As mentioned in the first article of this series, according to the Anxiety Disorders Association of America (ADAA), anxiety disorders are the most prominent mental health issue in our country. 40 million adults over 18 years of age suffer from anxiety. Anxiety can feel debilitating to many but there is relief to be had. Some people may choose to see a medical doctor to obtain medication and many people find relief from a combination of medication and psychotherapy. There are also many natural options that do help many people find relief and even freedom from the grip of anxiety.
In this article, I’d like to introduce you to three very simple yoga postures that often bring relief from anxiety. Practiced on a regular basis many people find profound relief. As with any new regimen, please consult your own health care provider first to be sure these postures are suitable for you and your body.
Sweeping Peace: Anjali Mudra
You can either do this in a standing or seated posture. Bring hands to the sides of your body and turn the palms out and up. Lift the arms straight out to the sides breathing deeply into the lungs. Continue to bring the hands straight overhead until the palms align with one another all on the in-breath. Begin to slowly exhale as you bring the hands down with the thumbs gently raking the center of your forehead, gently closing your eyes and then down the the center of the chest completing the exhale. With the hands in this position sometimes called “prayer pose” nestle the thumbs into the sternum at the center of the chest gently pressing there with the thumbs. Repeat three times. I used to lead large groups of wiggly, active preschoolers in this exercise and amazingly observed immediate and profound stillness and quiet in the room as they participated in this. It works very well to assist people of all ages in settling the nervous system and reducing anxiety symptoms. Perhaps there is a reason this hand position is observed in prayer or pay of respect in nearly ever religion or spiritual practice.
Begin in a kneeling position on a mat or soft floor surface with the tops of your feet on the floor. Sit down onto your feet, bring your big toes together and take your knees out and away from each other. Hinging at your hips, bow forward and then down reaching your hands out and ahead, releasing your forehead toward the floor. Take your knees out a little wider if needed in order to nestle your belly down between your legs. Surrender your weight and worries down to the support of the floor beneath you. Breathe in long, slow, deep breath and exhale full and completely. If possible for your body, you want to have your forehead touching the ground in front of you while your buttocks remains in contact with your heels. If you find it strenuous to sit on your heels throughout this posture, modify it by placing a thickly folded blanket between the backs of your thighs and your calves. This pose should be avoided if you have knee or hip injury, recent low back injury or are pregnant.
Legs Up The Wall
Sit with the side of your body up next to the wall, hips and shoulder flush against the wall. Then gently lie down onto your side, roll onto your back and bring one leg at a time up the wall. Adjust yours position to make yourself comfortable. For example you can move your buttocks a bit closer to the wall if that feels more supportive. A bolster, cushion or blankets can be used to raise the upper body to increase comfort. Padding can also be used to lift the hips up. As with all postures, it should feel good and if it doesn’t then stop. Another signal to stop is if your legs go numb at all. Arms can be however you like. You can lay your arms by your side with palms open to or above your head to ease open the shoulders with the elbows gently bent. Close your eyes, soften the muscles in your face and breathe rhythmically, slowly relaxing for 5 to 10 minutes in this posture.
You should always pay close attention to the messages from your body and never go into any posture that doesn’t feel right or creates pain. These are simple postures you may try at home but it is advisable to attend a gentle and relaxing yoga class with a registered yoga teacher to experience more postures that can aid in relieving anxiety.
Lynn Louise Wonders