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Yoga Poses That Reduce Anxiety: A Guide for Yoga-Phobes and Naysayers

Confession: I don’t like yoga. I’ve tried it once or twice— “easy” Hatha yoga, which wasn’t easy for me at all. In fact, some of the poses were downright uncomfortable. My warrior pose was wobbly, at best, and my triangle more resembled a trapezoid. I felt off-balance and sweaty while everyone else seemed to be calm and glowing. And skinny.

But I want to like yoga. I have invested in a yoga mat, a yoga towel, and 2 DVDs. I bought yoga stickers to put in my Erin Condren planner to remind me of the weekly class I asked a girlfriend to take with me (but never followed up on).

Two of my dearest friends are yoga teachers. True to type, they are beautiful and serene and skinny and they love love love yoga. Can’t get enough of it. Hot yoga, Vinyasa flow yoga, and, lately, hang-from-the-ceiling-upside-down-clutching-ribbons yoga. And it seems to work for them, as their anxiety is pretty low most days and their bodies are lean and muscular and beautiful. Eastern medicine has roots in yoga, and all health spas offer at least 5 classes each day. I recognize that the masses of people who swear by yoga can’t all be wrong. So why doesn’t it work for me?

Well, it turns out that there are a whole bunch of reasons why (that was a fun therapy session), but the simplest one is this: I was doing the wrong poses. Apparently, not every yoga class is good for reducing anxiety. In fact, some classes are designed to increase adrenaline flow!

After consulting with my yoga experts, I have discovered 10 relatively manageable poses to promote healing and relaxation. Many of these are used in Yin Yoga or Restorative Yoga—both kinder, gentler classes which require little balance or agility (perfect for me!). If you hold each pose for approximately one minute, it is a short, relaxing routine. Or you can hold 5 poses for 2 minutes, or one pose for 10 minutes, etc.

The ten poses (in no particular order) are:

1. Child’s Pose

2. Happy Baby Pose

3. Corpse Pose

4. Downward Dog Pose

5. Bridge Pose

6. Crocodile Pose

7. Tree Pose

8. Standing Forward Bend Pose

9. Extended Puppy Pose

10. Legs Up the Wall Pose

For a full description of each pose as well as pictures, click here.

Feel free to try any or all of these poses, and do not be afraid to modify a position that hurts or is uncomfortable. For example, if curling into the child’s pose makes you feel claustrophobic (ok, I may be projecting here), you can use a bolster or pillow between your stomach and the floor and turn your head to one side for easier breathing.

Did we miss any? Let us know!


  • Dani
    May 2, 2017

    I love all of those poses! I especially love any classes where they wrap you in blankets or put essential oil on you!! It’s super relaxing.


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