People like yoga because it combines physical and mental efforts to create something exceptionally soothing and calming.
If done correctly, such as with an effective instructor, a peaceful setting and a willing practitioner, it can help everything from muscle pain to breathing problems. It can boost overall cardiac health and reduce overall stress – a double dose of goodness.
Yoga practitioners say some styles and poses are also particularly effective for people with high anxiety levels. They don’t require a lot of tricky balancing, complicated rhythms or painful bodily motion, like some newcomers may fear.
Some poses are actually intended to be relaxing, where you only have to focus on your breathing and feeling peaceful, and nothing else in the world. Nice, huh?
Here are some simple poses that can reduce anxiety.
- Child’s pose. Called balasana, this one is called a place of rest. It’s used in many classes as a transition between different asanas. It lets the body have a moment of peace before launching into another series and helps ground the individual. It starts with the person on their hands and knees. As you exhale, you lower your torso to rest on your thighs, with the front of your head on the mat and your arms either behind you or extended forward. There isn’t a recommended time limit on this, since few muscles are required so it could be held for many breaths. When complete, simply walk yourself backwards and sit on your heels.
- Fish pose. There’s an advanced version of this called Padmasana, but for newcomers, it consists of lying on the floor with your feet on the floor with legs out straight or knees bent. When you inhale, you lift your pelvis and slide your hands down and then press against the floor. This arches your back but keeps the back of your head on the floor. Your neck should only lightly extend. This pose should be kept for 15-30 seconds with normal breathing. When you exhale, lower torso and head. Repeat as needed.
- Legs Up Wall. Yes, it does look like you’re only sitting with your legs against the wall, but viparita karani is actually a relaxing pose to relieve pressure on hips and legs, and also offering resistance. It also can be performed anywhere you can find a wall and a surface to lie down, which is pretty much anywhere. It starts by sitting next to a wall and swinging your legs up so your head is on the mat, blanket or floor. Then ease forward until your thighs touch the wall. Relax and hold the pose for as long as needed.
- Forward Fold. Bend down and touch your toes! We all have done this exercise as part of basic calisthenics, but it also has a role in yoga as lightly stretching and relaxing muscles and joints like the hamstring. Plus this is a good exercise to focus only on your breathing, since inhaling and exhaling can be a big part of the motions required. It starts by standing straight having your legs parallel. Then exhale, bend forward and try to grip your toes without rounding your back. If it’s difficult at this point, you can still try to use a strap that you wrap around your feet and pull. Then inhale and rise. You can hold the up or down position or quickly repeat. Be careful not to bend your back too much.
- Tree Pose. This is one of the classic “yoga-”looking poses, where your hands are clasped over your head and one leg cocked against the other leg. It’s a pose that requires you to focus only on balancing and breathing. Once you figure out the rhythm, it’s easy to hold or back and forth. It’s also forgiving – if you lose your balance or your mind wanders, try again. It’s also good for beginners and uses your whole body. It can start by clasping your hands over your head, then inhaling and pulling up one leg and holding it. Then you relax, pull your leg and hands down and repeat with the other leg. It can also be done anywhere, which makes it easy when you can't find a nearby studio.