Anxiety and stress are states everybody can experience. Regardless of how strong physically, mentally and emotionally you are, sometimes experiences, situations and even encounters with other people can trigger something within which can cause the nervous system to go into fight or flight mode. Even going through this once can cause stress to the body and the mind. Whilst one of the best ways to help release anxiety is meditation, asana practice is also beneficial.
Practicing yoga can certainly help with creating a more harmonious state within, bringing in balance the physical, mental and emotional self. Try these 7 asanas that will empower you to feel stronger, more grounded and self-aware.
Downward facing dog provides a great stretch to the whole body, creating space for the prana to flow freely. It is a posture that teaches us to bring our attention inward and create balance throughout the whole body. When we feel stressed, we can experience muscle tension, stiffness and energetic blockages. Adho mukha svanasa helps us release these providing a calming effect to the mind.
Anxiety can bring to the surface the internal chaos we feel and this can cause us to feel out of balance. By practicing tree pose, we learn how to ground ourselves and connect with earth’s energy. Vrksasana is great for bringing our awareness to the present moment, to learn how to focus and concentrate on being still. By standing on one leg at a time, this strengthens the ankles and legs, both parts of Mooladhara, the root chakra. This is the energy centre in the body which governs our sense of stability, security and survival.
Any of the warrior asanas are empowering and help to boost confidence, but warrior II is a great one to start with. As part of the standing asanas, Virabhdrasana II creates balance and grounding in the body. In my opinion, this asana is one of the most empowering of all, because it requires us to focus and concentrate, to open the heart space, to keep our feet firm on the ground and to be still. On a physical level, it strengthens the legs, ankles and improves posture. When anxiety is experienced, we can feel weak and helpless, but warrior II brings our awareness back to our inner strength.
Paying attention to the spine is vital, because it is the centre of communication between the body and the brain. Practicing gentle spinal twists can release any tension and blockages experienced in this area, but also from the mind. There is a saying “A flexible spine equals a flexible mind” and when we free the spine we also free the mind. Anxiety is almost always a response to something we consciously or unconsciously fear, and by freeing the mind, there is no space for fear to be there.
This asana activates Manipura, the solar plexus chakra. This represents our energy centre in the body of self-confidence, self-esteem and personal power. Anxiety usually occurs by a fearful state, which is why the fight or flight response if activated. Connecting with our inner strength and understanding the personal power we have from within is a great way to let go of fear. This asana also empowers us to mental clarity and releasing the layer of fog that can sometimes cloud the mind.
One legged pigeon pose is another great hip opener, therefore helping us release any blocked emotional tension from the body. It can feel challenging especially if you are experiencing lots of tightness in this area. If you find that your body needs some support, you can place a cushion or bolster under the hip. This asana also relieves tension from the groin and lengthens the spine. When practicing pigeon pose, we go inward, observing what is going on within without reacting. Instead we trust that we can reach and maintain stillness, feeling grounded and focusing on the hip area as we let go on the uncomfortable build up of tension.