YogaPaws Blog for Beginner Poses and Postures

Release, Repeat: Yoga Poses to Reduce Anxiety

Posted on Sat, Oct 12, 2013

Yoga for beginners, yoga for advanced students, yoga for anxiety, yoga poses for anxiety, yoga to release, yoga for stress, yoga for stretching, yoga and anxiety, stress-reducing yoga, yoga to reduce anxiety, yoga to lower anxiety Your mind and body work together in all areas of your life. That’s pretty clear when you think about the motor control that sends nerve impulses from your brain to your feet when you walk or makes your fingers type on a computer. But, that holistic connection runs much deeper. Think about the last time you felt anxious. Your shoulders got stiff, your legs felt heavy, and your whole body was tense. You may have felt like you couldn’t breathe. Your heart was pounding. Your palms were sweaty. Your emotions aren’t just written “all over your face;” they tell their story with your entire body.

While it’s obvious that your mind can change your body, consider how much your body can change your mind. Sometimes, tackling the physical symptoms of a mental state can help you find a more positive way of looking at things.  If you suffer from anxiety (as many people do at one point or another), developing a yoga practice that dissolves the tension and helps you calm down can be a great step in feeling like you can let those feelings go.

Yoga for beginners, yoga for advanced students, yoga for anxiety, yoga poses for anxiety, yoga to release, yoga for stress, yoga for stretching, yoga and anxiety, stress-reducing yoga, yoga to reduce anxiety, yoga to lower anxiety The mere decision to put on your YogaPaws at home or go to a yoga class demonstrates just how much you believe you’re capable of taking on challenges. Yoga is always an open door. It invites you to explore, to go deeper into poses and/or deeper into your mind and spirit. Your practice offers you continual validation that you have everything you need to handle new poses, new situations, new teachers and, by extension, what else comes your way.

Overall, yoga helps you calm down, lower your blood pressure and slow your heart rate, so any practice you do will help to relieve the feeling of being out of control that often comes with feeling anxious. And, you can tailor your practice to include poses that help you the most. For some people, heart opening poses are good for releasing anxiety, while other might prefer a more vigorous practice to burn off stress. Yin can also be an effective solution for learning to focus rather than fret.

Yoga for beginners, yoga for advanced students, yoga for anxiety, yoga poses for anxiety, yoga to release, yoga for stress, yoga for stretching, yoga and anxiety, stress-reducing yoga, yoga to reduce anxiety, yoga to lower anxiety Whatever sequences work for you, you’ll probably find that they help you find a more useful perspective on the issues at hand. As you calm down, your minds clears and you have more time to think productively about what is making you anxious. That, in turn, allows you might feel more empowered to take positive action to address the cause of your anxious feelings.

It’s important to recognize when your anxiety has valid causes (like a big move or a major life event) or if you are stressing out over something that you don’t have to (worrying about something you can’t control or something you have no reason to be tense about). If you have issues that you need to work through, it’s good to create a practice that helps you focus. If you are worrying unnecessarily, it’s better to find a practice that also includes poses that make you feel confident.

Keep in mind that those anxious feelings have an upside. They mean that you’re welcoming new opportunities and making changes in your life. Taking a driver’s exam may not feel life-affirming when you’re doing it, but think about that road trip you can take to celebrate or how much fun it will be to pick up a friend and check out a new restaurant. There’s no reason to feel anxious if you’re just doing the same things all the time. So, if your feel your body tensing up, embrace it and congratulate yourself for being willing to grow beyond your comfort zone.


Here are some poses to make you feel less anxious:

Uttana Shishosana, Extended Puppy Pose

Uttana Shishosana (Extended Puppy Pose)

Benefits: This restorative pose increases blood flow to your head, helping your body’s calming responses kick in. How to do it: Start on your hands and knees. Your knees should be hip width and your hands should be under your shoulders. On an exhale, move your hips back toward your feet. You should end with your hips angled back toward your feet, but not resting on them. Let your forehead rest on the floor. Hold for 30 seconds to one minute, then release.


Setu Bandha Sarvangasana, Bridge Pose

Setu Bandha Sarvangasana (Bridge Pose)

Benefits: This backbend helps you feel more open across your chest. How to do it: Begin lying face up on your mat. Bend your knees up and place your feet close to your hips, feet flat on the mat. On an exhale, lift your hips until your thighs are about parallel with the floor. Keep your center strong. Keep your neck long and breathe evenly. Hold for 30 seconds to one minute, then release gently to the ground, lowering one vertebrae at a time.


Adho Mukha Vrksasana, Handstand

Adho Mukha Vrksasana (Handstand)

Benefits: This inversion helps you feel strong and in control, which helps counteract anxious feelings. How to do it:  Perform Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward-Facing Dog Pose) a few inches from a wall. Place your hands shoulder width, with your fingers pointing to the wall and about four inches away from it.  Move your feet slightly closer to your hands. Kick your right leg up toward the ceiling. While it’s raised, bend your left knee and kick it up toward the wall.  Your heels should come to rest lightly on the wall. If you can’t make it up to the wall, work on kicking up. Either way, spend one minute in the pose or working on it, then release. Try kicking up with a different leg occasionally—most people find one leg easier than the other. Move into Balasana (Child’s Pose) when you’re finished and stay for a minute or more so that you don’t get dizzy when you stand up.

yoga paws, yoga poseFace it. Yoga teacher Maria Apt says in Yoga Journal that many anxious people carry tension in their faces. Try to relax not only your mouth and jaw when your practice, but let go of all muscular tightness in your face. You may not realize it, but the tension you carry (even in the muscles around your eyes) in your face can exacerbate feelings of stress or nervousness.

Let stress go. When you’re on the mat, don’t dwell on stress that may come from the poses or the practice. Instead, observe it, work out where it came from, and let it go. Imagine that it’s water in a river that is flowing by you as you watch. 

It’s also a good idea to set an intention if you are practicing yoga to help with anxiety. It doesn’t need to be about the things you’re trying to cope with. Instead, try a simple one like “I will feel calmer, more open and more in control at the end of this practice.” Use that to inform how you approach the poses. As you inhale, breathe in the word “calm;”  as you exhale, let go of the word “stress.” Keep in mind, it’s all good.


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Yoga to ease anxiety

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Tags: yoga for beginners, yoga for stress, yoga for advanced students, yoga for anxiety, yoga poses for anxiety, yoga to release, yoga for stretching, yoga and anxiety, stress-reducing yoga, yoga to reduce anxiety, yoga to lower anxiety

Steady On: Yoga Poses to Fight Nervousness

Posted on Fri, Sep 13, 2013

yoga paws, yoga, yoga sox, toesox, yogitoesYou’ve just found a new hot yoga studio you can’t wait to try. Or maybe you’ve finally crossed the bridge from wanting to try yoga or doing a home practice to taking your first class. You can’t wait to dive into that new experience. Then comes that moment when you open the studio door, see all of the other mats and walk to your place. Suddenly, your monkey mind is chattering about whether you’ll be able to take the heat, whether you can “keep up” with the class or whether your sweaty palms will be able to grip the mat. (YogaPaws!! :) Being nervous before a new experience, a test, a presentation or even a difficult conversation is just part of being human. Still, it’s not one of the more fun parts.

yoga class, yoga loveBefore you begin to use yogic tools for addressing nervousness, it’s important to accept that you’re going to feel nervous in certain situations. Where yoga comes in is in helping you find ways to calm your nerves, stop being reactive and embrace the challenge at hand with clear thinking.

When you can keep things in proportion, a small amount of stressing over performance-based tasks (think a presentation at work or school, or a long race) can actually help you do better. What’s not helpful is when that need to do well becomes a loop in your mind that makes you feel like you can’t possibly succeed. Renowned yoga teacher Dr. Timothy McCall points out in Yoga Journal that most of the things that make you nervous aren’t as dire as you think. As a reality check, think about how many times you feel you’ve fallen short of the mark only to have friends or colleagues come up to after the event or class and tell you that you rocked it!

yoga for stress, yoga for nervusnessAs McCall points out, as soon as a stressful thought becomes a negative habit, it’s not helping you. If you keep worrying at the same ideas and you aren’t getting anywhere, let go of them. Write them down and then visualize them leaving your head.

Get to the root of the issue. If your nervousness tends to be triggered by specific sets of circumstances—a particular activity, place or people—it might help to create a list of five to 10 mantras for yourself. Try ones like, “I can handle this situation calmly” or “I am capable of doing this well.” Repeating those sayings can help break the cycle of nervousness. Stand in front a mirror and repeat your mantras. Adjust your body language to reflect your words. When you say “calm,” relax your shoulders, for example. Or, as you say “capable,” square your shoulders, exhale and bring your core back to your spine and stand tall.

yoga paws, yoga love, yoga for nervousness If you tend to get nervous about things in general, you may benefit from a combination of mantras and meditation. Create a visualization of yourself successfully navigating a day, a goal or a year in your life. Explore the idea of Sankalpa (resolve). Try to virtually live in the body, the job, the future you want. So, think about how you feel as you shut off the alarm and get out of bed. See yourself reaching for the clothing you’ve always wanted to wear. Picture yourself doing your dream job. Enjoy the feeling of lifting off into an arm balance or stretching into an inversion. The next time you feel nervous, remind yourself that you are that person. 

Hitting your mat also helps you find a confident, stable place. Besides yoga’s general calming effects and the benefits of any kind of exercise for your mental state, you will likely find that the empowerment of a yoga practice helps you refocus on your abilities, not your fears. In a class, you have the added the connection of the people around you—who are sharing both your nervousness and your joy!


Here are some poses to try.

pm legs up the wall 300x261 resized 600Viparita Karani (Legs-Up-The-Wall Pose)

Benefits: This supported inversion helps you let go of tension. How to do it: You need a support for this pose. Either grab a bolster or roll a blanket into a thick, firm cylinder. Set it five to six inches away from a wall or other vertical surface (you may need to experiment with exactly how far away works for you). Sit down with your dominant side against the wall and your hips on one end of your bolster or blanket. On an exhale, turn to the wall and rotate your legs up the wall at the same time you put your head and shoulders on the floor. This might take some practice. Once you are lying in the pose, make sure your hips are dropping toward the floor between your support and the wall. Relax your body. Hold the pose for five to 15 minutes, then remove your support and turn onto your side to release.


fish pose

Matsyasana (Fish Pose)

Benefits: The opening of your front body in this pose serves as a physical reminder to open up and calm down.  How to do it: Start by lying on your back. Bend your knees. Raise your pelvis slightly and place your hands, palms on the floor, under your hips. Keep your arms close to your sides and don’t lift your body off your hands. On an inhale, press into your arms to lift your head and chest off the floor. Exhale and lower the crown of your head back to the floor, leaving your chest lifted. Press your backs of your arms into the floor to keep weight off your neck. Stay for 15 to 30 seconds, then release and hug your knees into your chest.


Garudasana, Eagle PoseGarudasana (Eagle Pose)

Benefits: This balancing pose helps you to defeat nervousness by letting go of worries about the future.  How to do it: Start in Tadasana (Mountain Pose). With a slight bend in your knees, lift your right foot and cross your right leg over your left. If possible, place your right toes around the back of your left lower leg (if not, leave your right toes outside of our left leg near the chin or on the floor). Extend your arms forward, then place your left arm on top of the right. Bend your arms so that they form a 90-degree angle. Turn your hands so that your palms face each other and press them into each as much as you can. Reach your fingers toward the ceiling. Hold the pose for 15 to 30 seconds, then release and repeat on the other side.

Take charge. There’ s a tendency to put off things that make you nervous, or to create chaos around them. Try to resist that urge. If you have a big assignment in your work pile, tackle it first. If you’re nervous about a meeting, get there early. As you start to work on the task at hand, you will find your anxiety lessening.

Let go. As counterintuitive as it seems, sometimes it helps to envision what would happen if the thing you are nervous about doesn’t turn out the way you had hoped. How would you cope? Then, remind yourself how unlikely that worst-case scenario really is. And, also focus on what even that negative outcome would really mean.

Oftentimes, not getting the result you want can point to a need to assess your situation. Do you really want that promotion? Are you making a speech about something you really believe in? Every “performance” or new experience brings a benefit, whether new thinking or additional skills. In yogic terms, there are no mistakes—just steps in learning. Everything you do is simply part of your success in self-realization.


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Tags: yoga for beginners, yoga for stress, yoga for advanced students, yoga to fight nervousness, yoga for nervousness, yoga for anxiety, yoga for calming, yoga to relax, yoga to calm your nerves

Looking Up: Yoga for Depression

Posted on Tue, Aug 20, 2013

yoga for depressionEverybody wants to be happy--everyday, all year round, all their life long. Okay, a few challenges are still good, but nothing more daunting than those little motivators. That’s the wish list. The reality is that your life path probably has had more than its share of bumps, twists and turns already and that, at least in the back of your mind, you’re perfectly aware that you’ll continue to explore the long smooth stretches along with some rough patches.

If your life is in balance, the difficulties you encounter may seem frustrating or limiting at first. But, with a clear mind, it doesn’t take long to see why those obstacles are in your path. They help you grow as you learn to navigate around them or integrate them into new solutions. If nothing else, they force you to question what you really need to be happy. Armed with that information and new-found strength, you often find yourself striding forward into new territory in your life.

yoga for depression, yoga for happiness, yoga to be happySometimes, there are a lot of rocks on the road—so many that you feel you’re just stumbling all of the time. It can become more and more challenging to find the balance and to see a way beyond the immediate problems. Maybe you feel stuck in a situation that is eroding your self-esteem or restricting your ability to express your skills. Or maybe you feel like you’re back-sliding, getting farther away from the things you need to be happy and fulfilled. Or, maybe, you just don’t feel at all. Grief, disappointment and isolation may have created a silo around your heart.

yoga for depression, yoga to be happy, do yoga be happyFirst of all, know that you’re not alone. Nobody is so Teflon that they can just sail through life. According to a study by the National Institute of Mental Health, nearly 10% of Americans are affected with depression yearly. But, notes Dr. Timothy McCall in Yoga Journal, not everyone feels depression in the same way. Some suffer from a depression that leaves them lethargic and not wanting to get out of bed, while others may feel restless and angry as well as sad.

To turn your face toward the sun and regain your balance, first consider whether you are just feeling blue today, whether there is a specific cause for feeling down or whether your depression has become a persistent problem in your life—one that may be affecting your ability to hold down a job, sustain a relationship or keep your mind, body and spirit care for and yoga for depression, yoga for health, yoga for happiness,healthy. Clinical depression, which McCall defines in his article as, “a persistently sad, hopeless, and sometimes agitated state that profoundly lowers the quality of life and that, if untreated, can result in suicide” may require advice from a yoga therapist or other expert.

Regardless of the level depression, yoga can help you out of that grayness. While any physical exercise is a good anti-depressant, yoga’s mind-body connection makes it especially effective for lifting you up. Yoga’s philosophy, says McCall, is that everyone is entitled to a happy life. Because of that, yoga teaches you ways to find self-esteem and balance. McCall suggests, for example, that depression can be fueled by negative samskaras (habits) like negative self-talk. 

yoga for depressionWorking to identify and change those habits can be a powerful tool to lift depression. He suggests starting with a gratitude list, sitting down and writing out a list of all the things you are grateful for. The physical practice of yoga also has specific benefits for depression. A vigorous practice can help quiet your mind by bringing you into the present. It’s hard to bring depression with you when you are focused on keeping your balance in Garudasana (Eagle Pose) or trying to keep your arms strong through the umpteenth Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward-Facing Dog Pose). And, the backbends that are an integral part of Surya Namaskar (Sun Salution) help open your perspective and feel less burdened.

 yoga for depression, affirmations, yoga affirmations The simple action of stepping onto your mat is a bold affirmation that you believe you have the power to create change. Stretching strengthening and balancing might seem pretty overwhelming when your self-esteem account is already nearly overdrawn. But, yoga is one of the best tools you have for resetting the needle of self-worth and empowerment. As you work toward new poses, you feel that “eureka” experience as your muscles stretch a little further or you catch a balance.

Every practice is about possibility. By the time you roll up your mat, you will always have had some experiences that show you that you are progressing, learning, succeeding. You feel the satisfaction of knowing that you can handle any challenge, learn from it and use it to get closer to your goals. You have proven to yourself that, however lofty or far away the goal seems, if you keep your focus, you’ll get there.

Here are some poses to rekindle your optimism:

camel pose, Ustrasana (Camel Pose)

Benefits: This active backbend helps energize you and makes you feel more lifted. How to do it: Begin in a kneeling position. Keep your knees hip-width apart. Turn your thighs in slightly. Place your hands, fingers down, on your lower spine. Firm your shoulder blades and your buttocks. Then lean back into that foundation, keeping your spine long. Lift your pelvis toward your ribs and let your neck remain neutral. Remain in this pose for 30 seconds to one minute, then inhale and release. As a variation, cartwheel your left hand back to your left heel. Raise your right arm to the ceiling, creating a seal between your index finger and thumb.









Adho Mukha Svanasana(Downward-Facing Dog Pose)Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward-Facing Dog Pose)

Benefits: Regularly practiced as part of Surya Namaskara, this poses helps you feel strong and balanced as your arms and legs engage to hold you up. How to do it: Start on your hands and knees in a “tabletop” position. Make sure your knees are hip-width apart and your hands are slightly in front of your shoulders. Exhale and press into your hands to lift your knees off the floor. Inhale, then, on the next exhale, lengthen your heels to or toward the floor. Remain in the pose for one to three minutes, then exhale and release.


bridge poseSetu Bandha Sarvangasana (Bridge Pose) 

Benefits: This restorative backbend is a great way to relax your body and mind, bringing fresh blood flow to your brain.  How to do it: Begin lying on your back. Draw your knees up and place the soles of your feet hip-width apart near your buttocks. Exhale and lift your pelvis. Think about lifting both your front and back body. Keep your neck long and relaxed. Hold for 30 seconds to one minute, then release and roll down one vertebra at a time.

yoga for depression

Keep it consistent. Even if you can only do a few minutes of yoga every day, establishing a yoga routine can be a useful tool for lifting yourself out of depression. It might also help to try to keep it at the same time every day, so you have something to look forward to. Think about taking a regular class. The in-studio connection with other students and your teacher is a compelling reminder that you’re part of the human community—an important part.

yoga for depressionMake it fun. Whatever works for you—turning on your favorite music, picking a favorite pose--do something to make the practice feel special. It’s also a good idea to try to beautify your environment when you practice. Try lighting scented candles or incense for an instant sensory boost. Take your Yoga-Paws and move your practice outside. Fresh air makes movement feel even more natural. It’s a lot easier to feel limitless under a beautiful blue sky, in a forest or at the beach.

And remember, this practice is for you. No matter what else is going on in your life, this is your time to do what you need. Think of your time on the mat as a chance to focus on the good things—what your body can do (you’ll be happily surprised, as many students are), the calm of being able to narrow your focus to the moment, and the wonderful feeling you get from watching yourself get stronger and more flexible, mind, body and spirit.


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Tags: yoga for anxiety, yoga for depression

Beauty and the Beast of Yoga

Posted on Fri, Aug 31, 2012

emotional yoga poseThe beauty and the beast of yoga appears to be showing itself to me in my Ashtanga practice. Don’t get me wrong, I love my practice (in a detached not bothered kinda way) but recently it has been tearing me apart. Quite literally, I have been fighting the tears during my regular class, slumping on my mat at home and dissolving into a mass of whimpers and splutters.

I thought yoga was supposed to make you strong?

yoga for emotional releaseI started the second series at the start of the year and it appears that those intense backbends may have been releasing all kinds of emotions that had been hidden away down there for several years. My hip sockets are opening up and from deep down in the dark corners, more emotional ‘stuff’ that I had hidden is emerging.

My goodness, I didn’t know that I had so much ‘stuff’! Well I kinda guess I did but was really super good at suppressing it and pretending like it was all ok.

The beast of Ashtanga yoga is the fact that you have to go through this period where quite simply your life falls apart. You are stripped bare of your old defence mechanisms, old walls are knocked down and bridges to our ‘safe’ hiding places are burnt.The beauty of Ashtanga Yoga is that fact that it purifies you from the inside out. It clears away all those stored toxins, it flushes out your nervous system and your lymph glands, ‘just like flushing a toilet’ (an old teacher of mine once said – not the nicest description but it gives a good clear image of the effect.

It leaves you with nowhere to hide.

emotional yoga release

You are forced to deal with the emotions that you have been storing up in various parts of your body and trying to avoid dealing with. By accessing parts of your lower spine or getting right down into your hip sockets you literally force out anything that has been hiding in there.

They say it is why we get stiff in certain areas of the body, because we have hidden emotional ‘stuff’ there. Things we don’t want to look at or address. Negative experiences leave a trace on the physical body, causing not only a mental scar but also a physical one. Yoga access these areas and gets things flowing once more, but in order to do so, you have to empty out the blockages.

I described my recent experience to a non-yogi friend and it went something like this…

transformation through yoga“I feel like a saw a drain that had a few leaves blocking the entrance, so I started to clear the leaves and then noticed some mud under the grate, I dug a little deeper and cleared that, only to discover some nasty slime blocking it a little deeper still. Before I knew it I was on my hands and knees covered in muck, shoulder deep in smelly slimey stuff wishing I had never started this job in the first place! I feel like I have got right down to the darkest, deepest, smelliest part of the drain and it’s the worst part so far. I know that if I keep going then it will be worth it and that the drain will be completely unblocked and the water will run freely and smoothly and it will operate at its optimum – but right now; I am wishing I had just left those leaves where they were!”

That is what my yoga practice has done to me!

tears10I have been dragging up all sorts of dark memories, events that I wish had never happened, things that I never really dealt with or even knew how to deal with. I have cried in Shavasana, I have wept through the Surya Namaskara’s and from start to finish. I have had to fight back tears that I could not control. I have curled up in Kurmasana rolled around like a turtle stuck on her back in yoganidrasana. I have fallen head over heels backwards in Kapotasana and face planted in Pincha Mayurasana.

I had memories of leaving yoga feeling blissed out and being in love with life, and now I struggle to find the courage to smile at myself.

I know that it will pass and that I will be happier than I have ever been before once all the clearing has been done. Cleaning is like that, it is never nice at the start but by the end it is oh so satisfying and rewarding and then you can enjoy the new sparkle that your life has.

I am trying to look at my current situation and find the positives – so here goes….

inspiring yoga, yoga for letting go of the past

In amongst my sorrow, I have found how to deal with feeling vulnerable instead of being overly defensive and harsh. I have found a new softness that I can treat myself with and other people too. That’s not a bad thing. My mantra for this was ‘bring the softness back’.

I have learnt how to send enemies good feelings and noticed how much nicer that feels inside of me. By sending difficult or challenging people loving kindness can change the emotions that you are clinging onto about certain people or situations.

yoga for forgiveness I have taken a bad situation and made it into a positive one. I have battled with rejection and found that the root of the rejection was love and learnt that sometimes people think they are doing the ‘right’ thing but to someone else it comes across as completely the wrong thing: but if you can begin to see things from a different perspective then you can see the good intentions behind wrong doings.

I have finally accepted that we all make mistakes and that doesn’t make us better or worse than someone else’s mistake, it just means that we all make mistakes.

Real forgiveness is hard. Really hard.

Forgiving yourself for acting in certain ways or making specific decisions is not an easy task, but it is the only way to let go of emotional baggage that will fester inside of you and eventually make you physically unwell.

yoga to forgive yourself

To forgive another for hurting you is extremely healing for both parties involved. To acknowledge pain that you have caused and to admit to that suffering is also something worth taking your hat off to. Not many people have the strength to do that and many people hide behind excuses and false justifications all their life. Sometimes just to say “I know I hurt you and I am sorry” is so much more powerful.

finding peace through yogaAcknowledging pain is also extremely hard, to admit to exactly what it is that hurt is admitting to our own vulnerabilities – which we as humans don’t like to do. But by acknowledging your own pain gives you great insight into how to prevent yourself from making the same mistakes over and over again.

Also sometime asking for acknowledgment of your own pain is totally and utterly acceptable. I have found that I ‘punish’ people for hurting me. I hit them with a ‘you hurt me’ stick that I never seem to let go off. I found that by asking for acknowledgment of the pain that they had caused me, not making them feel guilty for it or dumping the load on them, just asking up front for plain and simple acknowledgement meant that I could finally put the stick down.

peace through yogaWow! Has my clearing been worth it? Oh my! Yes indeedy. Sometimes when we are lost on a path, struggling through the darkness it is hard to see just how much ground you have covered. It is not until the sun comes up and as the light shines down on the path that you have walked, are you able to recognise just how far you have come.

Spiritual growth is like that. Growth hurts. And sometimes it is long and extremely painful.

The yoga beast is wild and untamed but my oh my he holds and creates such beauty.


~Laura Grace Ford

Ashtanga Yoga Devon

Tags: yoga for stress relief, yoga for relaxation, yoga for anxiety

Relax: Five Yoga Poses to Ease Anxiety

Posted on Tue, Aug 14, 2012

calming yoga, yoga pawsOne of the best things about a yoga class is that waterfall of calm that washes through your mind, body and spirit during Savasana (Corpse Pose). Suddenly, life doesn’t seem so confusing. Everything’s clear. Prioritizing is easy. You’re eager for the next challenge and ready to succeed. And, then you walk out into your car, head off to the grocery store only to forget half of what you went for and, somewhere along the line, remember five urgent emails you didn’t answer at work.  You go from feeling like Superwoman to feeling like you can’t grab at the thoughts that are flying in and out of your head. Maybe that big work presentation makes you want to call in sick. Maybe it’s the thought of trying to explain homework to your kids. Or, sometimes, it’s just having to leave the house and do anything.

yoga for anxiety Anxiety “happens” to everybody. You’re stressing out about 10 things at once, or you’re running late and can’t catch up. Maybe, you’re in a difficult place in your relationships, work or financial circumstances. You might feel overwhelmed. It’s normal, but it’s not necessary. You can use your yoga practice to help quiet your mind and stop the spiral before anxiety takes over.

Don’t make change one more stressor. Take it one step at a time and make those steps easy to take. When you are on your mat, try to leave your worries at the door. That’s easier said than done, of course, but stressing about what might happen won’t help create a better yoga for anxiety outcome. This is your time to exercise your discernment and figure out the difference between concrete steps to alleviate that tension and pointless fretting. So, when the teacher suggests a challenging pose, think about how to approach it. Don’t pressure yourself to achieve it right then and there. Assure yourself that you need to learn to build the strength, flexibility and/or balance required for that pose. Learning just means trying different things until something works. There are no mistakes, no failure. When you get stuck, ask your teacher for help after class. As every class reminds you, you don’t have to go it alone and you don’t have to win a medal. It’s about enjoying what you do and connecting with people who share that job.

yoga for youYoga is also a good antidote for people whose anxiety stems from worry.  Maybe rehearsing your presentation in front of a mirror makes you less nervous, but wondering if there will be a traffic jam on the way in is out of your control. Use your yoga class time to help you learn to focus on the moment. When you’re unrolling your mat, tell yourself that for the next hour and fifteen minutes (or however long you plan to practice), each moment is all that you have to think about. As Hindu sage Ramana Mararshi said, “Take care of the present, the future will take care of itself.”


Here are some poses to help you focus on the here and now:

Balasana, Child’s PoseBalasana (Child’s Pose)  Benefits: Pressing your forehead into the mat in this pose helps you slow down your thoughts.   How to do it: Begin by kneeling on the floor. Put your big toes together and open your knees slightly wider than your hips. Lay your torso onto your thighs and let your head rest on the mat. Bring your arms back by your sides, palms up. Remain in this pose for one to three minutes.


Urdhva Dhanurasana, Wheel PoseUrdhva Dhanurasana (Wheel Pose)--variation  Benefits: Backbends open your chest, releasing the physical strain that often accompanies anxiety. Virayoga founder Elena Brower likes this supported version to help you relax into the pose.  How to do it: Start by sitting on an exercise ball. Slowly lean back and place your hands on the floor. Adjust your placement on the ball so that it supports your lower back and hips. Focus on the stretch across your chest. Stay in the pose for 10 to 30 seconds, then release.




Utthita Trikonasana, Extended Triangle PoseUtthita Trikonasana (Extended Triangle Pose)  Benefits: The grounding of this pose gives you a sensation of security.   How to do it: Begin in Tadasana (Mountain Pose). Step or hop your feet three-and-a-half to four feel apart. Raise your arms until they are parallel to the floor. Leave your palms facing down. Turn your left foot in and your right foot out. Make sure your right heel is in a line with the arch of your left foot.  Hinge from your hips to place your right hand on the ground or on a block. Extend your left arm to the ceiling. Depending on what’s comfortable for you, you can look at the floor or up at your hand. Hold for 30 seconds to one minute, then release and repeat on the other side.  If you slip in the pose YogaPaws are great to lock in in place.






Ardha Chandrasana, Half Moon PoseArdha Chandrasana (Half Moon Pose)  Benefits: This balancing pose forces your mind to come into the present as you attempt to find physical stability.  How to do it: Begin in Utthita Trikonasana (Triangle Pose) on the right side. Inhale and reach your left foot closer to your right. Bring your right hand about a foot in front of your right foot. Leave your left hand on your hip if you are new to this pose. Shift your weight into your standing leg and hand. Lift your left leg until it is parallel to the floor. Remain in this pose for 30 seconds to one minute, then release and repeat on the other side.




Anjali Mudra, Salutation SealAnjali Mudra (Salutation Seal)  Benefits: This calming pose can be done anywhere and allows you to focus on your breath, which often gets constricted if you’re anxious.  How to do it: Sit or stand in a comfortable position. Bring your hands together and press your thumbs into your chest. Make sure both hand press equally—you may tend to have one or the other dominate. Lower your chin slightly. You can hold this pose for one to five minutes.


As you practice these poses, you can take this time to step back and look at the issues that cause you anxiety. Figure out what it is you are afraid of. As Timothy McCall points out in Yoga Journal, you’ll often find that either the outcome isn’t all that bad or that you feel much more prepared than you realize. Take that serenity off the mat, breathe deeply and

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Yoga for a calmer day

Yoga to free your mind

Yoga pose library

Tags: yoga for stress, yoga for relaxation, yoga for anxiety, yoga for depression

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