Roughly 40 million U.S. adults suffer from anxiety (that's around 18 percent of Americans age 18 and over), making it the most common mental illness in the country. But even those who haven't been diagnosed with an anxiety disorder aren't immune to experiencing stress, tension and anxiety in their everyday lives.
Practicing yoga can not only be an effective stress reliever, but also a way to ease symptoms of anxiety and depression. By transferring focus and attention to the body and breath, yoga can help to temper anxiety while also releasing physical tension.
"Yoga helps our entire system slow down," ViraYoga founder Elena Brower tells The Huffington Post. "Our bodies are programmed to heal naturally, and what stops that healing are all the stressors of daily life. Yoga dissolves those stressors for the time during practice and usually the effects last for hours after."
Eagle Pose (Garudasana)
"The symmetry we experience in practicing balancing poses helps us turn away from the mind's business and towards the body's recalibration and healing," says Brower.
The Eagle Pose can be particularly beneficial for quieting the mind and bringing the attention to the body. Try holding standing pose for 30-60 seconds on each side.
Standing Forward Bend (Uttanasana)
Forward bends are excellent for calming our nervous system, according to Brower. The posture provides a release of the upper body and soothes the mind through gentle inversion either when practiced on its own or between poses.
Corpse Pose (Savasana)
At the end of your practice -- or anytime you're feeling overwhelmed -- try lying down flat on your back, with your arms at your sides, and simply focusing on the breath for one to 10 minutes.
"Corpse is the ultimate in terms of relaxation -- it really allows the body to sink down into the ground, and it's easier to tune into the breath when you're lying on the back and watching the belly rise up and down," Kennedy says.
Headstand (Salamba Sirsasana)
Headstand can help ease anxiety by reversing the blood flow and forcing you to focus on the breath and the body in the present moment, wellness expert Dr. Terri Kennedy
tells the Huffington Post. It may look challenging, but even beginner yogis can practice a modified version with the help of an instructor.
"It's surprisingly accessible to many people because you can do it in many ways," she says. "You can do it against the wall to start."
Legs Up The Wall Pose (Viparita Karani)
Kennedy recommends Legs Up The Wall pose as a simple but effective anxiety-busting posture for beginners that can help you to escape the "thinking mind."
"You don't have to be so flexible or so strong, and yet it's very relaxing and very calming for the nervous system," she says.
Half Moon Pose (Ardha Chandrasana)
To quiet the mind and cultivate focused awareness, try the Half Moon Pose, a balancing posture with one leg raised 90 degrees and one hand on the floor or on a block.
"Balancing poses take our attention off of the mind and into the body," Brower says.
Supported Shoulder Stand (Salamba Sarvangasana)
Inversions like headstand and shoulder stand can help you to get out of the "monkey mind" by putting you in a completely different position than your normal life, Kennedy says.
"Inversions in general turn things upside down," she explains. "Stress and anxiety are more of aperception of danger and unease, and when you can get out of your mind -- literally -- that helps."
Fish Pose (Matsyasana)
Yoga Journal recommends
Fish Pose for fatigue and anxiety relief, as well as gentle back and shoulder stretching. Beginners may want to place a thickly-folded blanket beneath the head for neck support if they are experiencing any discomfort.
Tree Pose (Vrksasana)
Before moving on to the Eagle and Half Moon balancing poses, beginners should start with Tree Pose, a basic standing balance to help calm a racing mind and induce concentration.
"Balancing poses force you to be honest about where you are currently, and they force you to pay attention to where you are," Kennedy says. "If you're in a tree pose and your mind is wandering, you'll know it -- you'll fall over."
Child's Pose (Balasana)
One of the quintessential resting poses of any yoga practice, Child's Pose -- which involves sitting on the knees and bending forward with arms forward or by your side -- can be very comforting and self-soothing.
"Lying on my belly helps me a lot when I feel anxious," says Brower. "Child's pose helps us turn inside and slow our minds down."
The Huffington Post | By Carolyn Gregoire