Ten poses to relieve stress & anxiety

Like last week, this week’s inspiration for class came from lessons learned along the way to manifesting change in my life. I’m currently holding the threads of several projects in my hands and meditating, praying, working, envisioning… anything available to weave them into the life I wish to create. Each of them is dear to my heart. I am fully committed to seeing each of them through- all of them tied in some way to yoga, this ancient, transformative science that I love. I want to guide, help, and inspire others through yoga. I want to help them realize the infinite brilliance within themselves by walking the walk and leading by example.

The dedication I feel in my heart to doing what I believe is my life’s work will not rest, and it will not take ‘no!’ for an answer. Even if you don’t have an entirely clear vision of what that “work” looks like for you, you may still feel the pull of your heart’s knowledge that you are, in fact, here for a reason. That your life has meaning. Your heart’s longing to reconnect with that purpose may feel as urgent as the burning dedication I feel to willing my yoga “career” into existence.

So, the time to do something about it is now, right?

In the interest of doing this as expeditiously as possible, I’ve honed in on the tremendous time-suck that is stress and anxiety. They can deplete you on every level… often needlessly. I mean… can you ever remember worrying your way to a positive solution? When was the last time you sat back and marveled at how constructive your stress is? Know why? Because it’s not.

We need all of our time and energy to be available for this mission of ours- correct, Captain? So, stress and anxiety. MUST. GO.

As I was beginning to build this ‘relieving stress and anxiety’ asana sequence, it occurred to me that idea is a bit redundant. Greater calm, peace of mind, and present awareness are benefits of every yoga practice I can think of. I found, however, that certain asanas and categories of asanas are linked more strongly with producing changes in the body that soothe feelings of stress and anxiety. Inversions, for example, are well-known stress and anxiety busters, along with any poses that get the heart elevated above the head. The increased blood flow to the brain can change your whole outlook on things.

Postures that stimulate and engage emotional centers in our body soothe stress and anxiety as well, such as backbends (for the heart center) or hip-openers (for the hips and the sacral chakra).

Here are ten of the stress-and-anxiety-relieving yoga postures that made the final cut for class this week:

1. Cat/Cow (Marjaryasana)
2. Downward-Facing Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana)
3. Pigeon Pose (Eka Pada Rajkapotasana)
4. Locust Pose (Salabhasana)
5. Wide-Angle Seated Forward Bend (Upavistha Konasana)
6. Half Lord of the Fishes Pose (Ardha Matsyendrasana)
7. Bridge Pose (Setu Bandha Sarvangasana)
8. Legs-Up-the-Wall Pose (Viparita Karani)
9. Reclining Bound Angle Pose (Supta Baddha Konasana)
10. Corpse Pose (Savasana)

Of course, I would be remiss not to acknowledge that stress and anxiety often have such a powerful hold because we are not always fully conscious of the ways they are working. They can become a kind of default response that happens without our conscious mind offering any say in the matter. If we override that pattern of defaulting to stress and anxiety whenever a challenge arises, the power of our conscious presence opens up a multitude of positive possibilities for dealing with life.

We brought this onto the mat by “making it conscious,” using our practice to anchor our consciousness in the present moment. Making the breath conscious, silently repeating, “the breath is going in – the breath is going out.” Making the postures conscious, paying close attention to the unique physical sensations of each one. Making movement conscious, moving with integrity and intention.

“Making it conscious” can transform any challenge or situation by bringing your awareness to the resources available to you right now. And, let me tell you, they are far beyond anything you realize when burdened by stress. I play the “making it conscious” game while making dinner, cleaning the shower, eating, driving, working… the list goes on and on.

If there is one thing that I gained, personally, from this week’s adventures on the mat, it is a greater sense of power over stress and anxiety. By shining a conscious light on them, I feel more able to see and accept them for what they are. From that place, I have the upper hand in deciding what role they will play in my life- whether I will let them interfere with my dreams or meet them courageously/consciously like any other challenge. Guess which one I pick, mes amis?

We concluded class this week with a guided meditation using the San Kalpa sutra. It is an ancient Sanskrit sutra that amplifies the power of your intentions.

My intentions could sure use a little amplification right about now. How about yours? Try it and see!

Namaste!

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