Yoga Poses for Anxiety and Depression

17 Best Yoga Poses for Anxiety (Depression and Stress)

When anxiety takes hold it can be difficult to find a way to refocus your mind. Yoga has been shown to do amazing things for people living with anxiety, as well as depression.

There are a number of particular poses that can be good for anxious feelings, take a look below at 17 of the best yoga poses for anxiety:

Pose 1: Butterfly Pose (Baddha Konasana)

1. Butterfly Pose (Baddha Konasana)

If you’re looking for a relatively simple posture that grounds you in the moment when you’re feeling anxious, then try Butterly Pose.

By keeping your spine straight you’re allowing tension to drain away.

With a focus on your breathing, yogis feel the pose encourages internal reflection.

Butterfly Pose also combines the healing powers of meditation, as the pose encourages you to enter a meditative state.

Plus it’s powerful for your digestive health, making it the perfect asana for weight loss.

Pose 2: Extended Triangle Pose (Utthita Trikonasana)

2. Extended Triangle Pose (Utthita Trikonasana)

Yoga experts recommend Triangle Pose and Extended Triangle Pose as great postures for beginners.

Extended Triangle Pose in particular is thought to help alleviate anxiety and depression. It is seen as a posture that can help you cope better when life is tough.

How does it work?

Well it’s thought that by tilting your body, you are equally distributing the energy flow, helping you feel calmer and more balanced.

Yoga Journal recommends including the posture as part of a yoga sequence to train your brain to relax.

It’s part of a series of asanas that are designed to access the parasympathetic nervous system.

The parasympathetic nervous system undoes the work of the sympathetic nervous system after a stressful situation. Slowing your heart rate and increasing your digestion.

Pose 3: Bridge Pose (Setu Bandha Sarvangasana)

3. Bridge Pose (Setu Bandha Sarvangasana)

Bridge Pose is a powerful inversion that yogis believe opens up space around your heart.

By doing this it’s believed that it allows more space for you to focus and think more clearly.

Inversion poses generally can be helpful for those with anxiety. Yoga teacher Anika De Vore explains:

Inversions are enormously beneficial to the nervous system. Having the head below the heart is soothing and cooling for the nervous system and is wonderful for toning down stress. Fresh, oxygenated blood is sent to the brain which can help manage anxiety, depression, and insomnia.

Another, and perhaps easier, way to reap the benefits of inversions is to use an inversion table to tip you upside down.

Watch the video below for more information about the Bridge Pose and how it should be practiced:

Pose 4: Half Moon Pose (Ardha Chandrasana)

4. Half Moon Pose (Ardha Chandrasana)

Half Moon is named as such as it’s said to resemble an Indian moon floating in the sky.

Though it’s not easy, it has many advantages when it comes to using yoga to improve your mental health.

The posture is a cooling one, encouraging a calm and soothing energy to enter your body and help you to relax.

We have a tendency to slouch when we feel low.

Half Moon opens the whole front of your body, encouraging better posture and improved self-esteem.

Pose 5: Legs-Up-The-Wall Pose (Viparita Karani)

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

When you need to calm a busy mind there aren’t many postures as powerful as the Legs-Up-The-Wall Pose.

There are two different variations, so choose the one that works for you.

Firstly, the classic Legs-Up-The-Wall Pose:

Renowned yogi Gail Boorstein Grossman explains in her book, Restorative Yoga for Life, how it can help you regain a sense of calm after a stressful day, making it an ideal posture for anxious people.

Secondly, there’s the Legs Up The Wall with Bolster Pose:

This is perfect if you want to be able to completely relax, as your lower back is supported with a bolster.

Pose 4 variation: Legs-Up-The-Wall With Bolster PoseIn fact, in her book Grossman describes how the pose gives you the same physical benefits as a back bend, because it can be so rejuvenating.

She explains:

It is said that twenty minutes spent in this pose has the same beneficial effect on your nervous system as taking a nap.

Pose 6: Child’s Pose (Balasana)

6. Child’s Pose (Balasana)

An article published by Harvard Medical School, highlights how Child’s Pose “provides a sense of calm and stability”, ideal if your anxiety is impacting on your sleep.

However don’t assume because it’s a calming pose that it’s easy, as they warn that you should be careful if you have any hip or knee injuries.

A 2017 study conducted in India on 100 medical students looked at how child’s pose could impact on cardiac parameters.

Results showed a significant reduction in both blood pressure and pulse rate.

Pose 7: Seated Forward Bend (Paschimottanasana)

7. Seated Forward Bend (Paschimottanasana)

We know yoga has a number of advantages for your mental health, thanks to its mindful movements. Seated Forward Bend is considered to be particularly good.

It gives the back of your body a full stretch, all the way from your heels to your neck.

Research shows that the posture can not only help to relieve feelings of anxiety and stress, but also deal with the associated symptoms such as tiredness and headaches.

Pose 8: Cow Pose (Bitilasana)

8. Cow Pose (Bitilasana)

One of the pillars of yoga is breath.

There are a range of different techniques, each with their own effect on the body and emotions.

When you’re suffering with low mood or anxious thoughts it can be useful to connect to your breathing to help you feel calmer.

Cow Pose is typically practiced with Cat Pose, encouraging you to inhale and exhale, while awakening your spine.

Robert Butera in his book, Yoga Therapy for Stress and Anxiety explains that the key is to connect your breath with your movement.

As you breath deeper and deeper, the slower the motion of the posture becomes and the calmer you will be.

Pose 9: Cat Pose (Marjaryasana)

9. Cat Pose (Marjaryasana)

Cat Pose is typically practiced by going between Cat and Cow Pose to open up, then relax your back.

In Robert Butera’s aforementioned book, Yoga Therapy for Stress and Anxiety, he explains the grounding qualities of the pose:

The Cat Pose consists of relaxation of your back by taking on a posture of a cat… this movement allows us grounding as we begin to gently open up the back body and stimulate the core.

Watch the video below to see how to perform Cat/Cow Pose effectively:

Pose 10: Standing Forward Bend (Uttanasana)

10. Standing Forward Bend (Uttanasana)

Standing Forward Bend provides many physical benefits particularly for your neck and lower back.

However it is also shown to reduce stress, anxiety and depression.

Celebrated yoga teacher, B. K. S Iyengar describes how, while practicing this pose:

The heart beats are slowed down and the spinal nerves rejuvenated. Any depression felt in the mind is removed if one holds the pose for two minutes or more.

Some even report that Uttanasana can act like a medicine for depression if practiced regularly.

Pose 11: Camel Pose (Ustrasana)

11. Camel Pose (Ustrasana)

Camel Pose is a powerful posture for people practicing yoga for back pain, however it’s also seen as great for dealing with your emotions.

Why?

Well as the Yoga Business Academy explains, it’s a great stress reliever, helping to lift you up (literally!) when you’re feeling weighed down by your problems.

The pose is also thought to open up the heart chakra, helping to release your emotions, with many people finding they start crying when practicing the pose.

Research has also shown that the chest-opening pose is effective for treating back pain and neck pain.

Pose 12: Fish Pose (Matsyasana)

12. Fish Pose (Matsyasana)

Another pose that can help you to release any pent up emotions is Fish Pose, as it’s also a heart opener.

Yogis explain how during the pose it’s essential that you keep your breathing even, which can help you to feel calmer.

They recommend practicing the pose regularly to build confidence and to grow emotionally – getting through any problems that you encounter, swimmingly!

Pose 13: Staff Pose (Dandasana)

13. Staff Pose (Dandasana)

One of the most popular reasons people start yoga is to help them cope with stress. With Staff Pose thought to be particularly useful.

Yoga practitioners describe how practicing this posture regularly, can help to decrease the stress hormone within your body.

If you struggle with tiredness as a side effect of your anxiety, Staff Pose is thought to give you a boost of energy.

There is also evidence to show that Dandasana is a pose that can help to encourage sleep, perfect if your busy mind is keeping you awake at night.

Pose 14: Upward Salute (Urdhva Hastasana)

14. Upward Salute (Urdhva Hastasana)

Upward Salute is often practiced as part of a Sun Salutation, a series of postures that encourage you to flow through moves while focusing on your breathing.

It’s great for anxiety as essentially the energy within your body can move freely.

Yogis recommend holding the posture for 30 seconds with your eyes closed to feel the full benefit of the posture.

Recognised as a self-esteem boosting asana, it can help to improve our sense of power and control.

Pose 15: Tree Pose (Vriksasana)

15. Tree Pose (Vriksasana)

Balancing poses like Tree Pose require your full concentration, helping you switch off your busy mind.

You feel strong and steady when you master the pose, in turn feeling more in control of your emotions.

Research in to the impact of yoga on back pain looked at how a number of postures, including Tree Pose, could help people cope with their condition.

Results showed that the postures helped to release serotonin, commonly known as the “happy chemical”!

Pose 16: Dolphin Pose (Ardha Pincha Mayurasana)

16. Dolphin Pose (Ardha Pincha Mayurasana)

Dolphin Pose has a number of different benefits, including helping those with mild symptoms of depression.

The shape of the pose means there’s increased blood flow to the brain to improve awareness and concentration.

If you’re struggling to sleep, Dolphin Pose can help with insomnia. Watch the view below from Yoga with Adriene to learn how to master the pose:

Pose 17: Corpse Pose (Savasana)

17. Corpse Pose (Savasana)

Most physical yoga sessions will end with the corpse pose. It might look like a simple practice however it can have a powerful effect.

Life can be exhausting when you live with anxiety, and it can drain you both physically and mentally.

Corpse Pose triggers the relaxation response within your body and begins to cool your mind.

This restorative asana encourages complete relaxation.

Pose 17 variation: Supported Corpse Pose

Is your anxiety keeping you awake at night?

If so, take a look at our list of eight yoga poses for sleep to help you nod off faster and wake up fresher!