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Yoga poses for Anxiety

Anxiety is something that I think we all suffer with to some extreme, at some point in our lives. That feeling of panic, low self esteem, anger and defeat, also maybe manifesting in physical symptoms, can be crippling when it comes to trying new things, meeting new people, or just getting on with your every day life.

The simple act of slowing down, deep breathing, and taking a bit of time out can sometimes help in the here and now, but what can we do in the long term? Anxiety is something that can pop up every now and again, or it can be triggered by specific scenarios.

It has been suggested that creating healthy habits can help deal with ongoing wellness problems (including stress, depression and anxiety). These could include dietary habits, social events, like seeing friends for coffee, exercise (or even better, getting out in the fresh air and exercising together with a friend) meditation and yoga, learning a new skill or reading.

Yoga can help with anxiety by providing a way to connect with your breath. When you slow the breath down, it helps soothe the mind and body, calms the nervous system, and provides a focus - if you're focusing on your breath, the mind is distracted from outside thoughts and worries. Using certain yoga poses, or asana, can also help calm the mind and body. You can use this poses on their own when you need to take some time out, or you can build them into a home sequence.

Childs Pose (Balasana)

The resting, or restorative pose. Find a comfortable position for you. Heels together, knees wide, elbows are soft. Try not to pull the body forward but instead, think about sinking everything back to the heels. As a forward fold, the head is below the heart, which helps to calm the nervous system and slow things down. Concentrate on your breathing here. With each exhale, see if you can let go of any tension. Stay here as long as you like. A lovely thing to do is to use a pillow or bolster to support yourself in this position.

Tree Pose (Vriksasana)

Balance poses help focus the mind - if you're not focused, you will wobble! Start with the feet hip distance apart and find a point in front of you to focus on, something that doesn't move. Take the weight into your right leg, keeping the knee soft, and bring your left heel either to the right ankle, the right calf (avoiding the knee joint) or the right thigh (again, avoiding balancing on the knee joint). Bring your hands to prayer at the heart centre, with the thumbs to the breastbone. Stay here and focus on the breath - as you inhale, think about lifting up the chest and growing your branches up towards the sky, as you exhale, allow the body to soften and release. (A great time to practice Tree Pose is when you're waiting for the kettle to boil!)

Cobblers Pose (Badda Konasana)

This is a lovely hip opener, as well as a really relaxing pose (this is a nice one to practice in bed, just before you go to sleep!) Lying on your back, take the soles of the feet together. Relax the shoulders back away from the ears, let the hands relax on the hips or the stomach, and come back to focus on the breath here. As you exhale, release any last tension or stress from the body. Stay here as long as you like.

Pranayama, or breathing techniques can include the Golden Thread breath;

- Take a deep breath in through the nose. - Exhale through gently parted lips and imagine a beautiful Golden Thread spinning across the room - With each exhale, feel the thread lengthen further away - Keep breathing like this, keeping the mouth, jaw and shoulders relaxed - Allow the mind to focus on the sound, feel, and visualisation of this beautiful Golden Thread - Repeat for as long as you like

If you have a spare ten minutes, I also have some meditations on my website which can be used as sleep aides or to relax the body and mind. Try them here

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