17 Best Yoga Poses for Anxiety (Depression and Stress)

Geoffrey Lions
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Butterfly Pose (Baddha Konasana)

Also known as Crescent Lunge, this pose helps to relieve anxiety, nervousness, and mild depression. Butterfly Pose stretches and opens the hips, abs, groin, and back. It relaxes the upper leg muscle, the groin area, and the hip flexors. This pose also helps to strengthen the muscles of the back, by increasing blood flow to the area. Butterfly Pose relieves tension in the upper body and neck, due to the stretching of the back muscles.

To get into the pose: start seated with legs outstretched. Push your pelvis forward and your knees back. Bend your torso forward while being careful to balance on your sitting bones, not on your tailbone. If your shoulders are tight, prop yourself up on a strap (like a belt). Hold the pose for up to two minutes.

Extended Triangle Pose (Utthita Trikonasana)

  • Extended Triangle is a great combination stretch and strengthening pose, and a good way to get the body warmed up.
  • It stretches hips and groins, opens shoulders, and extends and strengthens the spine.
  • This pose strengthens the legs, arms, back, and improves balance and coordination.
  • This pose can relieve stress, depression, fatigue, and strengthen the immune system.
  • The alignment of this pose promotes proper organ function, and can reduce depression and stress.
  • This pose stretches your body and stimulates the internal organs, improving circulation, and prevents fatigue.

How to do this pose:

  • Stand in Tadasana (mountain pose).
  • Extend your left leg and place the outer edge of your left foot to the inside of your right foot.
  • Lengthen your spine, expand your chest, and turn your palms to face downward.
  • Bring your palms together at your chest, spreading your shoulder blades away form one another.
  • Lift your torso upward.
  • Make sure your hips are level.
  • Align your left heel with your right arch.
  • Extend your arms and place your palms on the top of your thighs.
  • Now, try to rotate your torso outward and press downward, stretching the pelvis.
  • Hold the pose for 20-30 seconds.

Bridge Pose (Setu Bandha Sarvangasana)

This pose can be difficult for beginners. It involves lying on your back. Raise your arms above your head and clasp them. Keeping your shoulders relaxed, lift your hips off the mat. You may not be able to lift them very high and that’s okay!

Tighten your glutes and thighs and keep your arms as close to your ears as you can for a few breaths. Slowly lower your hips back down to the mat and rest.

When you release from the pose, make sure to release your arms first and then your hips. You don’t want to put pressure on your neck when you move.

This pose stretches your shoulders, back, hips, and neck while releasing tension and stress.

Half Moon Pose (Ardha Chandrasana)

This pose helps increase flexibility in the lower back which is good for relieving potential discomfort when sitting for long periods of time. Half moon pose is also a great pose for when you’re feeling a little anxious about how you’re doing in your Yoga practice. This pose is often associated with the Goddess or Shakti energy, which can be used as an empowering tool when you’re feeling a little uneasy. This is also a great pose for opening the hips and stretching the spine.

Begin laying on your back with one leg bent, the other placed straight on the floor. Straighten the leg on the floor, keeping the knee bent.

Push your foot toward the ceiling, keeping the entire back of the leg parallel to the floor.

Place your hand on the bent knee for support and gently begin to push the bent knee away from the straight leg. Controlling this movement with your hand will help keep you steady as you’re stretching.

If possible, level your hips by pushing the bent knee higher toward the ceiling.

Hold the position for 30 seconds to a minute before you switch the legs.

Legs-Up-The-Wall Pose (Viparita Karani)

Legs-up-the-wall is an inverted Yoga pose, where instead of being on the ground, you are on a wall. This pose is a great, quick pick-me-up. It reduces stress, anxiety and even depression. It’s also a powerful “grounding” pose. It’s a great pose to do when you are feeling overwhelmed. It’s a wonderful restorative pose. It’s also good for when you feel really moody or emotional because you’re able to stay “grounded” which makes it easier to access those feelings.

When to do it: Do this pose on a daily basis in the morning or at night.

How to do it:

{1}. Lie on your back and slowly bring one leg up the wall (start with the right leg, then switch to the left leg).
{2}. Leave the erector spinae muscles (at the back of the spine) relaxed so that they support you.
{3}. Place your shoulders directly on the floor and your arms on the mat with the palms facing upwards.
{4}. Close your eyes and relax the entire body.
{5}. Stay in this pose for as long as you like.

Child’s Pose (Balasana)

What You Need: Two yoga blocks, a blanket, or a bolster.

How you do it: Kneel down on the floor, making sure that your knees are hip distance apart. Depending on your level of flexibility, move the yoga blocks under each knee for extra support and comfort. If you’re on a hard surface, put a blanket or a bolster or two under your knees. Try to keep your arms on the floor. You’ll want your hips to be over your knees, so if you’re a beginner, you’ll want to fold your arms and put them on the floor in front of your torso. If that feels good, you can also wrap your arms around your knees and put your forehead on the floor. Stay here for as long as you like.

Seated Forward Bend (Paschimottanasana)

Benefits: Deep forward bends, including Paschimottanasana, Anjaneyasana, and Ustrasana, are amongst the oldest in use. British registered yoga teacher Patanjali listed asana to release the nerves, calm the fluctuations of the mind and soothe the brain.

As the name suggests, this asana helps with anxiety, stress, and depression. The asana slows the breathing rate and restores calmness and stability.

How To Perform Seated Forward Bend:

Sit in a comfortable seat.

Offer your hands in Namaste.

Breathe in and bend forward.

Extend both your arms in front to grasp both your ankles.

Take a few breaths to stretch your whole body.

Hold on if comfortable.

Then release.

Inhale and sit upright.

Benefits: Paschimottanasana reverses the effects of gravity on the spinal column, massages the abdominal organs, and stretches the thighs, groins, and calves. Some practitioners are likely to feel a big stretch in their backs off the floor, but to see the full benefits, come back up and repeat.

How To Perform Seated Forward Bend:

Gently fold forward.

Extend both your arms in front to grasp both your ankles.

Draw your head down and up your spine.

Cow Pose (Bitilasana)

The cow pose (bitilasana) is a highly recommended pose for those who struggle with a racing mind and feel as though they are having an anxiety attack. This pose is not only good for anxiety, but for depression as well.

This is another one of the standing yoga poses that really helps with concentration and reduces stress.

In the cow pose, you will only have to stay in the pose for a few seconds, or a few breaths at most, but the effects will last throughout the day.

Begin in the cow pose by standing on the toes of your feet, with your big toes pressed tightly together, as well as your heels. Your heels should be slightly apart and your arms should be spread wide.

Your stance should be a little wider than your shoulders.

Suck in your stomach as far as you can.

Exhale and push your stomach out towards the belt line. If you are having a hard time visualizing this, try standing in a mirror and go through the pose while looking at yourself. You will be able to see exactly where you need to push.

Inhale as you return to the starting position.

Repeat the pose as often as you like.

Cat Pose (Marjaryasana)

Cat pose is often an overlooked, but incredibly calming, asana. In this asana, you simply lie on your stomach and raise your chin, upper chest, and head off the floor, and then relax. In addition, Cat pose reduces anxiety by working the abdominal muscles.

This asana can also be modified by placing a block or rolled up towel under the belly. You can also add to the intensity of the asana by raising your legs and slowly raising and lowering them.

Standing Forward Bend (Uttanasana)

This pose stretches the hamstrings, the muscles between the hips and the knees; it calms the mind and relaxes the chest and the lungs.

Inhale as you lift your arms up overhead. Keep your arms relaxed and your shoulder blades down your back. Exhale and bend forward from the hip joints, and bring your forehead towards your knees. Keep your knees straight, not locked. You can let your arms come forward if you would like.

However, keep your front ribs lifted and your shoulder blades down. Exhale and extend out through your fingertips. If you are able, bring your fingertips down to the mat. Lower your knees if you would like, keeping your chest open and shoulders relaxed.

Camel Pose (Ustrasana)

The Camel Pose is one of the best asanas for depression. It stimulates the thyroid gland, improves blood circulation, stomach functioning and calms the mind. Sit on the floor with your legs stretched. Bend your right foot and put your right calf over your left thigh. Now, bend your left leg and put your left foot near your right buttock.

Now, wrap your right hand around your left thigh and bring your head up in a way your chin touches your left shoulder. Stay on this position for few seconds. Release your hands and head. Stretch out your left arm over your head and bring it down your back. Bend it.

Now, wrap your right arm under your left leg and put your head over it. Move it back and forth and put a little pressure. One side is that the right palm and the other side is the left palm.

Stay in this position for a few seconds to get the maximum benefits. For the beginners, stay on the position for 5 seconds but in the progress of the stages, you can stay more time on the position.

You can perform 5-15 repetitions. This asana is to be practiced daily.

Fish Pose (Matsyasana)

Fish pose is the first of the series of the forward bending asanas. It’s a gentle pose that can be done by anyone anytime. In this asana, our spine gets extended and we start getting the back stretch. Fish pose helps reduce stress and anxiety. Whereas, it enhances concentration and focus.

How to do:

Lie down on your back with your arms beside your body.

Now inhale and raise your chest with your knees bent and your heels on the floor.

Bring the arms down, and fold them alongside your body.

While doing this, tilt your head back and exhale.

Now, with your neck in line with your spine, breathe in.

While you breathe out, slowly spread your arms and rest the elbows on the ground outside the shoulder joint.

Now, gently open your palms.

This pose should not cause any stress on the neck or the spine.

Staff Pose (Dandasana)

The ultimate pose to relieve neck pain as it relieves weight of the head. Even when your body is stiff, a few rounds of this might do wonder for you.

Upward Salute (Urdhva Hastasana)

The upward salute is often referred to as the yoga salute and is done at the beginning of each yoga session in some classes. In the upward salute, the arms are raised above the head as the shoulders open and chest expands. This pose is believed to have originated in the tradition of the hatha yoga school, which is more recent than the other two schools of yoga, the raja yoga and jnana yoga.

Upward salute is believed to reverse the flow of energy in the body, sending energy upwards and helping to purify and strengthen the body. It is believed that this practice releases tension in the shoulders, increases the oxygen flow in the body and releases toxins from the body.

The upward salute can be easily added to a meditation session or any yogic session. The yoga salute is believed to help relieve depression and improve energy levels. It is also believed to relieve stress and to increase concentration.

Tree Pose (Vriksasana)

Tree pose is a great posture because it not only engages your core muscles, but it also helps to improve your balance. It’s a good pose to try if you have anxiety because it doesn’t require a lot of balance.

Start by standing at the top of your mat with your feet together. Turn your right foot a little to the side, and your left foot so that it’s facing out. Bend your right knee and grab the inside of your right foot with your left hand.

Relax your shoulders as you try to reach your thumb to the big toe of your right foot. The more you can touch your fingers, the more stretch you’ll feel in the back of your shoulders.

Stay for a few breaths, and switch sides.

Dolphin Pose (Ardha Pincha Mayurasana)

To do this pose, you’ll need to attach a belt that’s approximately 2 to 4 feet in length to two stable and immovable objects. Next, anchor the belt around your upper thighs, crisscrossing it so that the ends are approximately 10 inches away from your hips.

The upper thigh areas should be stable and therefore should not move during the pose. Hold onto something for stability and ease yourself into the pose. Your arms should be directly out to your sides, and hands should be pressing on the ground.

Spend some time focusing on your breath. Deep breathes in and out help relieve stress and anxiety. Inhale deeply for 5 seconds, hold your breathe for 5 seconds, and exhale for 5 seconds. Try holding the pose for 30 seconds, resting for 30 seconds, and repeating this for 3-5 rounds.

You’ll notice your breathing getting deeper and deeper with each breath, making your body feel light, and your mind feeling calm. This pose is a great way to start an anxiety-relieving yoga session.

Benefits: Helps relieve anxiety, calms the mind, stretches and strengthens the arms, shoulders, and chest.

Head to Knee Pose (Janu Sirsasana)

Corpse Pose (Savasana)

This is a simple and effective way to relax and calm all your physical tensions and stress. The corpse pose usually lasts 10 minutes but for best results should be repeated at least 2 times. To do this asana you have to lie down on your back and keep your arms to your side and place one of your eye closed and the other one half open. The goal is to make your body feel heavy and relaxed. Your breathing should be slow and shallow. Be sure to relax your face so the tension around the eyes and cheeks goes away. You can also place a cloth over your eyes if you’re feeling too warm.

Benefits:

The main goal of this asana is to feel calm and relaxed and to let go of some of the tension that accumulated throughout the day. The endocrine system is is balanced, especially your adrenal glands, which produce corticosteroids. It’s known to calm the nervous system, and also help with insomnia.

The asana is also good for asthmatics, as it’s been known to help with breathing difficulties.

Other Benefits:

It also helps relieve the pain that some people feel up the neck and shoulders. Many different tensions and headaches are also relieved with corpse pose.