It’s that time of year, y’all. The stress of the holidays is real, the moon is FULL, and there’s a major shift happening in the cosmos. I can feel it; you can feel it; we are all feeling it. The best way I have heard this shift described is, “a massive death”. People are literally dying, life-long pet companions are dying, old ways of seeing yourself are dying, systems are failing, and we (at times) may feel as if we are banging our heads against the proverbial wall. Ultimately, in the grand scheme of it all — this is all part of the masterpiece recipe. But right now, in the thick of it — it’s uncomfortable, it’s frustrating, and frankly, it’s just time to let the eff go.
Anxiety is defined best by Dr. Joe Dispenza:
“Anxiety is worry over the future, Depression is worry over the past.”
Pretty clear, don’t you think? The simplicity of this blew my mind.
One of the best ways to navigate the anxiety that bubbles up during times of great change and uncertainty is to give yourself some extra love — yes, love. Love in the form of space, love in the form of gentleness, love in the form of patience. That means turning out the external world, turning inward, and moving your body in slow, gentle, and loving ways.
Embodied movement is a mindfulness practice that creates space within the body. Through consistent practice, we are able to be fully present and engaged, and respond to what is happening around us instead of reacting based on past experiences. Embodiment centers our energy, calms the mind, and drops us into NOW. Which means: no more tornado brain!
Let’s start by focusing on the breath. Three-Part Breath is a pranayama practice that helps bring awareness to the present moment and calm to the mind. During Three-Part Breath, first fill up the lungs with air, breathing completely into your lower belly, ribcage, and upper chest. Then, exhale completely, reversing the flow. I recommend taking at least five to 10 slow and deep breaths this way.
Next, it’s time to move. ❤️
My Favorite Asanas for Anxiety
Invert the body — get the heart above the head. Here’s how:
1. Child’s Pose (Balasana)
There’s nothing better than meeting your mat after a long day and finding refuge in child’s pose. Balasana is great for releasing tension in the mind and body while helping us let go. It gives us the opportunity to breathe into the back body, which can become overworked and exhausted from ongoing stress and anxiety. Child’s pose also stimulates the pineal gland, increasing the flow of blood in the brain and restoring balance in the Third-Eye Chakra.
Anxiety is an overactivity of the mind, so simply placing the forehead to the floor (or an extension of the floor in block, blanket, or pillow form) can be SUCH a powerful practice. A giving away of the mental noise + physical stress and reclamation of your peace, power, and presence.
To get into the pose: rest your forehead on your mat, reach your arms forward, and bring your big toes to touch and knees wide. (A blanket underneath the knees can provide comfort and support here.) Relax your hips towards your heels. Close your eyes and take long, deep breaths, resting and supporting your belly between the thighs. Focus on the sensation of your breath flowing in and out.
Hold this pose for 5-7 minutes for maximum benefits. Use props to facilitate maximum ease and comfort in the body. If the physical body feels supported and safe — it will release!
2. Standing Forward Fold (Uttanasana)
Uttanasana is both an energizing and anxiety-relieving pose. The heart is above the head once again, allowing us to become more aware of our feet and connection to the earth while releasing our head and thinking mind towards what grounds and centers our energy.
From standing, bring your hands to your hips. Breathe in. As you exhale, begin to hinge at the hips, keeping your spine long and heart lifted. Soften your knees as much as you need to as you bend. Bring your palms to the floor, blocks, or a chair slightly in front of the feet. If the flexibility is there, you can bring your palms to the backs of your ankles, hold opposite elbows for Dangle Pose, or interlace the fingers behind the back and reach the arms up and over the head to create more space across the shoulders and chest. Press all four corners of your feet into the floor, lean slightly more weight into the balls and pinky toe edges of the feet, and lift the sit bones up towards the ceiling, expanding the hamstrings deeply.
With each inhale, lift and lengthen the spine slightly; with each exhale, release and surrender a little more into the fold. Let your head and neck hang heavy. It might feel good to sway side to side as a way of releasing tension and connecting more fluidly with your body. See if you can close your eyes and imagine tension (and thoughts) dripping off the crown of your head into the floor. Ahhhh.
Hold this pose for 3-5 minutes for maximum benefits.
3. Legs Up the Wall (Viparita Karani)
Legs up the wall is a wonderful pose that offers a whole slew of health benefits, including:
- Regulating blood flow
- Improving digestion
- Resetting vital processes
- Improving circulation
- Restoring tired feet and legs
- Decompressing the spine
- Lengthening and releasing the neck
- Relieving back pain
- Providing migraine and headache relief
- Neutralizing + calming the nervous system
As you can see, Viparita Karani is one of the most restorative and regenerative postures for the body and mind.
To get into the pose, come to sit on the floor and place a pillow or prop blanket against the baseboard of the wall. Slide to the wall, bringing one hip right against the wall. As you exhale, begin to release your back to the floor while swinging your legs up the wall. Place your shoulders and head gently on the floor. Make any adjustments needed to get comfortable. Then, simply find stillness and breathe. (If the mind is racing, sometimes I find it helpful to bring both hands to the belly and truly feel the breath as it moves in and out.)
As an alternative, you can use a chair or ottoman to create the same effect. This is a great modification if the hamstrings are tight as well. Simply place the calves and heels comfortably on the seat of the chair (or flat surface of the ottoman).
Hold this pose for 5 -15 minutes for maximum benefits. The longer, the better! If the feet or toes start to tingle, it’s okay! Your circulation is being affected and that’s a good thing. Your feet will wake back up, I promise. And the more you practice this pose, the more it will improve your circulation.
I would love to hear how these asanas work for you. Please feel free to reach out with any questions related to anxiety, yoga, pranayama, etc. I am always here to offer tips on managing stress (or to simply give you a big, big hug!)