Feeling a little anxious about that meeting? Noticing your stress levels rising just thinking about the presentation you have to give? When thoughts begin to overcrowd your mind and you feel yourself begin to worry or feel physical symptoms of anxiety, try turning to yoga for some relief.
The practice of yoga offers us so many therapeutic benefits that go much deeper than physical fitness and strength. When we practice yoga we’re working on connecting our mind, body and breath to offer us deeper insight and self-awareness. This has a huge benefit for those experiencing anxiety. Our yoga practice brings us into the present moment and connects us back to our body and breath, helping to reduce the symptoms of anxiety. The best part? You can take yourself off to the spare meeting room and practice these poses in the office. You don’t need anything other than yourself and your breath in order to have a calming impact on your nervous system.
Here are 4 yoga poses to take the anxiety out of your work day.
1. Child’s pose.
This beautiful rest pose offers a moment of deep connection and relaxation as it calms the entire nervous system. Physically, the areas of the body where we hold a lot of tension (back, neck and shoulders) are given an opportunity to relax whilst attention can be turned to the breath. Conscious breathing into the back of the body here will begin to calm the mind.
To come into the pose start by kneeling on your mat with the tops of your feet to the ground and big toes touching. Bring your knees out to the width of the mat and then sit back onto your heels. Slowly bring your torso towards the mat and rest your forehead on the mat or a bolster. Stay here for 3-10 minutes breathing deeply focusing on your breath as it enters and exits your body, breathing specifically into the back body and expanding into your ribs.
2. Standing Forward Fold (Uttanasana)
This pose is a gentle inversion (to invert means your head is lower than your heart) that also releases your hamstrings and calves, two areas of the body that often tense when we are in fight-or-flight mode. In order to bring our nervous system back into a state of rest-and-digest, it helps to lengthen the exhale breath. Whilst in a forward fold you’ll find exhalation becomes more accessible.
Drain your thoughts away with a gentle forward fold. Start with your feet hip distance apart and keep your knees soft (if it feels more comfortable keep your knees bent deeply). You can hook your thumbs into opposite elbow crease, hold onto your calves or just let your arms hand heavy. Breathe deeply through your nose, lengthening your exhale. Stay in this pose for 1-5 minutes.
3. Viparita Karani (Legs Up The Wall Pose)
Legs up the wall is one of the most simple and effective asanas for relieving the effects of anxiety or nervousness in the body and mind. Not only does this pose slow your heart rate, reduce the nerve input into the adrenal glands by stimulating the baroreceptors (your blood pressure sensors) in your neck and upper chest it also slows your brain waves bringing you into a deep state of relaxation.
Lay with your legs up the wall and your back resting on the ground, keep your buttox as close to the wall as possible. Once you are comfortable become aware of your breath and relax, noticing the subtle sensation of the shift in blood flow.
4. Yoga Nidra
Yoga Nidra, which means ‘yogic sleep’, is a powerful practice for treating the symptoms commonly associated with anxiety. Yoga Nidra works to rewire neural pathways in the brain offering a deep state of relaxation for the mind, body and spirit. Each practice is a guided meditation and a complete sensory experience. All you need to do is lay there and listen. There are plenty of free online resources to get you started. Check out insight timer (a free app on your phone) for a variety of options.
Article by Emma Maidment
Emma Maidment is a yoga teacher, writer and a communications and marketing consultant specialising in health and wellness. You can follow her adventures on Instagram (@em_mermaid) or connect via emmamaidment.com.