YogaPaws Blog for Beginner Poses and Postures

Yoga for Connection: Deepen your practice with Delsarte

Posted on Tue, Jan 28, 2014

yogapaws, yoga paws, yoga pose, yoga, yuladyEven if you enjoy the physical practice, yoga’s not just another workout. Every movement has meaning that goes beyond your body mechanics. A heart-opening pose feels a lot freer when you’re happy and expansive. Finding balance isn’t such a challenge when your mind is clear and you can focus on your breath. As you move through a sequence of asanas, it’s perfectly clear you’re not just going through the motions.

But, that’s just the starting point in connecting the mind-body-spirit dots. What if you began to consider how every move you make, even the wiggle of a finger, is a form of self-expression? Think about how that realization could not only deepen your experience on the mat, but what it would do for your relationships with the world outside the studio.

yoga pose, yoga paws, yogaOne way to jumpstart that process is to consider some mind, body, spirit cross-training by integrating yoga with a complementary practice such as the Delsarte System of Expression. In the mid 19th-century, musician and composer Francois Delsarte, frustrated with the formalized and ineffective gestures used in singing and acting, launched a study of how people actually interacted. The results of this study led to the development of his Delsarte System of Expressions, which interprets what movements say about what someone is really thinking and feeling.

But, his work wasn’t just a guidebook of hand and head positions. Instead, says Joe Williams, the leading modern Delsarte teacher, it was an attempt to help people understand the physical language they were speaking in even the smallest gesture. Williams explains that each body part represents the mind, body or spirit. Your head, arms, legs and torso each have three parts in the Delsarte system, one that represents each aspect of yourself. Each one corresponds to the mind, heart (or spirit) or body.

Yogapaws, crow pose, bakasanaFor example, your upper arm represents the strength of your physical body; your forearm represents your spirit and emotions, and your hand represents your mind. So, when you turn your palms upward as you sit in Padmanasana (Lotus Pose), your hands become symbols of your receptivity to ideas and concepts. When you rest your shins on your upper arms in Bakasana (Crane or Crow Pose), your arms become a source of strength.  

Williams says this also plays into how your teacher should adjust you in many poses. “I have one student with Parkinson’s Disease,” he says. “If she is physically unsteady, I’ll support her upper arm, so she knows she has literal support first. Then, as she stabilizes, I’ll move my hand down to her forearm, so she can feel supported emotionally. Finally, I’ll give her my hand, so that she knows in her mind that I am there for her, but also that I know she is strong enough to do the pose on her own.”

It’s also a powerful tool to become more self aware. While Delsarte doesn’t take a literal approach like some other techniques do (like saying that if you are weak in your core, you don’t have a well-developed emotional center), looking at your movements in a Delsartean way can help you become more aware of your personal vocabulary. For example, if you tend to use the “physical” parts of your body in your practice—your upper arms and thighs—you might think about whether you also tend to take a muscular approach in the way you communicate.  Similarly, if you are very conscious of the arches of your feet or your forearms, you might want to think about how much the spiritual (not necessarily in a religious sense but in the sense of pertaining to your spirit) dominates your communication.


Here are some ways to incorporate the Delsarte system into your body awareness when you practice.

Bhujangasana, Cobra PoseFind a new kind of balance. “Many poses, such as Bhujangasana (Cobra Pose) for example, strongly use all three zones of the body, head, heart and abdominal/pelvis area,” says Williams “With a fundamentally sound technique, you can try to explore all three elements of the pose. How does it feel when you focus on what is happening in the stabilizing strength of the pelvis and abdomen, symbolizing the body? Then try focusing on the spirit or heart zone, and its elevation and opening. Then focus on the rising of the intellect, the head, and the energy of intelligence in its upward quest. It can be very stimulating to explore ourselves in this way through many poses.”

Utkatasana, Chair PoseLearn to speak the language. Just as with words, you can choose what you want your body to say.  It can be hard at first to feel how to change the focus of a pose, but doing so can transform your experience of it. For example, thinking about the arches of your feet during Utkatasana (Chair Pose) instead of your thighs can help you see past the simple physical challenge of the pose.




Find seated balance.  It’s tempting to think of balance and alignment as more important in standing poses, but Delsarte’s harmonic balance exercises are a great tool for learning how to work your body in unison. You can do this in a chair, as William suggests. Start toward the front edge of the chair. Keeping your head level, move your chest forward. Then, go back to center and to the back. Do this a few times, then repeat the exercises going side to side, in a circle and finally on the diagonal. This may sound simple, but trying to keep your head level and your shoulders and torso open is important and requires much more sophisticated control than you might realize.

 Virabhadrasana III, Warrior III PoseSee the stories in the poses.  This is kind of like a grown-up version of the kids’ yoga games where they pretend to be animals. As you do a pose, think about what aspect it emphasizes—mind, body or spirit—and how it’s meant to make you feel. Do you feel powerful doing a pose? Receptive? Uplifted? Whatever your thoughts, think about how the body position affects them. Do you feel strong because your upper arms are powerfully held, as in Virabhrasana II (Warrior II Pose)? Or do you feel strong in your mind because you are in physical balance, as in Virabhadrasana III (Warrior III Pose)?

Take your yoga into the world. Understanding how people’s movements convey meaning is a great tool to help you be empathetic when you interact with others. When you are talking to somebody, listen to his/her body language as well as the words. For example, watch someone’s arm when she/he mentions a topic or person. Is he/she moving mostly from the mind, body or spirit part of the arm? That can help you understand which aspect of the person’s personality is dominant at the time. Also, be aware that your physical interactions talk to others. If you take a child by the wrist instead of the hand, it implies a power play—like a manacle. Holding hands is an action that implies a spirit-to-spirit bond. Also consider a dance fusion class that will invite you to take your yoga practice out of linear range of movement and see what happens when you’re physically encouraged to say something that’s off the grid.

This is one of the most exciting things about your yoga practice. Each time you put on your YogaPaws, you can experience a deeper understanding of what you are doing. Exploring fresh ideas like the Delsarte system is a wonderful way to add another layer to your ability to unite the physical, mental and spiritual aspects that make up you and your practice.


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Tags: yoga for beginners, yoga for stress

Let it Go: Yoga Poses for Emotional Release

Posted on Fri, Jan 03, 2014

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Do you remember the first time you ever felt sad? Scared? Anxious? Maybe you don’t, but your body might. In yogic thinking, your body is not only enmeshed with your mind and spirit; it’s a journal of your journey through life. Your tight hips may not just be a matter of genetics. Tightening down through you hip cradle may be a lifelong response to a negative situation. You close down as you try to protect yourself, to literally brace your body against the anticipated blow. Or, perhaps, your dentist just recommended a mouth guard to stop you from grinding your teeth as the stressors build up in you days. If it’s hard to open your shoulders, think about how much tension you’ve held in your upper body whenever you’re uncertain or unhappy.

firefly, yoga pose, yoga pawsMemories from your earliest years can be shaping and defining the body you’re living in today. Even when you’re not consciously aware that you’re holding back emotions, your body is spelling it out for you. If you, like so many people, have intense, unresolved emotion experiences, the muscles, bones, organs and fascia in your body can become out of balance—tight, weak, stiff or under- or over-stimulated—in an attempt to deal with them. 

Your yoga practice is one place where you can see that in action. For example, if you tend be shy in speaking or have traumatic associations with public speaking, it might be hard for you to keep your throat long and relaxed in backbends like Ustrasana (Camel Pose). If you are insecure, core strength can be a challenge. Working on strengthening and loosening spots that are tight or weak can also help to bring those thoughts into balance.

When it comes to deeply ingrained or buried issues, your yoga practice takes on a different, powerful role. As Yoga Journal points it, yoga’s message of understanding and acceptance can sometimes trigger an unexpected flood of emotions. Maybe you head into a heart-opening pose only to find yourself in tears, or maybe a challenging Virabhadrasana (Warrior Pose) sequence warrior one, warrior 1, yoga pawsleaves you irritable. While those emotions aren’t always a pleasant catharsis, they are often your body’s way of telling you that you can—and are able to—address the root causes. They break down the barriers between the stiff-upper-lip denial of how your really feel and put you face-to-face with emotions that are real, relevant and necessary to acknowledge.

Most yoga teachers agree, according to Yoga Journal, that you shouldn’t try to stir up emotions on the mat, but that doing so can be a natural part of your yoga experience. What is important is that if they occur, you don’t try to hold them back or over-analyze them. In the moment, register the sensation for what it is. Ask yourself what you feel. Accept the validity of that feeling. Later, in or out of class, you can try to find the deepest causes. Maybe opening your physical heart reminded you of someone you miss, or maybe you feel edgy because you feel like your strength isn’t being fully utilized. Whatever truths you uncover, let them come to you.  Don’t judge your feelings, or yourself.

Here are some poses to make it easier to let your body speak to you.


Bakasana(Crow Pose)Bhujangasana (Cobra Pose)

Benefits:  This heart-opening pose helps you access your creative and emotional sides. How to do it:  Start lying face down on your mat. Place your hands on the floor close to your body and about even with your shoulders. Focus on allowing the fronts of your thighs and the tops of your feet to sink into the mat. On an inhale, press into your hands to lift your torso off the floor. Straighten your arms as far as you can without straining your lower back. Think about elongating your front page and not “hinging” in your low spine to contract it. Keep your neck long and your breath even. Hold for 15 to 30 seconds, then release.


Ananda Balasana (Happy Baby Pose)

Ananda Balasana (Happy Baby Pose)

Benefits:  This gentle hip opener is a great way to help release emotional tension about long-ago or deep issues. How to do it:  Lie on your back on the mat.  Exhale and pull your knees in toward your chest.  On an inhale, clasp your hands around the outside of each foot.  Make sure your legs form a right angle, with your ankles perpendicular to your knees. Pull your feet toward your torso. As you push your hands down, gently resist by press your feet toward the ceiling. When you reach the deepest stretch that’s comfortable for you, stay there for 30 seconds to  one minute and release. For added fun, gently rock from side to side on your back or bend and stretch your legs lightly.

High Lunge, VariationHigh Lunge—Variation 

Benefits: This pose can help remind you of your physical and mental strength, making you feel empowered to open up to your emotions. How to do it: Start in Adho Mukha Svansana (Downward-Facing Dog Pose). Bring your right foot between your hands. On an inhale, bring your body up. Brush your arms out to the sides and then up toward the ceiling, arms along your ears and palms facing each other. Hold for 30 seconds to one minute, being careful not to let your back arch.  Then, release from the pose by placing your torso back on your leg and returning to Adho Mukha Svanasana before repeating on the left side.

Customize.  As Yoga Journal recommends, what helps you release is unique to your needs. It can be as simple as finding a practice that feels opening to you. Or, you can use the chakra system or another metaphysical concept to help you target specific areas in your life you want to open up.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Sometimes, introspection is the best way to get to the root of a problem. But, if you’re drowning in the flood of emotions that your yoga practice releases, asking for outside help in sorting through it is a good idea. Whether it’s your family, a best friend, your yoga teacher or a therapist (holistic or allopathic), the sounding board and support another person can offer is a powerful tool to help you cut through self-imposed limitations and see a bigger picture. If you don’t do well with “advice,” look for an alternative like the Spiritual Companioning program offered by Cincinnati Yoga School (your mentor doesn’t tell you what to do, but keeps asking questions until you find the answer), Phoenix Rising Yoga Therapy and similar approaches.

Yoga is a wonderful way to open yourself up to not only difficult emotions, but joyous ones. If you have had some cathartic sessions on the mat lately, dedicate your next practice to one happy thing—a person, place or activity you enjoy—and make the practice about deepening the joy that brings you. Then, in the moment, remember that feeling as a magnifying glass for your happiness.


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Tags: Yoga tips, yoga for stress

Your Happy Place: Yoga for Emotional Balance

Posted on Fri, Dec 13, 2013

Bakasana, Crow, Crane PoseThe concept of balance is one many yoga students spend a lot of time exploring in their bodies—standing on one leg in poses like Virabhadrasana III (Warrior III Pose) or flying into an arm balance like Bakasana (Crow or Crane Pose). And, as anyone who practices these asanas knows, it takes a great deal of focus to get to that point between surrender and control that makes what seems impossible, possible. But, as challenging as finding physical balance is, getting to a point of emotional equilibrium can be even harder.

Staying centered emotionally is a one-day-at-a-time journey. Hectic holidays can put some major obstacles on that path. From the sheer practical strain of extra time need to prepare for this festive season to the psychological tension of the New Year and its inevitable encouragement to take stock, you probably feel pulled apart. So, how do you stay in the moment and enjoy this time without getting bogged down?


It’s important to understand that emotional balance doesn’t imply being perfectly in harmony all the time. What it does mean is that you are basically at a centered point in your mind, so that the small disruptions and stressors of daily life stay in perspective. Yes, you’re going to yell at your children/partner/friends when they don’t deserve that kind of treatment. You’re going to feel disappointed, if not downright depressed, when the job or promotion goes to someone else. And, probably, you’ll shed a few tears when your favorite holiday cookies burned because you were putting out fires elsewhere in  your house/life. Being in balance enables you to see these detours for what they are rather than opening up a tidal wave of guilt or frustration that throws you off course.

triangle poseFocus on the idea of progress, not perfection. Like healthy eating or meditation, attaining a place of emotional calm takes practice. An asana practice is a roadmap for reaching that stress-free state. As you work through various sequences, the chatter goes away in your mind, the anger leaves you and you feel steady and free as you channel your thoughts into action.

While you can’t whip out your yoga mat in the car or at a meeting, you can use mantras or visualization to help you.  Taking time when you are stressed or frustrated to remind yourself of the good things in your life is a powerful tool to return to a better frame of mind. You can also try using mantras of empowerment or calming. Ask your yoga teacher for some that might fit best with your personality and goals, or check on the internet. A search for mantras that make you feel empowered will be bring up more than a million results—a clear message that a lot of people around the world are looking for the same things you are.

When you can hit your yoga mat, use that time to help you create a “safe zone” where you can go to recharge your batteries. A practice with energizing, relaxing and heart-opening elements is a great way to help you find a place of calm. Here are some poses and tips to try.


Urdhva Mukha Svanasana, Upward-Facing Dog

Urdhva Mukha Svanasana (Upward-Facing Dog)

Benefits:  This heart-opening pose helps cultivate openness and receptivity to the other people in your life, encouraging you to feel loved and loving—which is a great balance point. How to do it: Start by lying on your stomach on your mat. Keep the tops of your feet pressing into the ground, legs extended behind you. Place your hands near your waist. Spread your fingers. On an inhale, press your hands into the floor to lift your torso and thighs off the floor into a backbend. Open your collar bones by rolling your shoulders back and down. Keep your neck long and your breathing even. Feel the stretch across your chest. Hold for 15 to 30 seconds, then release.






Prasarita Padottanasana, Wide-Legged Forward Bend



Prasarita Padottanasana (Wide-Legged Forward Bend)

Benefits: This pose helps you calm your thoughts, making it easier to return to an emotional center. How to do it: Start in Tadasana (Mountain Pose). Step or jump your feet three to four feet apart. Place your hands on your hips. On an exhale, hinge forward from your hips. As you bend, place your hands on the ground. With your torso parallel to the ground, make your back long and take a few breaths looking up with your head at hip height. Then, fold as far as you can, bringing your head toward the ground. Stay for 30 seconds to one minute, then release. If you’re very flexible and your head easily comes to the ground, narrow the distance between your legs until your spine is straight.


dolphin pose

Dolphin Pose

Benefits: This pose is a great way to help you feel more energized. How to do it: Starting on your hands and knees, bend your elbows and clasp your hands, forearms on the floor. Exhale and push your heels to or toward the ground. Hold for 30 seconds to one minute.





Make time.  It’s not easy during the holidays, but setting aside even 15-30 minutes a day for yourself is an important tool. Nobody feels at their most centered when they are constantly rushed. So, find a time where you know you can make a practice happen—say early in the morning or in the evening—and make a date with yourself. If you don’t have a meditation practice, start one. Whether seated or walking, commit to 10 minutes a day at first and let your mind be free.

Pay into your emotional bank account.  As much as the holidays are a wonderful time for you to indulge everyone else in your life, don’t leave yourself off your list. Pick one thing a week that’s just for fun—coffee with friends, a class, a massage, or just some uncommitted time—and enjoy.

These are just some suggested poses. As you practice, be sensitive to the poses that feel good to you now. Maybe it’s a good time to explore challenge poses, or maybe you’re into a restorative practice. Or maybe it’s a good time to try the comforts of practicing in a hot room. Think about you really need at that moment, and follow your bliss.


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Tags: yoga for stress, yoga for emotional balance

Yogic Tips for De-Stressing During the Holidays

Posted on Fri, Dec 06, 2013

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When you were a kid, the holidays couldn’t come soon enough. The weeks leading up to these special times were filled with anticipation—and probably tins full of cookies (which had no calories then), less pressured school days and more time to be with family and friends. But the perspective is really different on the other side of the rolling pin (and the 10 trips to the grocery store for ingredients you forgot) and the midnight house cleaning that didn’t fit into your 25-hour day. And all those presents? Even if you shopped early and stopped early before you succumbed to conspicuous consumption, you’re still stressing about whether you got the gifts that would get that special smile as the wrappings come off.  So, before this festive season becomes one more stressor, set an intention to give yourself a gift right now: the gift of calm.

wild thing, yoga paws, yoga pose, yoga loveStart by focusing on what yoga teaches you about being centered and authentic. Let go of all the created need of the to-do lists on the Internet or in magazines. Think about what celebrating really means to you and the people you care about.  Will anyone really care if you serve five different kinds of cookies rather than six? If you like to bake, make that an occasion in itself. Invite a group of friends to bring the makings for their favorite desserts. Soon, your kitchen will be warmed by the confections coming out of the oven and the laughter of people enjoying themselves. Instead of wrapping up one more thing, give an experience that deepens your connection with someone or makes a new one. Forget about the ruffled scarf you’re desperately trying to convince yourself your BFF will like because you want to get home. Instead, get her/him a gift certificate for a private yoga class or pre-pay for a workshop you’d both like. Make a donation in your parents’ names to a cause they support. If you want that big box present, choose something from a company that promotes eco and social responsibility and let the recipient know how that gift keeps on giving. One click and you’re done.

yoga poses, yoga pose, yoga paws, travel yoga posesSchedule time outs. Yoga can be more essential than ever within the context of this hectic time. You may not have an hour to devote to your practice, but you can do some breath work before you get out of bed. Emphasize a long, slow inhale through your nose and an even longer exhale. Pull your knees into your chest and gently roll you lower body from side to side. When you get out of bed, stand in Tadasana (Mountain pose) with your toe mounds touching and your arms straight by your sides. Close your eyes and breathe in the words, “I am calm;” exhale the words, “I am releasing stress.” This gives you a chance to get to a calm center before you take on the challenges of the day. You can repeat this short sequence at your desk to maintain that equilibrium throughout your workday as well. If your job requires you to be on your feet, do seated breath work during your break.

Before you head out to class or take out your mat for a home practice, thoughtfully consider what you need that day to de-stress. A power class can be the perfect antidote to stress if you’re pent up from an hour in traffic gridlock on the way to the mall or your workload is escalating as the year draws to a close. But if your body and mind have had enough and you need to release, consider these suggestions from renowned yoga teacher Kathryn Budig:

Try a seated meditation. As Budig points out, this is doable on the busiest day. Twelve minutes can change your life. Come into a comfortable sitting position. Lengthen your spine, stretching your crown away from your tailbone. Place the backs of your palms on your knees if you want to focus on receiving; cup your knees with hands if you want to feel solid and grounded or bring your folded hands into your lap to go deeply within. Hold that pose for seven minutes. Budig suggests thinking the phrase, "I am not my body" on your inhales and, "I am not even the mind" on your exhales. After the seven minutes are up, chant the sound “HA” seven times and continue to sit for another five minutes focusing your energy between your brows.

Close your day with yoga. Whether you’ve just arrived home or you’re getting ready to wind down before bed, try some gentle asanas to lower your stress levels. Consider these restorative poses or ask your yoga teacher to recommend choices for your specific needs.

Viparita Karani, Legs Up the Wall PoseViparita Karani (Legs Up the Wall Pose). Expert teacher Rodney Yee calls this one of the most restorative poses in yoga. He offers three variations. In the first, sit in an L-shape with your right side up against a wall. Swing your legs up the wall as you lower your head and shoulders. One option is to bend your knees and cross your legs as you do in Sukhasana (Easy Pose). Allow the legs to rest on the wall while the back body relaxes into the mat. For a second variation, begin the same way but straighten your legs. If you’re less flexible or have back issues, consider placing a bolster under your lower back so that it will support your back as you swing your legs up and lie back. To go deeper, flex your feet or, if you’re working with a partner, ask her/him to press your legs into the wall. In the third version of this pose, place a bolster next to the wall. As you enter the pose, place your right hip/buttock on the wall and ease your left side up onto the bolster. Raise your legs and recline back. Yee sees this as a valuable alternative to full shoulder stand, with many of the same heart opening and calming benefits. Try to stay in any of these poses for five minutes. Ease your legs down, walking down the wall and then bringing your knees into your chest and hugging them with your arms. 

Supta Baddha Konasana, Reclining Bound Angle Pose

Supta Baddha Konasana (Reclining Bound Angle Pose). Come to a comfortable seat. Bend your knees and draw the soles of your feet together into Baddha Konanasana (Bound Angle Pose). Ease yourself down, lowering onto your forearms.  If possible, recline down to the mat. If you need support, place a folded blanket or bolster on the mat to support your head and neck before you begin. Stay in the pose from one to 10 minutes. Release by using your hands to press your thighs together. Then roll up to seated position.

yoga poses, yoga pose, travel yoga posesLive in the moment. By keeping your focus on what you’re doing at any given time, you won’t get overwhelmed by all the to-do’s. Look for the joy in what you’re doing, whether the mind/body/spirit exhilaration of yoga or the fragrance of home-made soup simmering on the stove. Make your daily shower a pampering ritual by using a new herbal soap or applying sesame or almond oil before stepping into the warm waterfall of water.

Learn to be a good editor of your life. Declutter your mind. Instead of trying to get everything done, do only those things that matter most. Then, calm down. The best present is given heart to heart—and you already have that taken care of. 

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Tags: yoga for stress

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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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

One for the Road: Yoga for Travel

Posted on Fri, May 31, 2013

travel yoga, yoga while traveling, airport yoga, The weather is warming up, school’s out and it’s time for your vacation. If you are like most yoga students, you can’t wait to get away and have fun. But, you can most definitely wait for the process of getting there—long hours cramped in a car or plane—and the upheaval of being away from your usual yoga studio, teacher and home practice.

But, you don't have to abandon your practice when you travel. For most car trips, you can bring your YogaPaws with a few yoga DVDs or your computer and have a ready-made home practice when you arrive. Or, if you are flying, be sure to bring your YogaPaws in your carryon.  Airports are even starting to have designated areas for yoga in between flights!!  Even if its just in the corner at an abandoned gate, you will likely find that even a short practice helps you feel more grounded.

Adho Mukha Svanasana, Downward-Facing DogBut, sometimes you need your yoga most when you are farthest away from your mat. The frustrations of transport, from flight delays to getting lost, can leave you yearning for a good Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward-Facing Dog Pose) right at that moment. That’s not always an option, though.

The most important thing to remember is that your yoga practice is a state of mind as much as a physical pose. The same patience you cultivate holding your Virabhadrasana I (Warrior I Pose) serves you well if you are stuck in traffic.  Take a deep breath, and try to find your focus.


That said, there are times when you need the physical release as well. Here are some  poses to try without even taking your shoes off.

Vrksasana, Tree PoseVrksasana (Tree Pose)

Benefits: This balance pose can help you feel more in control during a long trip. How to do it: Begin in Tadasana (Mountain Pose). Shift your weight to your left foot. Reach down and clasp your right ankle, bringing your right foot up to your inner left thigh if possible (if not, resting your foot on your shin is fine). Engage your core to bring your pelvis into alignment. Raise your hands above your head, palms facing each other. Focus on something four or five feet in front of you and hold for 30 seconds to one minute. Release and repeat on the other side.





Tadasana, Mountain Pose Namaste

Tadasana (Mountain Pose)

Benefits: This basic standing pose will help you get grounded.  How to do it: Stand with your feet together, big toes touching. Turn your palms to face forward. Stack your pelvis over your ankles and your chin above your feet. Look forward and relax your face and neck. Hold the pose for 30 seconds to one minute.


High Lunge, VariationHigh Lunge Pose

Benefits: This modification of Virabhadrasana I helps release your hip flexors, which are often tight after long trips. How to do it: Start in Tadasana. Step your right foot back about three and a half to four feet. Bend into your left knee until it is in line with your ankle. Lift your arms overhead. Hold for 30 seconds to one minute, then release, come back to Tadasana and repeat on the other side.




Use your head. Whenever you can, let your eyes soften their focus and look around. Try not to concentrate on any one object.

Move it. During any break in a trip, stand up and walk around. Even if you can’t get a practice in, any movement will help make you feel less stiff and confined.

And, don’t forget to breathe. After the stuffiness of planes and cars, any air feels good. When you get out, take a deep breath and visualize the air you’re breathing in cleaning the “gunk” of the trip out of your body.


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Tags: yoga for beginners, yoga for stress, yoga poses, yoga for vacations, yoga for travel, yoga for summer

Hands On: Yoga Mudras to Sharpen Your Focus

Posted on Fri, Apr 26, 2013

MUDRAWhether it’s typing out an email to a friend or using your hands to emphasize your conversation, your fingers and hands play an important role in communicating with the people around you—or on the other side of the planet. In your yoga practice, too, your hands say a lot. Often, your teacher will invite you to focus on the meaning of what your hands are expressing. Maybe you are told to visualize energy radiating out of your raised arms in Utkatasana (Chair Pose). Or maybe you have been instructed to feel like you are accepting the gifts of the class when you turn your palms up in preparation for Trikonasana (Triangle Pose).

hand gesturesYour hands are incredibly articulate. In yoga and meditation, mudras (hand gestures) are almost like a sign language. They allow you to deepen the dialogue with yourself. The placement of your fingers may be a small physical movement, but the significance each one has can serve to direct your focus as you practice or meditate. Each time you touch your index finger to your thumb, you can tap into the connection between the “I” symbolized by your first finger and the Universal symbolized by the thumb. Or, consider the feeling of stability as you wrap your first two fingers around your big toes then seal them with your thumb in a forward fold. Any pose that has the palms sealed, whether in front of you, behind your back or above your head, allows you to literally hold the spiraling energy of your body in your hands.

Mudras also serve as a tool to help remind you of your potential. Whether you need to feel strong, open or connected, adding mudras to your yoga or meditation practice gives you a physical reminder of those intentions. Your hands become a way to help turn your inner voice to be a helpful one.


Here are some mudras to try:

Anjali Mudra (Salutation Seal)Anjali Mudra (Salutation Seal)

Benefits: This mudra, commonly practiced at the beginning and end of class, reminds you of your own power and that of the world at large. How to do it: Bring both hands together in front of your chest. Press the fingers and palms into each other. Focus on exerting equal force with both hands (your dominant hand will want to take over). You can practice this mudra in a variety of poses or while standing or sitting. If you are not doing it in the context of a class, you can hold for up to five minutes, then release.


Lotus MudraLotus Mudra

Benefits: This gesture is a great reminder of the beauty and grace that is within you and those around you. How to do it: Begin by joining your palms in front of your chest. Separate your fingers, leaving only the base of the two pinky fingers touching. Your fingers will point upward. Spread them like flower petals. If you are meditating in this mudra, hold for a few minutes, then release.




Vajrapradama Mudra (Thunderbolt Seal)Vajrapradama Mudra (Thunderbolt Seal)

Benefits: This mudra helps you feel empowered in the face of challenges and reaffirms both your strength and your belief in a higher power.  How to do it: Cross your hands over your heart. Feel the rhythm of your heart and breath. Remain in this pose for a few minutes if you are meditating, then release. 


abhaya mudraAbhaya Mudra (Fearless Seal)

Benefits: This pose reinforces the idea that the way of the yogi is to offer peace and friendship. Often done in Virabhadrasana II (Warrior II Pose), it is symbolic of laying down weapons.  How to do it: If you are doing in a practice, come to Virabhadrasana II, raise your hand on the side with the bent leg to about shoulder height. Face your palm forward, fingers together and thumb separated. Place the opposite hand on your leg. If you are meditating, bring both hands into this mudra. Hold for a few minutes.





Chin MudraChin Mudra

Benefits: This mudra, considered one of the basic hand positions in Hatha Yoga helps you to be more aware of the interconnectedness of the world.  How to do it: In a seated pose, press the end of your thumb into the end of your index finger on both hands. Let your hand rest on your legs. Stretch the other fingers. Remain in the mudra for a few minutes, then release.

Remember, too, that you don’t have to be in a specific yoga pose to practice mudras. Many poses, like Tadasana (Mountain Pose) offer the opportunity in your own practice to use whatever mudra you want. Or, if you need a reminder of your focus, let your hands explore a mudra while you are walking, or even at your desk. Think of it as a wordless mantra.


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Tags: yoga for beginners, yoga for balance, yoga for stress, mudras

Letting Go: Yoga Hip Openers

Posted on Tue, Nov 20, 2012

yoga paws, hip openers, 1st chakraYou know the feeling when your body is tight—you feel locked up and maybe even weighted down. That’s especially true when the legion of muscles and tendons around your hips is tense.  And, the approach of the holidays is probably anything but stress-free. Car trips, errand running, decorating and even partying can all leave you feeling stiff and tired. It’s not just that you have to hold your body in odd positions while sitting or driving.
Your hips also cradle the First Chakra (located at 

1st chakra, yoga poses first chakra

your pelvic floor), which controls your desire to hang onto to both emotional safety and material possessions. Again, sometimes it might feel like the only message of the holidays is just how much you need an iPhone 5. No matter how much you try to choose what you really need, living in a materialistic world makes it hard to not keep up with the Joneses.

So, when you hit your mat in these hip openers, think about releasing the pressure to hold onto “stuff.” Bring your focus back to the things that truly make your life feel richer. As your body stretches, it can help to visualize your mind opening up and releasing the “musts” and “shoulds” that make your life stressful.

Here are some yoga poses and tips to try:


log stacking pose, yoga poseAgnistambhasana (Fire Log Pose)

Benefits: This pose opens your hips with gravity, letting you release into the stretch. How to do it: Begin sitting on a thick folded mat or blanket. Bend your left leg in and turn it out, laying the outside of your leg on the floor with your left foot outside your right hip. Slide your right leg on top of your left. If it’s available to you, bring your right leg across so that your foot rests on your left knee.  Lengthen your front body and place your hands out ahead of you. Without rounding your back, fold forward. Hold for one minute, then release and repeat with the other leg on top.





Krounchasana, Heron PoseKrounchasana (Heron Pose)

Benefits: Stretching your hamstrings  in this pose creates space all through the back of your pelvis. How to do it: Begin in Dandasana (Staff Pose). Bend your left leg and place your foot just in front of your sitting bone.  Press your right hand against the inside of your right leg. Bring your hand in front of your ankle and grasp the outside of it. Clasp your left hand around the inside of your right foot. Lean slightly back, focusing on keeping your core engaged, and raise your leg to about head height. Stay in the pose for 30 seconds to one minute, then release and repeat on the other side.



baddha konasana, bound angle poseParivrrta Janu Sirasana (Revolved Head-to-Knee Pose)

Benefits: The twist in this pose adds a stretch in your torso, which helps free your hips. How to do it: Start sitting on your mat. Bend your left leg in and let it open to the side. Your left foot should be close to your hips. Open your right leg to the side. Bend to the right, visualizing bringing your right shoulder to your leg. With your right arm on the floor inside your right leg, wrap your hand around your right foot so that your thumb is on top of your foot and your fingers grasp your arch. Bring your left arm up and clasp the outside of your right foot. Look at the ceiling. Hold for one minute. Release by unclasping your foot and bringing your torso back to the center of your legs before coming up and changing legs to repeat on the other side.

Stretch Out.

If you are in the car for a long time, give yourself a break when you get out to rotate your hip in and out. A forward bend can also help release your hamstrings.

Clean Out.

Getting rid of physical things you don’t need is a powerful metaphor for shedding stressful thoughts and actions. And, it’s a great way to connect with the true spirit of the season if you take those boxes directly to a donation center.

Remember, this is not about berating yourself for feeling stressed or tight. Enjoy the sensation of release without judgment. Think of expanding your horizons as you stretch.


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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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