forward, walk your hands in front of you, and rest your forehead on the floor.
Your arms can rest alongside your body, or you can keep your arms extended forward.
Child’s pose can be held for around five minutes.
8. Legs-up-the-Wall Pose (Viparita Karani Asana)
Legs-up-the-wall pose is a restorative pose that promotes complete relaxation of your body and mind; therefore, it’s a good way to relieve stress and anxiety.
In this posture, you will begin by sitting your right side against a wall, then lie back and swing your legs up the wall. Your buttocks should be comfortably close to the wall. You may be right up against the wall or around a few inches away.
Relax and allow your neck, chest, and back to soften. You can hold legs-up-the-wall pose for around 10 minutes.
9. Seated Forward Bend (Paschimottanasana)
Seated forward bend is known to calm the mind and relieve anxiety. This is a good pose that allows you to turn inward and come back to the intention of your practice.
In this posture, you will sit with your legs straight in front of you. If you prefer, you can sit on a cushion or a folded blanket. You can also have your knees slightly bent.
Inhale and lift up your arms, slowly extend forward, and rest your hands on the floor or anywhere on your body. Seated forward bend can be held for up to five minutes.
10. Reclining Bound Angle Pose (Supta Baddha Konasana)
Reclining bound angle pose is a relaxing posture that helps you let go of anxiety and promotes a sense of being calm. This posture can become a heart opener by placing a cushion or block under your back.
For this posture, begin as you lie on your back and bring the soles of your feet together. You can also place cushions under your hips or knees for further support.
Place one hand on your heart and the other one around your stomach. This posture can be held for about 10 minutes.
11. Bound Angle Pose (Baddha Konasana)
This posture is called bound angle pose, cobbler pose, or butterfly pose. Bound angle pose improves blood circulation, and reduces blood pressure, fatigue, stress, and anxiety.
For this posture, sit with your legs stretched forward and bend your knees as you pull your heels toward your pelvis. Press the soles of your feet together, and drop your knees to your sides.
You will then use your thumb and first finger to hold the big toes of your feet. Once comfortable in the position, make sure your torso is lengthened through the top of your sternum and your shoulder blades are firmly pressed together.
If you’re comfortable, also try to lower your thigh bones toward the floor, which will bring your knees down as well. Bound angle pose can be held for approximately five minutes.
12. Staff Pose (Dandasana)
Staff pose, or dandasana, is a seated version of mountain pose, or tadasana.
For this relaxing posture, sit with your legs extended in front of you, engage your thigh muscles, and flex both feet.
Position your shoulders directly above your hips, and release the shoulders, away from your ears.
Your arms will also be straight with your palms flat on the floor. Lengthen your spine, and stay in this posture for five deep breaths with the legs fully active. This will take about a minute.
If you need help to stay up straight, place a folded blanket under your buttocks.
13. Corpse Pose (Savasana)
As you end your practice, corpse pose, or savasana, can help you relax and calm the mind.
You will lie down on your mat with your arms by your side and palms up. Your legs are also relaxed, with your feet turned toward your mat. You can also use a pillow under your knees to support your lower back.
Close your eyes, practice deep breathing, and relax. Remain in corpse pose for five to 15 minutes.
Final Thoughts on Yoga for Anxiety
What is the best yoga form for anxiety? Many of the yoga postures mentioned above can be practiced in most types of yoga, including hatha yoga, vinyasa yoga, Iyengar yoga, yin yoga, hot yoga, and restorative yoga.
In this article, we explained how yoga for anxiety works, as well as several specific yoga postures that can help, including hero pose, extended puppy pose, child’s pose, reclining bound angle pose, and more.
Although you can perform these special yoga postures for anxiety at home to reduce stress and anxiety, it may be helpful to add guided yoga classes to your routine to get the full benefits of relaxation. If you are new to yoga, try doing guided classes online or taking classes at a local studio.
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Article Sources (+)
Li, A. and Goldsmith, C., “The effects of yoga on anxiety and stress,” Alternative Medicine Review, March 2012; 17(1): 21-35, PMID: 22502620.
“6 Yoga Poses That Help Alleviate Anxiety,” Do You Yoga; https://www.doyouyoga.com/6-yoga-poses-that-help-alleviate-anxiety-38992/, last accessed August 30, 2018.