8 Best Yoga Poses to Relieve Stress And Anxiety
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WHAT IS YOGA AND HOW CAN IT HELP REDUCE STRESS AND ANXIETY?
Let’s start with the basics.
Yoga is an ancient form of exercise which combines strength, flexibility and breathing in order to boost physical and mental wellbeing.
The practice is broken down into poses which work specific parts of the body and have a deeper meaning behind them.
Yoga is a great mindful exercise, which helps to calm your mind and create a time in your day where you focus simply on the present moment.
I know that stress and anxiety can get in the way of exercising, especially when your heart is racing, you feel exhausted and have a tight chest but yoga is a really great way to manage and calm these stress symptoms.
In fact, it has been reported that yoga can help in the following ways:
- Reduce stress, anxiety and depression
- Boost your heart health
- Reduce chronic pain
- Promote sleep quality
- Improve your breathing
- Reduce inflammation
- Promote healthy eating habits
- Increase your strength
I’m going to be sharing my 8 favourite yoga poses that help me calm my stress and anxiety.
They are exercises that pretty much anyone can do, even complete beginners to yoga and I really hope you find them as useful as I do.
You will notice that none of the yoga poses put any pressure on your chest, but instead help to stretch out that area so your breathing feels easier and your mind can be relaxed (if you find that you are struggling with stress chest pain a lot, read our article here to get some more tips).
Read on to explore my 8 favourite yoga exercises for stress and anxiety relief.
You can also click here to get our free yoga practice which guides you through a series of yoga poses to relieve stress and anxiety.
1. TREE POSE (VRKSASANA)
This is a great pose to feel grounded and hush those racing thoughts in your mind.
- Start out with both feet placed next to each other and pointing outwards
- Push your left leg back so it feels strong and grounded
- Gently bend your right knee and glide your foot up across your left leg
- Push your right heel into a spot where you are comfortable (this could be your left ankle, knee or upper thigh) and relax your foot
- Square out your hips so you are not tilting to one side and your spine is nice and straight
- Bring your hands together in prayer position in front of your chest and breathe deeply into the pose for a couple of minutes
- Repeat on other side
2. RECLINED BUTTERFLY
A relaxing pose which is great for stretching out your back, chest and inner thighs. Whenever I can feel chest pain coming on from stress, this is the first pose I do to help relieve the tension.
- Lie flat on your back on your yoga mat, toes pointing outwards
- Keeping your back grounded, bend your knees up so they are pointed towards the ceiling
- Keeping the soles of your feet together, let your knees lower down to either side to a point where you can feel a deep stretch
- Place your hands: on your belly / one hand on the chest, one on your belly / or what I like to do is lower my arms out across either side and stretch out my chest (this is really great for relieving that tightness)
- Take deep slow breaths for 3–4 minutes
3. EXTENDED TRIANGLE POSE (PARIVRITTA TRIKONASANA)
I find this pose helps my breathing and also relaxes any tension I can feel in my neck.
- Start out on the right side of the mat with your legs together, pointing outwards and your arms relaxed by your side
- Take a deep breath in and bring your arms above your head into prayer position
- In one motion, stretch out your left leg so it’s about 3–4 feet away from your right left and bring down your arms to extend across your shoulders, fingers pointing outwards
- Turn your left foot 90 degrees so that its pointing out — the left heel should be aligned with the right heel
- In one swoop, extend your torso over your left foot, lower your left hand to your left ankle and keep your right arm pointed up towards the sky — you should feel a nice stretch across your chest
- Inhale deeply for 1–2 minutes and then reverse your movements and repeat on the other side
4. CHILDS POSE (BALASANA)
This is a great pose to stretch out your spine and also to ease stress and fatigue.
- Keeping your spine straight, kneel back onto your heels
- Crawl out your hands in front of you, one by one until you feel a nice stretch from your shoulders down to your arms
- Relax your torso onto your thighs and allow your forehead to gently drop down onto the mat
- Keep your arms extended and breathe into this pose for 3–4 minutes
5. LEGS-UP-THE-WALL (VIPARITA KARANI)
This is a pose which promotes total relaxation of the mind. Elevating your legs helps to drain excess fluid build-up and facilitates the return of blood back to your heart.
- Sit closely with your right side against a wall (you can even do this pose using a wardrobe) with your knees together and facing the ceiling
- Swivel your body around, so your back goes onto the floor and your legs extend up across the wall — your bottom should be as close to the wall as possible
- Relax your body, feel your head firmly on the floor — you can even stretch out both arms to open up your chest
- Lie here for as long as you need to
6. CAT- COW
A great pose for relieving lower back pain, energising your breath and aids digestion.
If you struggle with digestive problems due to your stress and anxiety, click here for further yoga poses which help ease your yoga practice.
This is a 2-part pose:
- Come onto all fours, with your wrists nicely aligned under your shoulders and your knees in line with your hips — keep your back nice and straight like a flat table
- Take a big exhale, tuck in your tailbone so you naturally form a c-shape with your spine
- Let go of any pressure in your back and gently dop the head
- Tilt your pelvis back up, so that your tailbone straightens
- Like a gentle wave, feel your spine stretching back out and hug in your abdominal muscles and draw your navel in
- Gaze up to the ceiling
7. RAGDOLL POSE (UTTANASANA)
The perfect pose to ‘let it all go’ — this posture helps to relieve tension in the lower back, stress as well as stiffness in the neck and shoulders.
- Stand nice and tall with your feet hip-distance wide
- Taking a nice deep exhale, bend the knees and fold your torso over your hips
- Gently take each hand to the opposite elbow and allow your head to relax as you shift your body forward to feel more grounded and balanced
- Take a few deep breaths and then inhale and return to standing
8. CAMEL POSE (USTRASANA)
A powerful pose which can help increase energy and confidence but I also find it great for stretching out a tight chest and getting in some easy deep breaths
- Begin by coming up on your knees, hip-width apart
- Place your hands as if you were about to put them in back pockets, keeping your toes pressed against the floor,
- Take a nice big inhale and as you exhale, gently curve your back whilst pushing out your hips and chest
- Tilt your head back to look at the ceiling and take some relaxing breaths
- Release the position by bringing your head back down and folding your chest back in, keeping your hands on your hips, slowly come down into a kneeling position