14 Yoga Stretches To Do If You Want To Soothe Anxiety And Find Calm
This restorative yoga routine is a healing practise for your body and mind. It will help to soothe anxiety and helping you find a sense of calm.
I did my yoga teacher training in Bali a few years ago and, while I was originally drawn to strong practises like Power Yoga and Bikram, I recently found my calling to teach more restorative yoga. Since we’re all in isolation, these pictures are shot in my living room at home and my cat Lionel makes the odd appearance! If you’re looking for some calming yoga music to play, check out my de-stress yoga playlist here.
During this yoga practise below, remember to focus on your breathing, keeping the mind clear, allowing yourself to be present. I recommend staying in each posture for 10 slow, deep breaths, but if you’re new to yoga, this may seem quite long. So try this routine first with a measure of five breaths if that feels good.
To help you settle in, we shall begin the practise with an easy breathing exercise to help quieten the mind. If you do not have a yoga mat, a towel placed on top of a carpet or on an even bed of grass will do just fine.
1/ Easy Seated Posture with Yoga Breathing
Settle into an easy, comfortable yoga seat, either cross-legged or kneeling. Allow your hands to rest in your lap, palms up towards the sky in a gesture of openness and receptiveness. Close your eyes and spend a few moments doing a mental check in. How are you feeling? How is your body feeling? Prepare yourself for the breathing exercise by taking one long deep inhale through the nose, holding for a moment and then gently sighing out the exhale through an open mouth.
Now inhale for a count of four, hold for a count of four and exhale for a count of four. Repeat this 10 times.
This yoga breathing exercise will help slow your heart rate and calm your energy. Now for the rest of the practise, every time you inhale, try inhale for a count of four and exhale for a count of four (no holding needed).
2/ Seated Forward Fold
If you are not already in a cross-legged position, adjust your legs now so that you are. Inhale as you lift your hands up towards the sky. Exhale to forward fold over your lap. Allow the head to hang loose. Stretch the fingers out as far as they can reach in front of you. Stay here for 5-10 breaths. As you exhale walk your hands back towards your lap. Inhale to lift your hands up towards the sky. Switch your legs around, so that the opposite leg is in front in a cross-legged position. Exhale to forward fold on more time. Hold for 5-10 breaths.
3/ Seated Side C-Shape Bend
Begin by inhaling as you lift both hands up towards the sky, looking up. As you exhale, drop your right hand to the ground and press your palm into the mat, lifting your body away from the ground. Now allow the left hand to arch over to the right side, forming a C-like shape with the body. Look up towards the left hand. Stay here for five breaths. Inhale to come out of the posture lifting both hands up towards the sky. Exhale to repeat on the other side and hold for another five breaths.
The aim of restorative yoga is to move slowly and gently and not overextend or push yourself in any of these postures.
4/ Seated Yoga Twist
Begin by inhaling as you lift both hands up towards the sky, looking up. As you exhale, place right hand behind you, palm pressed into the mat at the base of your base. Press into the mat to to elongate the spine. Place the left hand on the outside of the right thigh. As you inhale, lift the chest. As you exhale twist the spine looking over your right shoulder behind you. Stay here for five breaths. On your last exhale begin to release the hands. Inhale to come out of the posture lifting both hands up towards the sky. Exhale to repeat on the other side and hold for another five breaths.
5/ Child’s Pose with Side Stretches
From seated in your cross-leg, roll over your knees. Keep your knees wide (to the edge of the mat) and point your toes to touch. Sit back down onto your heels. Now extend the arms and hands forward and try to bring your forehead to the floor, hands straight out in front of you. Allow your belly to be soft. Stay here for 10 breaths.
Walk your hands 20cm over to the left, placing your right palm on top of your left hand. Feel the stretch on the right side of the body. Stay here for 5 breaths. Inhale and walk your hands over to the right side, and place left palm on top of right hand as you exhale. Feel the stretch on the left side of the body. Stay here for five breaths.
6/ Cat and Cow Yoga Flow
Come up into a table-top position, knees beneath hips (you can measure this by placing two fists between your thighs) and hands beneath shoulders.
Inhale for cow: drop your belly as you arch your back and stick out your bum. Lift the forehead up towards the sky. Exhale for cat: tilt the pelvis inwards, press the spine up towards the sky and look towards your belly button. Repeat 10 times on each side. Move slowly and with intention.
7/ Thread The Needle
Come back into a neutral tabletop position. Inhale to lift the right hand up towards to the ceiling, exhale to thread the needle by reaching the hand beneath the body and passing and reaching the hand right hand between the left thigh and left arm, placing your right temple on the mat. Extend the left hand and arm forwards. Stay here for 5 to 10 breaths. Repeat on the opposite side.
Remember that your yoga practise is about you and no-one else.
Come back into a neutral tabletop position. Exhale as you sit up, sit-bones on your ankles, feet flat, hands resting in your lap. Take one deep round of breath here. Now release your legs out from beneath you to the left side and then extend them out straight in front of you. Gently begin to lie down, lowering your whole spine to the mat, arms rest next to your sides for savasana pose.
8 & 9/ Reclining Ankle-To-Knee Windshield-Wiper Into Glute stretch
Inhale to place your feet on the floor, knees pointed towards the sky (as if you’re going to set up for bridge). Now lift the right foot and place it on top of the left thigh (right knee pointed out towards the right). Extend your arms out to the side in a T-shape. As you exhale, gently let the left thigh drop to the left side (so your right foot touches the floor). Keep both shoulder blades on the mat. Inhale as you lift the left leg back through centre. Exhale to gently drop it over to the right side. Inhale to come back up to centre. Sway slowly and intentionally from left to right 10 times.
Bring the knees back to centre, now reach your right hand between the thighs and left hand on the outside of the left thigh to clasp around the left shin. Bring the left thigh closer towards your chest for a glute stretch. Hold for 5 breaths.
Repeat with the opposite leg and side. On your last exhale release both legs down to the mat.
10/ Knees To Chest Pose
Inhale as you bring both of your knees into chest, wrapping your arms around your shins, holding opposite elbows if you can. Try flatten the entire spine on the floor. You may feel your knees lift slightly – use your arms to press your thighs gently against your torso. Stay here for about 10 breaths.
Yoga teaches us to show ourselves true kindness, which is through acceptance of self. Each day you will be different. Go with what your body is allowing today.
11 & 12/ Wind-Removing Pose Into Yoga Supine Twist
From Knees To Chest Pose, exhale to release your left leg down to the mat, extending it out in front of you. Keeping your right knee into your chest, wrap your hands around your right shin and squeeze your leg into your torso. Hold for five breaths.
Exhale as your release the right knee over to the left side, keeping both shoulder blades on the mat. Extend the right arm out to the right side and place the left hand on top of the right thigh, guiding it down. Hold for five to 10 breaths.
Repeat on the opposite side. Exhale and release the left leg down, so both legs are extended out on the mat in front of you.
13/ Reclining Bound Angle Pose
Bring the soles of your feet to touch, knees relaxed out to the sides in Reclining Bound Angle Pose. Place your right hand on your belly and your left hand over your heart and take 10 deep breaths. Inhale through the nose to a count of four, hold for four counts and exhale for a count of four, out the nose, like we did at the beginning. Use the connection of the hands on the body to feel the chest and belly rise and sink with the breath.
14/ Savasana — The Yoga Finisher
Exhale to release both legs, so both legs are extended out on the mat in front of you. Allow the arms to rest alongside the body, palms up towards the sky. Tuck your chin slightly so your neck is long. Close your eyes. Focus on your natural rhythm of breath in and out through the nose. Allow the face to soften. Feel the body ground completely into the mat and relax.
Bonus! Stay here as long as you like!
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