5 Yoga Postures to Reduce Stress & Anxiety
There are so many reasons that I can list as to why I love living in London. The multicultural setting, the open-minded people and the buzzing opportunities to do whatever the hell you want, just to name a few. But, let’s be honest. It can be a stressful place to live in sometimes (cue waiting for the tube during rush hour). Having worked within the Wellness Industry for the past year, I’m overwhelmed by the amount of people that I come across with physical or mental health problems, most likely caused by underlying anxiety or stress. In addition to this, I too have regular bouts of depression, anxiety and fatigue that simple ‘self-care’ habits can’t cure - and it is my JOB to help people unwind and relax! I get it - trying to excel in your career, maintain a social life, exercise regularly, drink enough water, eat five portions of fruit and veg a day, WhatsApp everyone back, get seven to eight hours of sleep a night and try to stay fairly sane is bloody hard work. So firstly, can I get ‘hell-yeah’ for all you amazingly multi-talented people out there who hustle your a** off every week and still manage to be the kind and strong people that you happen to be. You are doing a great job at life despite what you might sometimes think or feel. Secondly, you are not alone. Everybody feels low and stressed from time to time - it is natural and it is what makes you human. However, rather than seeing it as a negative situation, you can choose to respond more compassionately. Take this time to really nurture your body and mind.
Dedicating some time for yourself every week to do whatever makes you happy is not selfish. Yes - you are allowed to say ‘No’ to your co-worker's leaving party just to sit at home and watch Netflix in your PJs on a Friday night. If that will make you happy and relaxed - go ahead and do it. In the words of author Chloe Brotheridge - when it comes to making decisions in your life, “If it isn’t a HELL YEAH- it’s a NO”. Just think, the more you say ‘no’ to things that you honestly aren't keen on, the more time you have available to do the things that really matter to you. Finally, when I am feeling particularly low and/or tired, the last thing I want to do is get on my mat to stretch. However, I have noticed that taking some time out from my otherwise overly stimulated life, (sometimes as little as five minutes) to take a few deep breaths and soften the body has majorly reduced my anxiety and increased my productivity. So here it is, five simple and easy yoga poses that you can do from the comfort of your own home (mat or no mat) on days that you need that extra TLC. Go ahead, take a break and treat yourself - you deserve it!
1. Child's Pose
Come to hands and knees (wrists beneath shoulders, knees beneath hips). Start sitting back onto the heels and bring the chest to rest on the thighs. Extend the arms in front of you. Inhale here as you sit back a little further, feeling that length in the spine. Exhale to find softness.
Option to widen the knees and drop the chest in between the thighs if that feels more comfortable. Option to bend the arms and bring the palms together to extend upwards for an extra shoulder stretch.
2. Bridge Pose
Come to lie on the back. Bend both legs and bring soles of the feet on the mat, ensuring that your knees are directly over the ankles. Bring your arms either side of the body, palms facing down. Inhale to tuck the tailbone under (flattening out the curve in your spine) and exhale to lift the hips high, peeling lower back, middle back and upper back off the mat. Breathe here for five deep breaths as you press down through the feet relaxing some of the effort out of the jaw.
Option to shuffle the shoulders in and interlace fingers behind the back.
3. Downward-facing Dog
Come to hands and knees (wrists beneath shoulders, knees beneath hips). Inhale to spread the fingers wide and tuck the toes. Exhale to sit back towards the heels as you slowly lift your knees off the mat and send that tailbone high towards the sky. Take some time to ease yourself into this pose - bend one knee and the other, shake your head from side to side to release any tension from the neck and take whatever movements feel good for you before coming to some sort of stillness. It should be noted that downward facing dog is an active pose - so you are actively pressing your hands towards the mat as you draw the ribcage in to prevent any dumping in the lower back. The hips are pointing up towards the sky maintaining that long length in the spine. Bend the knees if needed - bringing the heels down is not necessary. Hold for 5 deep nourishing breaths.
Exit from DD: Lower the knees and sit back onto the heels to come to a child's pose. Rest in child's pose for a few breaths as it may make you dizzy to sit up straightaway.
4. Baddha Konasana A & B
Come to a comfortable seated position. Bring both soles of the feet together and let the knees drop apart. Interlace fingers around toes or ankles. Inhale to lift up through the chest (shoulders away from ears) and draw the lower belly in towards towards the spine. Exhale to lead with the chest and fold over the legs. Slight tuck of the chin to lengthen through the back of the neck (A). Hold for five deep breaths.
Root down through the tail bone to lift back into a seated position. Draw the heels slightly further away from the body keeping the soles of the feet together. Inhale to tuck the chin. Exhale to round through through the spine as and bring the crown of the head to drop down in the direction of the feet. Allow the shoulders to drop by the ears and the spine to round (B). Hold for five deep breaths.
6. Supine Twist
Come to lie on the back. Hug the knees into the chest and lengthen the arms out either side of you. Shift the hips to the left slightly and drop the knees over to the right hand side. Option to rotate the head the opposite side to the knees, Option to take the right hand and rest it on the outer thigh if that feels more comfortable. Allow the shape of the body to do all the work for you - releasing any control of any muscle in the body. Enjoy this deep twist and hold for 5-10 breaths. Repeat on other side.
As always, be safe and take responsibility for your own practice ensuring that you don't hold any poses if you are experiencing any pain or discomfort anywhere in the body. If you have any questions please do not hesitate to contact me via my website.
P.S. these poses appear regularly in all my classes so hopefully see you on the mat for some deep nourishing rest and relaxation! Be good to yourselves.