Hands up if you experience major anxiety on a daily basis. Or even if you experience major anxiety on a consistent basis, not necessarily on a regular basis, but maybe more than the average person should be experiencing high levels of anxiety.
If your hand just went up the first thing I want you to know is that you are not alone. Not only did both of my hands go up, but I’m writing this post because I can relate to experiencing major anxiety on a daily basis. Sometimes I joke that anxiety is my life. It’s my personality, it is expressed in everything that I do, and it is the underlying message in everything that I say.
Anxiety is my life, and it has been this way for as long as I can remember.
The second thing I want you to know is that anxiety is not a bad thing to experience. There is such a negative stigma that floats around all things related to mental health, so I can understand if you’re reading this because you do experience significant anxiety, but you’re just not ready to admit that to yourself. You want to avoid labels, you don’t want to become another stereotype, and you don’t want to come across as unstable in any fashion.
Trust me I get it, but anxiety is completely normal. In fact, it’s so normal that you’d be surprised how many people experience some form of anxiety on a daily basis. According to this article, anxiety disorders are the most common forms of mental illnesses, with over 21% of adults being affected by the disorder.
If you’re not sure what anxiety is, or what it may look like, here’s a short overview of the disorder from my perspective. Anxiety is an intense feeling of either fear, stress, or worry that is triggered in stressful situations. For some people, like me, anxiety is triggered in everyday cases, whether they are stressful or not. When triggered it makes participating in daily activities hard to do.
Symptoms of anxiety may include but are not limited to:
- Excessive sweating
- Lack of concentration
- Ruminative thoughts
- And much more
If this sounds anything like you, then you may have had an anxiety experience at some point and time in your life. Again, this is nothing to be ashamed of; we are all in this together. If you experience high levels of anxiety, or any level of anxiety honestly, then you have come to the right place. Sometimes when we get caught up in our heads, we forget how to pull ourselves off of that train ride.
Especially when that train ride is being guided by anxiety. There are plenty of things that you can do to help relieve yourself of anxiety. My favorite is through the power of stretching.
Stretching to relieve yourself of anxiety is a great technique to have under your belt. When we are tense, our body responds physically. Specific areas of our bodies may become stiff and sore; we may experience cramping or even muscle spasms. The best and most effective way to relieve ourselves of these uncomfortable feelings is by stretching.
Below, I’ve got six stretches that are sure to do the trick!
*Before reading any further it’s important to take note that I am not a medical professional of any kind. I experience a significant amount of anxiety on a daily basis, and everything that has been written in this post is all from personal experience. My intention is not to diagnose and treat, but instead to bring awareness and provide effective techniques. I hope you find this post helpful and if you need professional help, please reach out to someone!
Before you begin any of these poses, it’s important to take a couple of seconds (maybe a minute or two) engaging in some neck rolls. We hold a lot of tension in our necks, especially when we are holding in a lot of pent up anxiety. Rolling your neck will help you begin the process of relieving yourself of anxiety.
Stretch #1: Big Toe Pose
This pose requires you to bend over and touch your toes. Start to stand up straight with your feet about hip-width apart. When you are ready, begin a slow bend forward with your hands extended in front of you reaching for your toes. Since one of the main intentions with stretching is to become more flexible, you may not be able to reach your toes. If this is the case no worries, simply bend over as far as you can, reaching as far as you can.
It’s essential not to overstretch either. You may experience a little bit of discomfort, and that’s ok. It’s merely your muscles stretching (but if it’s exceptionally uncomfortable then stop!). The more you practice this pose, the more flexible you will become, which will make doing this pose more comfortable.
Stretch #2 Legs up The Wall Pose
For a long time, I never understood the relationship with this pose and its effect on anxiety. After a yoga session, my instructor always has us lie on our backs, with our arms and legs stretched out from the body in a relaxed position. We usually spend about 5 minutes lying down on our backs with our eyes closed, monitoring our breath as we come back to a more relaxed state of mind. I later discovered that the point of this was because lying our backs can help us relieve ourselves of anxiety and put things back into perspective.
To do this pose, you are going to want to get a yoga mat, or a sheet and fold it halfway to create a cushion of some sort. Line your yoga mat or sheet up against the wall. When you get on top, you are going to want to push your butt up against the wall so that your legs will be stretched out in front of you against the wall, with your back flat against your mat or sheet. There should be no pain or discomfort.
Stretch #3 Cat-Cow Pose
One of my favorite poses. To do this pose, you are going to want to place your yoga mat out on the floor. If you don’t have a yoga matt find something that will bring comfort to your hands and knees and keep them from digging into the ground. Get down on your hands and knees in a crawling position, keeping your back as straight as possible. When you’re ready, begin by arching your back inward (imagine a string pulling your torso to the ground) like a cat, tilting your back, and pushing your butt up, taking a deep breath in through your nose as you do it. Hold for a second.
After a second reverse the process. Slowly arch your back outward (imagine a string pulling your torso to the sky) like a cow, tilting your head down towards your chest, pulling your butt in towards your torso, exhaling out of your mouth as you do. Hold for a second and then reverse the process. You are going to want to do about ten reps of this, or until you feel you are ready to stop.
Stretch #4 Child’s Pose
This pose is great for helping you relieve yourself of anxiety. To begin, get down on your yoga mat on your hands and knees. When you’re ready, slowly push your body back towards the back of the room, while tucking your butt inwards. You are going to want your legs to be slightly stretched out form your body (right knee stretching towards the right side of the room, left knee stretching towards the left side of the room).
Stretch your arms out in front of you above your head (but still on the mat), with your fingers spread apart pressing firmly into the ground. Finally, tuck your head in towards your chest resting your forehead gently on your mat. Make sure your big toes are slightly touching one another in the back. This pose can be uncomfortable if you’ve never done it before, but generally speaking, it’s not an uncomfortable pose.
Stretch #5 Downward Dog & Downward Dancing Dog
This is a fun pose that requires concentration to execute the move effectively, which is why it’s great for relieving anxiety. To begin this pose start in a plank position on top of your yoga mat. When you’re ready slowly swing your body into downward motion, pushing your butt into the air, and placing the heels of your feet firmly on the ground. Your arms should be stretched out in front of you. Your hands should be pressing firmly into the mat (arms off of the ground), with your head tucked in towards your chest.
After holding this pose for a while, swing your body into upward motion. Your torso should be facing the ground with your chest facing the sky. Tuck your butt in (squeeze your cheeks), with your legs stretched out behind you, slightly on your tippy toes (but your legs hovering above the ground). Your hands should still be pressed firmly into the ground, with your arms naturally becoming paralleled to your chest. To create the dancing dog just simply alternate between these two positions.
I was not able to find a video on how to the downward dancing dog. However, just simply doing the downward dog is just as effective! To complete this pose follow the steps above for “Downward Dog Only,” or the video below.
Stretch #6 Seated Forward Bend Pose
This pose is simple and easy to do. However, like all the other yoga stretches on this list, you are going to want to make sure that you are executing it properly to avoid hurting yourself. To begin, you are going to want to sit down on your yoga mat with your legs stretched out in front of you. When you’re ready, slowly begin to lean forward with your arms stretched out in front of you.
As you’re leaning forward, you are going to want to bend your torso into your thighs. Then grab onto your legs with your hands on either side of your body. This yoga stretch is going to be a different stretch level for everyone depending on your flexibility. Essentially you are going to want to either gently grab onto your knees, calves, ankles. If you’re super flexible the base of your foot, or maybe even your toes.
Stretching is such a simple technique that will have such a huge impact on your anxiety. For some, it’s the perfect coping technique, for others not so much. These are just a few forms of stretching that can help you relieve yourself of anxiety. Play around with these forms as well as others, and find what is most effective for you.
Here’s a video all about stretching with my favorite health and fitness online coach Blogilates! There are different stretching poses you can do in this video, that are not included on this list, that are also just as effective in relieving yourself of anxiety!
When you’ve found the stretching form that is most effective for you, make a habit out of practicing it every day. Not only will you find comfort, and be able to manage your anxiety. You will also be on the road to becoming more flexible!
What is your favorite yoga stretch to relieve anxiety? Comment Below!