If you experience anxiety, you know how hard it can be to manage the constant buzz of stressed, agitated thoughts. There’s no substitute for treatment from a mental health professional, but if you’re struggling right now, you can ease your anxiety in a few ways. Yoga is one of them.
All forms of exercise will benefit your mental health, but when it comes to anxiety, yoga is particularly effective. According to a 2019 study, even one session of yoga can ease symptoms of anxiety while increasing feelings of positivity and calm. And no, you don’t have to contort your body into the twistiest, most advanced poses to reap mental-health benefits. Just a single, simple pose or calming breath can ease some anxiety.
If you have 15 minutes, Mary created this gentle, restorative yoga practice to calm your anxious thoughts, center your mind, and bring you back to your body. This sequence is effective for anxiety because it gets you both literally grounded (to the floor or Earth) as well as physically grounded in your own body. Anxiety tends to pull us into mental spirals that are hard to break out of; feeling grounded in your body can help, and yoga is a simple, effective way to do it.
If you’re ready, roll out your mat, take a deep breath, and begin.
Closed Child’s Pose
- Come onto your hands and knees.
- Slide your big toes to touch and let your knees part wide.
- Sink your hips back toward your heels.
- Round your shoulders and let your hands reach between your legs and under your body, so the backs of your hands rest next to or near your feet. If that’s not comfortable, reach your arms forward as in a traditional Child’s Pose, as pictured.
- Hold for three to five minutes. If your knees or ankles are uncomfortable, place a blanket under them.
While holding this Child’s Pose, Mary recommended taking a full-body scan. Notice every part of your body that’s touching the floor, and feel those areas get heavy. “With each inhale, try silently saying a short mantra that resonates with you,” she suggested. “I like inhaling with, ‘I am’ and exhaling with ‘being held.’ You could also say, ‘I am’ and ‘OK’ or whatever else soothes you.”
Resting Half Frog
- From Child’s Pose, slide forward onto your belly. Make a pillow with your hands and rest your head on it.
- Slide your right knee up, level with or lower than your right hip. Align your ankle directly under your knee.
- Keep your head facing downward or look to the right.
- Hold for two minutes.
- Slide your right leg down and repeat on your left side. Hold for two minutes.
Place a blanket under your knee if you feel discomfort.
- From Resting Half Frog, roll onto your back.
- Bend your knees and place your feet flat on the floor, close to your butt.
- Push through your feet to gently lift your hips. Slide a block, book, or pillow beneath your sacrum, or the last bone at the end of the spine, slightly below your lower back.
- Lift your chest slightly to allow your shoulder blades to draw together, arms extended by your sides and palms facing up.
- Allow your hips to rest on the block. “Once in the pose, this should require no effort, so make sure you play with the position of your prop until it feels most supportive,” Heeran said.
- Hold for two minutes.
- From Supported Bridge, remove the prop and extend your arms in a T-shape, or bend them at the elbows to create a cactus or goal post position.
- Shift your hips slightly to the left and let your knees fall to the right. Keep both shoulders on the ground.
- For a deeper twist, draw your knees closer to your right armpit. Hold for one minute.
- Slowly lift your knees to center. Adjust your hips, then shift them to the right and let your legs fall to the left, repeating the pose on the other side.
- Hold for one minute.
Reclining Butterfly Pose
A bolster (pictured) is optional for this pose. You can also place blocks or props under your outer thighs to give tight hips more support.
- From Supine Twist, slowly return to center with your knees bent.
- Let the soles of your feet come together as your knees drop wide into a Reclining Butterfly.
- Rest one hand on your belly and one hand on your heart.
- Hold for two to five minutes.
While you hold this pose, “Pay attention to the support of the floor beneath you,” Heeran said. “Allow the outer corners of your eyes to soften and feel the rise and fall of your body as you breathe.”
If you have time, add this relaxing pose to the end of your practice.
- From Reclining Butterfly, use your hands to gently lift your knees together.
- Stretch your legs out long. Let your feet turn out and palms facing upwards.
- Hold this pose for as long as its comfortable.