As someone who has dealt with my share of anxiety, it has consistently amazed me how no matter how bad my symptoms are, yoga almost always seems to dispel any sort of anxious feeling in my body. If you've dealt with anxiety, you're familiar with the symptoms — tight chest, racing heart, hot and cold flashes, trembling … the list could go on and on. And, like me, I’m sure you would do just about anything to have command over those feelings and have the power to will them away whenever you want.
Well, after years of wishing it would be socially acceptable to walk through life with a yoga mat strapped to my back so that I could drop down into Down Dog at the first sign of anxiety, I realized that while that may never be the case, there are definitely a few yoga moves that you can do ALMOST anywhere without anyone thinking much of it, especially with some clever and discreet modification.
Here are my five favorites that I like to do throughout the day, and I make sure to sprinkle the full poses in almost all of my classes as well!
Seems like this one would be tough to do in the middle of a meeting, but there are SO many modifications that give you the same hip opening benefit that the full pose offers. Simply sit upright, with both legs parallel on the floor beneath you, and then cross your right ankle over your left thigh. If you want to go further, lean forward… if you are flexible enough you can even lean all the way down and pretend you're looking at your foot. No one will ever know. Alternatively, you can sit in almost any chair in double pigeon, stacking your shins on top of one another with your knees and ankles stacked. Switch sides and repeat.
2. Forward fold
There are so many benefits to a forward fold, one of the primary ones being the ability to turn your gaze and focus inward, calming your central nervous system. How to do this outside the yoga studio? In a chair, simply fold forward over your legs and hold. You could be looking for something on the floor, or tying your shoe. Standing, you can either go into a full forward fold (maybe you are looking for a contact lens!) or grab a hold of your desk or chair and walk your legs out until your back is parallel with the floor, coming into a modified downward dog.
3. Side twists
Nothing helps to loosen up a tight chest then doing a few twists. In your chair, scoot up to the front and sit upright. Place your right hand on the back of your chair and left hand either on your right thigh or arm rest and twist, from above your navel, to the right. Hold for a few breaths and repeat on the other side.
4. Pranayama (Breath)
When your heart is racing — in a lunch meeting or on a crowded elevator — always return your focus to your breath. Breathe in deeply through your nose, with an even exhale out — long, steady, and slow. Use your inhale to pull in positive energy and with your exhale push out any negativity. And if no one is looking, let your breath out with a little lion’s breath, opening your mouth and exhaling fast and forcefully with a “ha” sound.
5. Anjali mudra
This classic yoga mudra is where you bring both your hands to heart center and sit in quiet. It helps to make you feel balanced and at ease within your body and surroundings. To modify, simply lay your hands over your heart and channel good energy throughout your body. If you can, close your eyes and try to cultivate some silence within.
One day, I hope it will be acceptable, at least in my world, to launch into impulsive sun salutations and arm balances whenever I feel like it. I’m working on it. Until then, I know these moves will continue to help me out, and I hope they do the same for you.