Anxiety is often caused by worrying about the future. Practicing yoga is a wonderful way to quell anxiety because it keeps us in the present moment. The meditative mindful breath combined with certain yoga postures can help even the most anxious people learn how to relax a bit more. As a new mom trying to balance motherhood and my career, I certainly find myself worrying about everything I need to do. I find these three yoga postures really help ground me back in the present and calm my mind.
Why it works: Mountain pose is a great posture for anxiety. Plus, it can be done anywhere and no one will even know you’re doing yoga! When you find yourself anxiously moving forward toward your tip toes and worrying about your to-do list, stop and practice mountain.
How to do it: Stand with your feet together, big toes touching and heels together. Practice rocking forward to the front of your feet and notice how you start to feel anxious. Then, rock towards your heels and notice how it drags you back in to the past. Finally, find the very center of each foot not moving toward the future nor hanging back in the past, and ground yourself in the present moment. Stretch your fingers toward the floor as you lift the top of your head toward the ceiling. Close your eyes for a moment and watch your breath flooding through your body. Breathe in calm and breathe out anxiety. Hold for 8 to 10 breaths.
Why it works: Eagle is a good pose for concentration and focus. When you’re forced to focus on something else, it automatically makes anxiety go away. You can’t obsess about your big presentation at work when you’re wrapped up in a tight fold and balancing precariously on one foot.
How to do it: Bend your knees enough to wrap one thigh over the other at the top of the thigh. See if you can double cross the foot behind the standing leg’s calf. If this is too challenging, just keep the foot out or tap it to the floor. Wrap your arms high at the shoulders and double cross at the forearms to bring the palms together. If you can’t press the palms, press the backs of the hands. Hollow out your abdominals and bow forward as you gaze down the hands. Pick a spot on the floor to rest your gaze and hold for 8 to 10 breaths. When you come up and unwind, notice how less anxious you feel and note the sensation of spaciousness in your thoughts and your body. Repeat on the other side.
Standing Straddle Forward Bend
Why it works: Standing straddle forward bend is just a feel-good pose. It releases tension in the head, neck, shoulders, lower back, and legs. It also forces you to stay in the center of your feet as you allow your torso to drape out of your thighs. I often practice this pose as a way to say goodbye to the contents of my brain for the time being. Stand with your legs about one leg’s length apart.
How to do it: Turn your toes slightly inward, place your hands on your hips, and lift your chest on an inhalation. On an exhalation, bow forward and place your hands on the floor shoulder-width apart directly in line with your feet. You can practice what you did in mountain pose above—move forward to the balls of the feet, then move backward toward your heels, then find yourself right in the middle of your arch. Hold for 8 to 10 breaths. Place your hands on your hips again and inhale up to stand. You’ll feel worry-free, I promise.
Kristin McGee is a leading yoga and Pilates instructor and healthy lifestyle expert based in New York City. She is an ACE certified personal trainer who regularly trains celebrity clients in New York and Los Angeles. She serves as Health’s contributing fitness editor and is frequently seen on national TV. Her latest in a large collection of fitness DVDs is YogaSlim. Follow her on Twitter @KristinMcGee and like her page on Facebook.