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Yoga Hacks for Stress & Anxiety

Yoga Hacks for Stress & Anxiety
Published June 25, 2015 by Jenn Tardif
We know that yoga can help with the physical strain of an intense workday, but what about the mental exhaustion, creative blocks or anxiety that surface as well?

Stress and anxiety can lead to low energy, physical aches and pains, and even insomnia. Yoga has been proven to help fight all of that and more. So when another coffee is the last thing you need, consider giving these yoga hacks a shot.

The Problem: You can’t shake that uptight anxious feeling.  

Yoga Hack: Take a few moments to sit quietly, focus on your breath and meditate.

Here’s how: find a comfortable seat in a chair or on the ground, ensuring that your back is either supported or upright, and close your eyes. Allow your facial expression to soften and let go of any tension in your body especially in your abdomen and jaw. Breathe deeply and start counting. As you inhale and exhale silently count one, another complete cycle of breath, then two, and the moment a thought enters your mind, without judgment start at the beginning counting up from one again.

The hardest part is simply carving out the time to meditate, so we recommend creating an appointment in your calendar or setting an alarm so that it doesn’t get overlooked. Even five minutes will have a massive impact in calming your nervous system and providing relief from your otherwise anxiety-ridden day. 

Illustration by Oscar Ramos Orozco. Illustration by Oscar Ramos Orozco.

The Problem: You’re easily distracted and can’t seem to focus.

Yoga Hack: Take a Child’s Pose by tucking your legs underneath you and sitting on your heels with your knees wide apart so that your belly has room to release. Reach your arms out in front of you, let your forehead press into the floor and rest your arms next to your ears. Close your eyes and breathe deeply. Bring your awareness to the spot between and slightly above your eyebrows, also known as your Third Eye center, and keep focusing your attention here.

With your eyes closed and arms next to ears you’ll reduce the amount of information overloading your senses. This restorative posture not only tells your body to relax, but invites your mind to slow down. Adding pressure to the forehead also fosters a central point of focus, allowing you to see more clearly and embody a new perspective when you rise from this posture. 

Illustration by Oscar Ramos Orozco. Illustration by Oscar Ramos Orozco.

The Problem: You’re unmotivated and feeling mentally fatigued.

Yoga Hack: Find a comfortable seat for Kapalbhati, a yogic breathing exercise. Raise your arms above your head, inhale to a comfortable level and begin pumping out short, sharp breaths through your nostrils. Remain focused on your exhalation, as the inhalation will happen naturally, and don’t be afraid to make noise, allowing your diaphragm to pump in and out and your arms to wave back and forth as you breath. Count up to 100 breaths. If you start to become lightheaded at any point simply slow down the breath or stop completely and breathe normally. When you’re nearing your 100th exhale, start slowing down your breath and take a moment to center yourself before returning to work.  

This exercise helps oxygenate the body, improving digestion and circulation while rejuvenating tired cells. You should feel refreshed after this practice.

Illustration by Oscar Ramos Orozco. Illustration by Oscar Ramos Orozco.

The Problem: You can’t fall asleep because your mind is racing with work-related tasks.

Yoga Hack: There are three different poses you can try (and you can even do these in bed).

Option One: Reclining Bound Angle

Lie on your back and bend your knees, bring the soles of your feet to touch then let your legs open to the sides. If this is too much of a strain on your groin, you can place pillows beneath your knees. Then put your hands on your belly and breathe deeply into your hands. Stay here for at least 10 cycles of breathe. This pose is like a vacation for your body, calming the nervous system.

Illustration by Oscar Ramos Orozco. Illustration by Oscar Ramos Orozco.

Option Two: Legs Up the Wall

Rest your legs against a wall or your headboard, creating an "L" shape with your body. Reach your arms over your head and grab for opposite elbows. Rest here for five cycles of breaths, then switch whichever forearm is on top and repeat. This restorative posture is especially helpful if you’re tossing and turning as it soothes the lower body.

Illustration by Oscar Ramos Orozco. Illustration by Oscar Ramos Orozco.

Option Three: Reclined Twist

Try a gentle twist. Open your arms out in a T shape then let your knees drop to the left as you turn your head towards the right. Stay here for five full cycles of breath, then switch sides by dropping your knees to the right and gazing to the left. This pose helps release any tension that may have crept up in your low back and shoulders, and helps quiet the mind. 

Illustration by Oscar Ramos Orozco. Illustration by Oscar Ramos Orozco.


Have a favorite stress-relieving pose that we missed? Share your tips in the comments. 

Related: Yoga Hacks: How to Undo the Damage of a Desk Job


More about Jenn Tardif

Jenn is a Product & Marketing Manager at Adobe and a Yoga Teacher. Formerly, she was the Associate Director of Partnerships for Behance and the Sr. Marketing Manager for The Drake Hotel. Say hello on Twitter.

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