Yoga for Stress & Anxiety

Yoga for Stress & Anxiety

Wayne County Family & Children First Council \ April 25, 2016

In our culture, yoga is widely known as a physical practice; a form of exercise or a way to increase flexibility. The mindful way in which yoga exercises are done and the breath-work that accompanies them actually provide us with guidelines and techniques for navigating daily life — and managing stress and anxiety.  These are real, easy, effective yoga exercises that anyone can do, to ease mental and emotional strains.  

Stress and anxiety are part of life.  Our goal is not to eliminate them; instead, we are aiming to properly deal with them.  Because stress and anxiety can spring from a variety of sources and manifest in many forms, we will look at how to manage them through a variety of lenses.

Anytime + Anywhere Exercises to Ease Stress & Anxiety

3-Part Breath: 

(Practice this before starting a classroom lesson or when students are having trouble focusing.)

  • Take a comfortable seat on the floor or in a chair, or lay flat on your back.  
  • Place your right hand on your belly and your left hand on your chest.
  • Through your nose, slowly inhale in three parts: 
  1. First, fill up your abdomen, waistline and low back.  Your belly will visibly expand to the front and sides.
  2. Continue inhaling and fill your lungs.  Your rib cage will visibly expand in all directions.  
  3. Continue inhaling and fill your upper chest and upper back.  Your collarbones will visibly lift.  
  • Gently pause when you are completely full.
  • Through your nose, slowly exhale in three parts: 
  1. Empty first from the upper chest and back.
  2. Next, breathe the air out of the lungs, and feel your body hugging inward.
  3. Finally, expel all the air from the belly, sides and low back.
  • Repeat for a total of 10 rounds.


Seated Forward Fold:

(Practice this when students have been sitting for a long time and are mentally drifting off.) 

  • Take a seat in a chair.  Put your two feet flat on the floor.
  • Lay your belly over your thighs, and let your head hang down in front of your knees.
  • Completely relax and breathe deeply in this posture for 5-10 rounds of breath.
  • To come out of the posture: Place your hands on the tops of your thighs and slowly lift yourself back up.  Pause and make sure you are not light headed before moving.


Seated Twist:

(Practice this after lunch to jump start the mind, which can be slow and dull after eating.)

  • Take a cross-legged seat on the floor and sit up tall.
  • Cross your left arm over your body and place your left hand on your right knee.
  • Breathe in and sit up even taller.
  • Breathe out and twist your torso.  Stay in the twist for 5 full breaths.  
  • Twist the other direction.  Stay in the twist for 5 full breaths.


Body Scan:

(Practice this when students are upset, starting an anxiety attack, or their minds are running too fast to focus.) 

  • Lay down flat on back, close eyes, breathe deeply.
  • Mentally scan your body, starting with your toes.  Silently, internally say, “I am relaxing my toes; my toes are relaxed.”  
  • Move slowly up the body, relaxing every body part along the way.  
  • Finish with: “I am relaxing my mind; my mind is relaxed.”


Skandha Marma Point Massage

(Practice this when students are feeling anxious or nervous.) 

  • Take a comfortable seat on the floor or in a chair.
  • Use your fingers to find the divot between the sides of the neck and the tops of the shoulders on both sides of your body.
  • Press firmly in the notch and breathe deeply.
  • Massage in a circular motion.

Comfort + Support When Stress & Anxiety Have Set In

Child’s Pose:

(Practice this when students need to self-soothe or separate themselves from a situation.) 

  • Sit on the floor, on your shins.  Lay your belly on to your thighs.  Rest your hips back toward your heels.  Relax your arms overhead, palms turned down into the floor.  Your forehead can meet the floor or a pillow.
  • Take 5 breaths into your belly to feel it expand and press into your thighs.  
  • Take 5 more breaths into your back and feel it expand and open.


Bumble Bee Breath:

(Practice this before a lecture —to activate the mind— or as a way to drown-out negative mental chatter in students dealing with depression.) 

  • Take a comfortable seat on the floor or in a chair.
  • Gently place your hands on your face: palms cup your cheekbones, fingers stretch up, over your forehead, thumbs close off your ears.
  • Take a deep breath in through your nose.  
  • Hum as you let the breath out. Listen to the sound of your hum.  Feel for the vibration of your hum in the center of your skull.
  • Repeat the inhale and humming exhale 10 times.  Then, take a couple quiet breaths.


Calming + Quieting

Legs Up The Wall:

(Practice this at the end of the day or after a test or turning in a big assignment, to let go of any anxiety induced by performance expectations.) 

  • Lay on the floor, next to a wall.
  • Turn toward the wall, so that your hips rest where the wall meets the floor.  Your legs should extend straight up the wall.  Your back should be flat to the floor.
  • Close your eyes.  Rest your arms by your sides, palms turned up.  Breathe softly into your hands and relax your whole body for 2-5 minutes.


Double-Length Exhale:

(Practice this during an anxiety attack or anger attack/fight.) 

  • Sit comfortably, on the floor or in a chair, with a tall spine and proper posture.  Make your back and belly strong.  
  • Breathe into the width of your torso, not just up and down.
  • Count to yourself as your breathe:
    • Inhale 2 counts; Exhale 4 counts (3 rounds)
    • Inhale 3 counts; Exhale 6 counts (3 rounds)
    • Inhale 4 counts; Exhale 8 counts (3 rounds)
    • Contract your abdomen to press air out of the body on each exhale and pull tension away from the chest.


Confidence + Self-Assurance to Ward-Off Stress & Anxiety

Super Hero Pose:

(Practice this with students before they do public speaking or a presentation.) 

  • Stand with your heels, back, shoulders, and head against the wall.
  • Press your feet into the floor.  Take a tiny bend in your knees and make your legs stronger.
  • Take a big breath in and feel as it lifts your rib cage, armpits, chest.  Keep that lift in the upper body, even when you exhale.
  • Roll your arms back by your sides and slightly behind your body.  Your palms will face forward; tops of the shoulders drop down.
  • Puff your chest like a super hero.  Maintain this posture and the attitude of a super hero as you slowly step away from the wall.


Skull Shining Breath:

(Practice this before a test to make students more alert and sharp.) 

  • Sit on your shins, on the floor.
  • Place your hands on your lap.
  • Breathe in through your nose; completely exhale through the nose.
  • Inhale through the nose again, then give a powerful exhale as you pump the air out of the belly.  The next inhale will happen on its own.  Keep forcing the air out with each exhale. (Like you’re trying to blow out a candle, using your nose.)
  • Go a slowly or asquickly as you like.  You can create a gentle rocking sensation in the belly or be more forceful with your exhales.
  • Repeat for 10-20 rounds.  
  • Take a few natural breaths and notice how you feel before moving on.

Release Anger + Tension From Your Whole Being

Squeeze & Release:

(Practice this if a student is dealing with a specific issue —they can imagine pulverizing that issue with each tension and removing it from their bodies and minds with every release— or when students have an abundance of energy.) 

  • Lay flat on the floor and close your eyes.
  • Squeeze your feet as though you are making fists with them.  Curl the toes in tightly, scrunch the soles of the feet.  Tense all of the muscles up the legs, and lift the legs a single inch off of the floor.  Squeeze! - Then drop them.  Relax your legs.
  • Leaving everything else on the floor, elevate just your hips up. Squeeze tightly so that they lift as high as they can go.  Dig your heels and upper back into the floor and squeeze your hips up a little higher! — Then drop them.  Relax your hips.
  • Make tight fists with your hands.  Keep squeezing your hands while you tense all of the muscles up the arms.  Squeeze so tightly that your arms lift off of the floor a single inch.  Open your hands widely! — Drop your arms.  Relax your arms.
  • Squeeze your shoulders up to your ears. Draw them up so much that they hug around the sides of your neck.  Squeeze! — Then drop them.  Relax your shoulders.
  • Take a deep breath in through your nose, then hold your breath in as you squeeze your face.  Make an ugly face.  Smash all of your facial features together.  Wrinkle your nose and eyes and forehead.  Purse your lips.  Squeeze! — Then open your eyes as wide as you can, stretch your face, open your mouth, stick out your tongue, and exhale with an audible roar!
  • Relax your entire body and lay in total stillness for 2-10 minutes.


Lion’s Breath:

(Practice this when you need to clear the air/ease the students’ minds, perhaps after a tense discussion or heavy topic.) 

  • Sit comfortably, on the floor or in a chair, with a tall spine and proper posture.  Make your back and belly strong.  
  • Take a deep, full breath in through your nose.
  • Open your mouth, stick out your tongue and release your breath with an audible roar.
  • Repeat this for 3-10 rounds.