Anxiety treatment: The three best yoga poses to instantly calm you down

Yoga instructor shows off incredible hand stand skills at gym

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Yoga activates the Sympathetic Nervous System and the Parasympathetic Nervous System, making it the perfect form of exercise for anxiety. If you’re not sure where to begin or don’t have time for a full yoga class, why not try a few moves to start off with? Express.co.uk spoke to yoga teacher and founder of FLEX Chelsea, Chatty Dobson to find out the three best yoga poses to instantly calm you down.

Unlike many types of exercise, yoga activates both the Sympathetic Nervous System (SNS) and the Parasympathetic Nervous System (PNS).

Strong flows (vinyasa, ashtanga, power) and Kapalabhati breathing build energy within the body, engaging the SNS, which is essentially our fight or flight response.

In contrast, restful postures, meditation, and many other breathwork techniques encourage our rest and digest mode, with the PNS.

Chatty told Express.co.uk: “Research has shown that when the PNS activation swiftly follows SNS activity, relaxation is all the deeper.”

In addition to the effects on the nervous system and how we learn to engage our ‘rest and digest’ mode at will, yoga has amazing mental impacts.

Chatty said: “Yoga is about slowing the breath, being more mindful of your body and considering how it moves and how it keeps you going autonomously.

“The longer you sit and look for these things, the more you appreciate and engage with them, and the anxiety fades as your focus is shifted.”

So which poses are best for calming down when your anxiety feels overwhelming? Chatty has recommended three.

Just breathe

The most effective way to calm yourself is to stop what you’re doing, close your eyes and take a few deep breaths.

Better yet, Chatty recommends taking a comfortable seat, closing your eyes and getting comfortable.

She said: “You don’t need to sit in full lotus – sit as upright as possible, but lean against a wall or deep back in a chair.

“Move any clothes, jewellery or cushions that you think might annoy you, soften your jaw, relax your forehead.”

When you’re ready, take a deep breath in through your nose, blow up the belly like a balloon, open the mouth and sigh it out.

Chatty explained: “Then, sealing the lips, inhale to a slow count of four, exhale through the nose to the count of six.

“Repeat at least five times, but as many times as you need to feel at peace.”

Breathing deeply and fully isn’t as easy as it sounds, so you might not be as good at it as you thought.

Chatty stressed: “It’s fine if you need to start with shorter breaths (ie. in for three and out for five) as your lung capacity will build up over time.

“If you find it hard to breathe into your belly you’re not alone, but maybe rest your hands on your tummy so you can actively feel it rise and fall.”

According to the yoga teacher, our inhale is Yang (it creates energy within the body) and the exhale is Yin (rest and digest).

She noted: “With a longer exhale in our breathing we are activating that relaxed state within the body, which lowers the heart rate and subsequently calms the mind, and rest of the body.”

Forward Fold/Ragdoll

When we forward fold we stimulate blood flow to our head, and this can be really beneficial in beating anxiety.

Chatty said: “You can do this in a basic forward fold or a headstand depending on your yoga practice – both are effective.

“Being inverted detoxifies our adrenals, which has been found to decrease depression.”

To get started, stand with your feet hip-width apart, bend your knees deeply, fold forward at the pelvis and then catch opposite elbows.

Sway yourself backwards and forwards, and side to side.

However, the yoga teacher stressed that you must not be tempted to try and straighten your legs.

She explained: “Straightening your legs while in forward fold will cause pain in the lower back and hamstrings and completely defeat the point of this pose making you feel better!”

Legs up the wall

Lie down on the floor with your bum as close to the wall as possible and then put your legs up the wall.

Your body and legs should be at a right angle and then you can stick your arms out wide and palms to the sky.

Chatty said: “The leg inversion will calm you and relieve any pain in your lower back, and the outstretched arms open the chest making it easier to breathe.

“If it’s not comfortable, you can place a pillow or cushions under your bum to raise it a bit.

“Lie here with the eyes closed breathing gently for as long as you can.”

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