Take a yoga strap and make a big loop, then hook the strap around the back of your skull. Raise one leg up and hook the other end of the strap around the sole of your foot. Hold onto the strap with your hands on either side (avoid bunching the strap together in the middle).
If you do not have a strap, simply raise your leg and hold onto the back of the thigh or calf (or foot, if this is possible for you). You will be holding this pose for several minutes so refrain from pushing yourself into your deepest variation of this pose. You want it to be relaxing, so if you find that your leg starts shaking, just ease off slightly so that you can find a softness in the pose.
It is natural for your shoulders to raise slightly away from the ground, but your aim here is to let them to fall back toward the mat. As before, practice this pose daily and hold for 3-5 minutes, paying close attention to your breathing through your nose. Notice the cool air as you breathe in and the warm air as you breathe out. If you mind wanders, simply bring it back to the quality of your breath and the sensations around you.
3. Mind: 5-Minute Meditation
If you struggle with anxiety, it's important to keep your meditation practice simple and with very specific guidelines. This will help ease feelings of stress. For example, try counting the breath for 5 minutes when you wake up in the morning or go to sleep at night.
Or, find a comfortable seat on a cushion, so that your hips are slightly raised above your knees. Sit up tall and rest the palms of your hands on your knees. Let your shoulders be soft and allow your elbows to hang directly below your shoulders. Close your eyes and begin by just noticing the quality of your breath as your breathe in and out through your nose. After a few breaths, start counting: 5 counts for your inhale, 5 counts for your exhale. Continue this for 5 minutes (you can always set an alarm to remind you when to stop). An additional 1-2 minutes can be practiced as needed throughout the day.
Routine is fundamental to easing anxiety. Whether it is waking up each morning and meditating, or going on a run, both your body and your mind will benefit from this clear structure. All too often, we have unrealistic expectations of ourselves, which when we don’t reach, that can induce stress and anxiety. So keep it short and simple and build up your routine over time. Making just one small change that you continue every day, will have a greater impact then practicing everything in excess just once a month.
Start by introducing these three elements into your daily routine gradually, and choose a time that makes sense for you in order to stay consistent. Even if you begin by doing each pose for just one minute a day, that is still progress!
Photos courtesy of the author