Post-yoga class do you feel super zen? Are you consumed by an overall sense of calm and mindfulness? If you’re nodding your head yes, then it’s no surprise that a recent study organized by the Boston University School of Medicine discovered that yoga and controlled breathing practices can improve symptoms of anxiety and depression, particularly Iyengar yoga. In this type of yoga, the movements are more slow and controlled, which is especially therapeutic for those that have anxiety. In this article, I will go over five restorative yoga sequences for anxiety. But, first, let’s talk about how yoga helps with mental health.
The Benefits of Yoga for Anxiety
The study conducted by the Boston University School of Medicine included thirty-two participants (18 to 65 years of age) diagnosed with major depressive disorder. The study participants were placed into either a high-dose group (HDG) or a low-dose group (LDG) of yoga and controlled breathing for 12 weeks. Significant improvements in all outcome measures were found for both groups. Both interventions reduced symptoms of depression and anxiety and increased feelings of positivity, all correlated to their yoga practice!
Why is this so important, you ask? Well, with this information, those struggling with anxiety can add in the practice of Iyengar yoga and controlled breathing alongside their medication, therapy, and other treatments for anxiety.
Now, what does this mean for you? If you’ve ever struggled with anxiety, you know that adding many different things to your tool kit is essential for recovery. Sunshine, exercise, and a healthy diet are all beneficial for mood and jitters, as well as certain medications and therapy. But, with that being said, I think yoga is one of the absolute best holistic things you can do for your body and mind.
5 Restorative Yoga Poses for Anxiety
Below I list 5 therapeutic yoga poses (beginner-friendly) that are great for mental health.
Dust off your mat and stay in your pj’s if you want! I recommend using a bolster, blocks, and a blanket if you have these accessible.
Take a deep breath. Relax your body, and let’s get into some restorative yoga poses for anxiety.
*big self-care tip– be kind and patient with yourself as you melt into these postures.
#1 Hands to Heart Mudra
What? You didn’t think sitting was a yoga posture? Well, think again. Yoga is not all pretzels and headstands, in fact, the most grounding and important exercise you can do in yoga is simply tapping into your breath and releasing yourself freely to your practice. Sit up tall, engage your core, broaden across the collar bones, gently raise the chin, and bring your hands to heart center.
#2 Child’s Pose
Ah, sweet, sweet child’s pose. This delicious pose asks you to surrender, reaching your hands out in front of you for a nice shoulder stretch and keeping the knees together to give the lower back a much-needed rest. Give yourself permission to stay here as long as you’d like.
#3 Seated Side Twists
Any twisting movement in yoga is extremely therapeutic for the spine and digestive system, which – if you don’t know already- the brain & gut are very intertwined. Take care of your gut and your mind will thank you. For this posture, sit up tall and twist to one side, placing the opposite arm on your opposite knee, gently looking over the shoulder. Be extra careful not to crank or twist too deep, this should be very gentle. Each inhale lengthens, each exhale twist a big further.
#4 Mountain Pose With Micro Back-Bend
Backbends are one of the best restorative yoga poses for anxiety because they release tension in the back. They are also super beneficial for the body as they strengthen your back muscles. They also open the entire front side of your body. The motion of looking up and back and lengthening the neck opens the throat chakra. Start with your feet planted firmly on the mat, engaging the thighs and glutes. Tuck the pelvis under as you engage your core and stretch your arms overhead- adding in that sweet micro backbend.
#5 Tree Pose
Tree pose is great for encouraging play and focus. It can be hard to balance, and when you fall out you may laugh or lose momentum. But, that’s okay! It’s beneficial to be silly and then come back into the pose and re-focus your attention on balancing. The act of pivoting your attention towards something like a challenging pose can bring you into your breath and the present moment, which is essential for a healthy mind.
To do this pose, stand in mountain pose and balance on one foot. Then, lift the other foot, bringing it up a few inches. Rest the lifted foot on your other foot, like a kickstand. You can place it onto the inner shin, or the inner thigh (as shown above) Finally, stand tall and strong with your hands at heart center.
There you have it lovely readers — a restorative yoga sequence for anxiety. Be kind to yourself, practicing self-love as much as possible. And, don’t forget to add these poses to your wellness toolkit. Baby steps, patience, and commitment to your health and well-being will do you a world of good.
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