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Yoga and Meditation for Anxiety

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We’re all guilty of it from time to time: spreading ourselves too thin with work. I know I do it. And although I’m so grateful to have a job, I admit my anxiety creeps in from time to time, blocking me from enjoying my experience. My life experience, that is. I get caught up in fear or negative thoughts and sometimes I think the bottom might fall out and I won’t be okay. Has this ever happened to you?

Recently, I met with Caroline Klebl, a world-renowned Ashtanga yoga teacher, who dedicates the majority of her career to training yoga teachers. Caroline is dedicated to making sure the world knows the importance of practicing yoga. “Yoga is a 5,000-year-old tradition that includes various practices designed to attain liberation and improve the life experience,” she explains. When I met up with her for a quick yoga and advice session, I was drawn to her quiet and centered demeanor. It was the perfect juxtaposition to the loud, screeching Los Angeles traffic outside.

When I asked Caroline if she could give me a few tips on how to reduce anxiety and achieve more of a yogic state-of-mind, it was right up her alley. And it makes sense: yoga is a physical practice that teaches you how to stay present. If you’re present, with no thoughts of past or future, there’s no room for anxiety.

Caroline repeated the word “focus.” Yoga teaches focus. Yoga is a focused meditation that “eliminates impurities and reduces the thoughts of movements of the mind,” she says. “And by practicing yoga, four states of awareness are cultivated: analytical thinking, insight, bliss, and a sense of the true self.” Sounds good to me!

Aware that life can get busy, Caroline shared these simple meditation exercises and yoga poses to reduce anxiety that are easy to do at home. They are great to do everyday to prevent anxiety, but can also be done on those extra stressful days. Pick and choose which moves you want to do, or do them all together, it’s up to you.  

Simple Meditation Exercises

Quiet Down

Sit comfortably with a straight spine. Relax the muscles in the face and hands and direct awareness to your breath. When thoughts arise, let them go and focus continuously on breathing in and out. Don’t judge your thoughts. Just be aware. At first, try this for a few minutes every day. Once you improve, try and do it for 10 to 30 minutes. It gets easier the more you practice.

Breathe Deeply

Sit comfortably with a straight spine. Breathe in and out through the nostrils. Begin lengthening and deepening the breath by focusing on your exhales. Exhale completely by drawing the navel back to the spine and emptying the lungs. Then inhale and lengthen the inhale by lifting and expanding the rib cage out to the sides. Continue to breathe deeply, counting to eight on each inhale and exhale. Repeat for 10 to 20 breaths.

Yoga Postures to Reduce Anxiety

Marjaryasana (Cat-Cow)

1: Come onto the hands and knees. Place knees hip-width apart and hands shoulder-width apart. Starting with the cat, exhale and draw the navel back to the spine. As you arch and raise the spine, tuck your tailbone, and draw the chin toward your chest.

2: To come into cow, as you inhale, let the rib cage expand as you lower the belly and arch your spine in the opposite direction, into a “U” shape. Lift the sit bones, head, and look up as you do this.

3: Breathe deeply through the nose; repeat ten times, flowing back and forth between cat and cow.

4: Exhale and move into child’s pose: lower hips down to heels, rest your forehead on the floor, and reach arms along the sides of your body with palms facing up. 

Samastitihi (Equal Standing) and Uttanasana (Standing Forward Bend)

1: Stand with feet together. Straighten up your spine, draw shoulders back, and relax them down. Breathe through your nose, inhale, and raise arms out to the sides and up over your head as you tilt your head back—look up to your thumbs above.

2: Exhale and reach arms out and down and fold forward, keeping legs straight. Reach your hands down to the floor on either side of your feet, and lower your head.

3: Inhale and raise head until your spine straightens.

4: Exhale, fold forward and down. Inhale and raise the torso, reaching arms out and up over your head. Exhale and lower arms down to sides.

Repeat ten times.

Shavasana (Corpse Pose)

1: Lie on back (without a pillow). Relax the arms down on either side of your body with palms facing up.

2: Relax legs and allow feet to drop down to sides.

3: Close your eyes and feel the weight of your body sink into the floor.

4: Relax your muscles in the face, shoulders, arms, torso, hips, and legs.

5: Rest deeply for ten minutes.

Kit Rich is Los Angeles-based fitness trainer with endless exercise and nutritional know-how. Hollywood’s hottest stars are addicted to Kit’s unique, multi-disciplined approach that combines cardio, yoga, Pilates, and weight training. Kit’s clients are immediately taken by her funny and honest approach to health and fitness. She treats her clients as she treats herself, “with a hard challenge, sensibility, sensitively, and a good laugh.” Follow Kit on Twitter @kitrichfitness.