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This Grounding Yoga Flow For Anxiety & Fear Relief Never Fails To Put My Mind At Ease

Laura Finch on July 21, 2020
Laura is a yoga teacher who completed 200 hours of training.

Are you feeling scared, distressed, and anxious about the future?

Congratulations, "you're only human" as Billy Joel sings.

Whenever we're faced with something new and unexpected, simply put, whenever we face the change, we're sure to encounter fear and anxiety in one degree or another.

Your Anxiety is calling you - animation

Fear and anxiety closely tied together. In fact, both words "anxious" and "angst" have the same Proto-Indo-European root *angh- which means "constricted, painful."

And what's our first reaction to the pain?

You've probably guessed it – aversion.

We're trying to push away all negative and unpleasant feelings the moment they arise.

We're trying to push away all negative and unpleasant feelings the moment they arise.

We're trying to push away all negative and unpleasant feelings the moment they arise.

This, alas, doesn't work. Moreover, it sucks us into even more fear and anxiety, blinding our judgments and taking us out of the most important moment – here and now.

Regular yoga practice offers a simple and effective way to deal with your fears and anxiety. Rather than distracting you from those unpleasant feelings, it brings your attention to them.

And acknowledgment and self-reflection are the first steps on the way to healing and feeling safe again.

I hope this 30-minute yoga sequence will help you feel empowered, self-aware, and more connected to your feelings, whether they are welcome or not, to live through them and finally let go.

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Yoga Sequence To Release Fear & Anxiety: Step-By-Step Instructions

Please take the time to study the contradictions and precautions for every pose on your own. Be sure to check with your doctor before starting an exercise program.

1. Start with a few minutes of Deep Breathing.

Seat in a comfortable seated position with eyes closed and arms rested by your sides. Take this time to ground your body, center your mind, and set an intention for your practice.

If you practice mantra chanting, choose the mantra that you can repeat during the flow.

Here's one of my most favorite mantras against fear:

I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer.

(And if you're by any chance a bit geeky like I am, you might recognize that these words are actually an extract from the "Litany Against Fear" from Frank Herbert's science-fiction novel Dune.)

 

Yoga exercises for eyes

2. Open your eyes and continue with Eye Exercises.

Extend your right arm in front of you with the thumb pointing up. Focus your gaze on the thumb.

Start to slowly draw a triangle with your thumb, moving your arm up, to the right, and down. Follow the movements with your eyes.

Make sure you hold your head still - only your eyes should move.

Draw 5 triangles with your right thumb. Switch arms and repeat.

To soothe your eyes after the exercises, start to actively rub your palms together until they warm up.
Cup your hands over your eyes without touching them and feel your hands transferring warmth to your eye muscles.

With the self-isolation due to COVID-19, screens are practically what most people see from the morning to evening. These simple Eye Exercises are both strengthening and relaxing.

 

Easy Pose with a Side Bend

3. Inhale as you raise your arms overhead and come into Easy Pose With Side-Body Stretch/Sukhasana Variation.

Inhale as you lift and lengthen. Exhale as you switch sides.

Hold for about 3 breaths on each side. Alternatively, move from side to side about 6 times in total.

 

Easy Twist

4. Return to the center and transition into Easy Pose with Twist (Easy Twist)/ Parivrtta Sukhasana.

Place your left hand on the right knee; rest your right hand behind you. Gently look over your right shoulder.

Hold for about 3 full breaths. Switch sides.

 

Seated Cat-Cow Pose

5. Come into Seated Cat-Cow Pose/Upavistha Bitilasana Marjaryasana.

Inhale as you raise your arms overhead. If it's comfortable for your neck, look up. Exhale as you tuck your chin, stretch your arms forward and arch your spine.

If you can't clasp your hands overhead, use a yoga strap or any piece of cloth to hold onto and close the gap between hands.

Repeat Cat-Cow for about 5 times in total.

 

Easy Pose With Forward Fold

6. Return to a neutral cross-legged seated position and place your hands on the mat in front of you, preparing for Easy Pose with Forward Fold/ Adho Mukha Sukhasana.

Exhale as you start to slowly lean your torso forward. Try to keep your spine straight and don't let your buttocks lift off the mat.

If your forehead doesn't reach the mat, place a couple of yoga blocks in front of you, a bolster or simply lean on your forearms.

Hold for about 3 full breaths. Switch the cross of your legs and repeat.

 

Puppy Pose

7. Move into Extended Puppy Pose/Uttana Shishosana.

From a neutral tabletop position, move your hands forward while bringing your forehead (and possibly chest) to the mat. Try to keep your hips over your knees.

Hold for about 3 full breaths.

 

Downward Facing Dog Pose

8. Return to a neutral tabletop position. Exhale and send your hips up and back into Downward-Facing Dog/Adho Mukha Svanasana.

Bend your knees as much as needed. The goal here is to keep your spine long, and your chest open.

Hold for about 3 full breaths.

 

Downward Dog To Plank

9. Inhale as you move from Downward-Facing Dog into Plank/Kumbhakasana. On an exhale return to Downward-Facing Dog.

Make your transitions smooth and slow, and move with your breath 5 times.

In the end, return to Downward-Facing Dog.

 

Standing Forward Fold With Chest Expansion

10. Walk your feet to the front of the mat. Clasp your hands behind your lower back and come into Standing Forward Bend with Shoulder Opener/Uttanasana Variation.

Keep a microbend in your knees, even if your hamstrings are open.

It's common to lean back too much, dumping your weight into the heels – so you might want to try shifting more weight into the balls of your feet.

Hold for about 3 full breaths.

 

Halfway Lift With Twist

11. Release the clasp of your hands and come into Halfway Lift, preparing for Standing Forward Bend Twist/ Parivṛtta Uttanasana.

Rest the left palm on the mat in front of you. Place the right hand on your right hip as you start rolling your right shoulder open. If it's comfortable, straighten your right arm up to the sky and look up.

Hold for about 3 full breaths. Switch sides.

I like to bend my left knee here to feel the stretch in my right leg. If you're really flexible, you probably won't need to do that.

If your hands don't touch the floor in Halfway Lift, it's a great time to use a set of yoga blocks or a bolster to bring the floor closer to you.

 

Mountain Pose To Cactus Arms

12. Inhale as you lift to Upward Salute/Urdhva Hastasana.

Exhale and Cactus Your Arms bringing elbows down to 90 degrees.

Inhale as you return to Upward Salute.

 

Standing Forward Bend

13. Exhale and dive your body forward into Standing Forward/Bend Uttanasana.

 

Halfway Lift

14. On an inhale, lift into Halfway Lift/Ardha Uttanasana.

Make sure to keep your weight evenly distributed on your feet. Often, it means leaning slightly to the front.

 

Plank Pose

15. Exhale and come into Plank/Kumbhakasana. Keep your whole body engaged and your abdominals tight.

 

Cobra Pose

16. Come down to the floor on an exhale and lift into Cobra/Bhujangasana.

Lift your palms off the mat to strengthen your back muscles.

Hold for about 3 full breaths.

You're welcome to do a full version of Vinyasa with Plank/Chaturanga/Upward-Facing Dog if you prefer.

Child's Pose

17. On an exhale, place your palms back on the floor and send your hips back into Extended Child's Pose/Balasana.

Rest in the pose for about 3 full breaths.

 

Child's Pose To Upward Facing Dog

18. Breathe in as you look forward and ripple your body from Child's Pose into Upward-Facing Dog/ Urdhva Mukha Shvanasana.

This is a great movement to open the front side of the body and strengthen the arms.

Do your best to keep your chest as close to the ground as possible when moving to Upward Dog and returning back to Child's Pose.

Repeat for about 3 times back and forth.

 

Downward Facing Dog Pose

19. Return to Downward-Facing Dog. Hold for about 3 full breaths.

 

Warrior II pose

20. Step your right foot forward in-between your hands and lift into Warrior II/Virabhadrasana II.

Keep your legs and core engaged, and your right knee spiraling open to the right.

Hold for about 3 full breaths.

 

Warrior II To Straight Leg

21. As you breathe in, straighten your front leg and lift through your chest. Raise your arms above your head (I like to grab my elbows with my hands).

Exhale and return to Warrior II.

Repeat for about 5 times.

 

Extended Side Angle Pose

22. From Warrior II, transition into Extended Side Angle Pose/Utthita Parsvakonasana.

Rest your right elbow on your right knee. Alternatively, place your hand on the block or hover it off the ground.

Keep your core engaged and your body spiraling open. Stretch your top arm up to the sky or over your head for an added stretch in your side.

Hold for about 3 full breaths.

 

Low Lunge With A Twist

23. On an exhale, set your top hand on the mat and move into Low Lunge Twist Pose/Parivrtta Sanchalasana.

Try to keep your hips level and stay open through your chest.

For additional challenge for your lower body, hover your bottom hand off the mat.

Hold for about 3 full breaths.

 

Downward Facing Dog Pose

24. Return to Downward-Facing Dog.

Repeat steps 20-24 on your left side.

Warrior I pose

25. From Downward-Facing Dog, step your right foot between your hands at a slightly shorter stance. Rise into Warrior I/Virabhadrasana I.

Keep your hips squared to the front of the mat – adjust them with your hands if needed. Raise your arms overhead.

Hold for about 3 full breaths.

 

Humble Warrior pose

26. Transition into Humble Warrior/ Baddha Virabhadrasana.

Inhale as you clasp your hands behind your lower back and puff up through your chest. Exhale and lean with your torso forward.

Hold for about 3 full breaths.

 

Pyramid Pose

27. Return to Warrior I and straighten your front leg, transitioning into Pyramid/Parsvottanasana.

Keep your hips level and start to slowly bow forward, keeping your spine long and straight.

Use a set of stacked blocks or a bolster if you need to bring the floor closer to you.

Hold for about 3 full breaths.

 

Tree pose

28. From Pyramid pose, move into Tree Pose/Vriksasana.

If you want to play with your balance, try rising into Tree and bringing your back leg onto your inner thigh without the foot touching the floor.

Do any variation of Tree that you currently practice (foot on the ankle, calf, or the inner thigh with hands at heart or overhead).

I personally like this funky Tree pose with a Side Bend.

Hold for about 3 full breaths.

 

Downward Facing Dog Pose

29. From Tree Pose, return to Downward-Facing Dog, however you like it. You're welcome to do Vinyasa on the way.

Repeat steps 25-29 on your left side.

Lizard pose

30. From Downward-Facing Dog, step your right foot forward to the outside of your right hand into Lizard pose/Utthan Pristhasana.

If your hips are tight and it's challenging to hold this pose with your hands on the mat, use extra support of blocks, a yoga bolster (or even a big cushion).

If you have sensitive knees, you might want to pad your back knee with a yoga blanket. Or simply fold your yoga mat in two.

Hold for about 3 full breaths.

 

Malasana pose

31. Step your back leg forward, coming into Yogi Squat (Garland)/Malasana.

Keep your hands in a prayer position and gently press your knees open with your elbows.

That said, keep your buttocks engaged, so when you stop pressing your knees with your elbows, you'd still be able to keep them open.

Hold for about 3 full breaths.

 

Lizard pose (switch sides)

32. From Yogi Squat, now step your right leg back (sorry, the photo shows step 30) into Lizard pose/Utthan Pristhasana on your left side.

Hold for about 3 full breaths.

 

Malasana Squats

33. Return to Malasana for Dynamic Yogi Squats.

Breathe out and straighten the legs, breathe in as you squat back into Malasana.

Repeat for about 5-10 times.

 

Butterfly pose

34. From Yogi Squat/Malasana, sit on your mat and come into Butterfly Pose/Baddha Konasana.

If it's accessible, lean your torso forward, but do your best to keep the spine straight.

Hold for about 3 full breaths.

 

Seated Head-to-Knee Variation With A Side Bend

35. From Butterfly Pose, straighten your right leg to the side and bring your left foot to your right inner groin. Breathe in and on an exhale, bend to the right, coming into Revolved Head-to-Knee Pose/Parivrtta Janu Sirsasana.

The goal here is to rotate your chest up to the sky while stretching the side of your body.

If you're really flexible, you might be able to grab your right toes with your top hand. I'm not, so I prefer to bend my top elbow and support my head instead of giving into the temptation of reaching my toes (and potentially curving my chest forward).

Hold for about 3 full breaths.

 

Baby Wild Thing (Knee To Floor)

36. Anchor your top left hand behind you and transition into Wild Thing Pose Knee To Floor Variation/Camatkarasana Variation.

Reach your right arm behind you while you slightly backbend and open your chest.

Hold for about 3 full breaths.

 

Seated Head-to-Knee pose

37. Lower your hips down and move into Head-to-Knee Pose/Janu Sirsasana on your right leg.

Feel free to bend your right leg as much as needed.

Hold for about 3 full breaths.

Tip: I sometimes like to move between these three poses dynamically and match movement with my breath instead of holding each pose. In this case, repeat each pose at least 3 times.

 

Seated Wide-Legged Forward Bend

38. Open your left leg to the left, preparing for Wide-Angle Seated Forward Bend/Upavistha Konasana.

Keep your feet flexed and your legs active. If you feel comfortable sitting straight up, slowly lean your torso forward until your elbows or forehead rests on the floor.

Hold for about 3 full breaths.

Lift your torso, bend your right leg and bring the right foot to your inner left thigh. Repeat steps 35-37 on your left side.

Bridge Pose

39. Lie on your back with the knees bent. Transition into Bridge Pose/Setu Bandha Sarvangasana.

Exhale as you lift your hips off the mat. Keep your buttocks and inner thighs engaged.

Interlace your hands behind your back and roll onto your shoulders for an additional chest opener.

Hold for about 3 full breaths.

 

Reclined Pigeon

40. Press your right ankle against your left thigh for Reclining Pigeon Pose/Supta Kapotasana.

If that's enough of a stretch, stay right here. Otherwise, lift your left foot and bring it closer to the chest. Make sure your right knee keeps opening to the side.

You can wrap your hands around the left thigh or a shin to help bring the leg closer to you.

I personally like to engage my left foot to open the right hip and let my arms rest by my sides.

Hold for about 3 full breaths.

 

Spinal Twist

41. Step your left foot back onto the mat and come into Reclined Twist/Supta Matsyendrasana – the variation you prefer.

In the photo, I'm keeping my right ankle in the same position and release my legs to the left while I gaze to the right.

Hold for about 3 full breaths.

Switch sides for steps 40-41.

Happy Baby

42. Hug your knees to the chest, and come into Happy Baby Pose/Ananda Balasana.

Hold onto your shins, calves, toes, or whatever is accessible to you. If it feels good, gently roll side to side.

Hold for about 3 full breaths.

 

Corpse-Pose

43. From Happy Baby, bring your knees to the chest for a final squeeze and release into Corpse Pose/Savasana.

3 Tips To Effectively Use Yoga For Anxiety And Fear Relief

Anxiety and fear are bizarre phenomena.

They occur because of something that happened to us in the past, but they are mostly concerned about the future.

Even if you've never dealt with acute bouts of anxiety or fear, there's a high chance you are now as humanity continues navigating through the pandemic.

people hoarding toiler paper during coronavirus

Getting a new job or moving is surely stressful, but few things in life can compare to the ultimate fear – the fear of death. And that's exactly what many of us are faced with right now.

Fear can be gripping and crippling, clouding your judgments, ability to deal with challenges, and lowering your overall well-being.

We can't control our feelings. But we can (and should) prevent feelings from taking control over us.

How do we do that?

By acknowledging these feelings and emotions.

That's where yoga comes in. (In fact, connecting you to your emotions is only one of the ways yoga helps relieve anxiety and fear; available scientific research says that yoga does help with anxiety on a physical level too).

Yoga helps relieve anxiety, according to research.

When I'm feeling emotionally down, I'm treating my yoga mat as my "therapeutic zone."

I'm imagining that the moment I step on it, I'm allowing myself to feel all the worries and distress and deal with those rationally instead of pushing them away.

Here are the three steps I take to tune in, identify the root of my anxiety, and calm myself down.

Step 1: Breath Focus

I've already written about the magic behind our breath (go here to read how yogic breathing relieves stress).

When we're anxious or scared, our breath is shallow and constricted. Most importantly, it's unconscious. (Since the only thing you're probably doing is biting your lips as the dooming scenario plays in your head on the loop).

Simple Deep Breathing pranayama not only switches your nervous system from the fight or flight response, but it takes your mind out from some imaginary "what if" world and into the present. It brings you back into reality, where all your fears and worries are not real.

Slow and smooth yoga movements invite your wandering mind back into your body, shifting the focus from the inner monologue to what's actually happening.

Breathe in light, breathe out dark - animation

Step 2: Body Scan

Stress is generally going to show up in the form of tension.

While you're pausing between yoga poses, notice how your body is feeling when your mind is filled with anxious thoughts.

Are your shoulders seizing up? Does your belly hurt? Or maybe you feel your throat constricting?

Scan your body to see where the anxiety and stress are showing up in your body.

Yoga Nidra is a great practice to relieve anxiety and fear.

Yoga Nidra is a great practice to relieve anxiety and fear.

Step 3: Notice Your Thoughts

Once you've identified where you feel the tension, try to consciously relax that area of the body.

Ask yourself: Why am I tensing up? What is contributing to my fear and anxiety?

Notice the thoughts rushing through your mind. Don't judge them, just notice.

At this point, I'm trying to categorize my thoughts as to whether the situation that's making me anxious is beyond my control, or I can do something about it.

If it's the first, I ask myself: Can I let it go?

Just tracing your fear and anxiety to a simple thought and accepting that you can't control the situation can put the mind at ease.

What Are The Best Yoga Poses For Anxiety

Have you noticed how distress, anxiety, and fear affect your body?

Hunched-up shoulders, tightened neck, restricted breathing... These are some of the most common "symptoms" that are probably all too familiar to everyone.

A grounding Savasana can quickly remedy all of those, but… it's not always an option (for me).

You see, when I get anxious, I can't sit still. Traditional sitting meditation is also out of the question. In contrast, gentle flowy yoga movements help me connect to my breath and short resting pauses and holds give a chance for self-reflection.

If you're like me, try these yoga postures to relieve stress, soothe your mind, and re-center.

Forward-Bending Poses

These include:

  • Child's Pose
  • Seated Forward Fold
  • Standing Forward Bend
  • Seated Wide-Legged Forward Fold
  • Standing Wide-Legged Forward Bend
  • Head to Knee Pose
  • Pyramid Pose

Traditionally, forward-bending yoga poses are considered internalizing. They help to turn our focus inwards both physically and emotionally, thus soothing the nervous system and calming the mind.

Child's pose can be extremely sooting when you're experiencing a bout of anxiety.

Child's pose can be extremely sooting when you're experiencing a bout of anxiety.

Heart-Openers

These include:

  • Cat-Cow Pose
  • Puppy Pose
  • Cobra
  • Upward Facing Dog
  • Revolved Head-to-Knee Pose
  • Wild Thing
  • Variations with chest openers (such Standing Forward bend with clasped hands)

Our upper back and chest turn to curl inwards when we get stressed or scared. Not only it brings uncomfortable tension to your body, but you're also in a way closing yourself away from the world.

Just think about it – we interact with the world with the front side of the body.

Remember the time when you were confident, empowered, and brave? You puffed up our chest like a pigeon rather than slouched. So when your body is curling into a ball, do the opposite – open up.

When your body is curling into a ball, do the opposite – open up.

This, in fact, is Pratipaksha Bhavana - the yogic practice of counteracting negative with positive.

It can also be useful for shifting your mindset. Whenever you feel a negative thought or emotion arising ("I'm in danger"), change it a positive one ("I can handle this," I'm safe").

Most importantly:

In this time of uncertainty, when each one of us is filled with anxiety and fear, let's connect to ourselves and focus on what we can control – on what goes on within us. Let's stick together and support each other, validate each other's feelings, and be kind. Only standing together, we can get through the downs and thrive in the end.

And remember:

Fear and anxiety spread faster than a virus. So does hope, compassion, and love.

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