If anxiety were fog, America would be covered in a Maine coastal soup thick enough to carve. The tension that the COVID-19 pandemic caused is enough to drive anyone to the bottle. However, indulging in unhealthy habits will only make you feel worse. So why not ease your stress naturally and healthily through yoga and meditation instead? The following stretches and body scans will alleviate anxiety and leave you feeling better. Plus, you’ll be proud of yourself for making positive choices.
Yoga Poses to Ease Anxiety
People are both physical and mental creatures. Sometimes, if you get your body to relax, your mind will follow. These stretches are a workout in themselves, but you can also use them to wind down and prepare your brain for meditation.
1. Forward Folds (Uttanasana)
Do you carry tension in your lower back? If you work at a desk all day, your muscles contract, and stress can lead to painful spasms. To perform uttanasana, though, all you need to do is stand up straight and bend forward at the waist. You should immediately breathe a sigh of relief as you feel your lower back start to release.
It doesn’t matter if you can’t touch your toes — yoga is all about listening to your body and treating it gently. You can play with different variations of uttanasana stretches. Try clasping your hands behind your back as you bend forward to add a shoulder release. If you have hip flexibility, you can cross one leg in a half-lotus position and do a single-legged forward fold.
2. Supine Pigeon (Supta Kapotasana)
If you sit a lot during the day, your hips can grow tight. When this happens, it tugs on the muscles of your lower back. Taut hip muscles can lead to knee problems as you adjust your gait to compensate. Try supta kapotasana, or supine pigeon, to open them gently.
Lie on your back and place the ankle of one leg on the opposite side near your knee. If you feel enough of a stretch, stay here, perhaps applying gentle pressure on the top leg. If you have a wider range of motion, you can reach your hands around the bottom leg and pull it toward your midline to increase the stretch.
3. Child’s Pose (Balasana)
This stretch is phenomenal for your entire back, where so many people store unneeded tension. To get into this pose, kneel on the floor with your glutes resting on your ankle. Stretch your hands forward in front of you until your forehead touches your knees. Spread your legs slightly to deepen the extension. You can also perform a variation where you bring your hands behind you to release the front of your shoulders.
Meditations to Help You Tame Tension
If your thoughts seem like a whirlpool of anxiety, get a grip on your mental processes through meditation. This practice reunites you with the here and now and reminds you that whatever you fear most isn’t happening at present. A negative thought spiral can lead to poor decision-making, so try these techniques to calm your mind.
4. Healing Light Body Scan
To begin this meditation, find a place where you can lie down quietly without interruptions. Close your eyes. As you start to breathe more deeply, set a positive healing intention for your practice. As you inhale, imagine drawing a white light into your body through the soles of your feet. With each breath, let the light extend further up your body, flowing into your calves, then your upper legs. When you reach the crown of your head, imagine your entire body surrounded in peace and love.
5. Tension Tamer Body Scan
You begin this variation the same way as you do healing light. However, as you scan your body from your soles to your forehead, identify any areas that feel tight. For example, you might find that you hold significant tension in the tiny muscles surrounding your eyes.
With each inhale, imagine illuminating that area with white light. As you exhale, consciously relax those little muscles. Visualize the pain swirling away every time you sigh.
If you are feeling the pressure of life under quarantine, the knowledge that you aren’t alone provides little comfort. Turn to these stretches and meditation techniques to ease your stress the healthy way and move forward in positivity and light.