17 Best Yoga Poses for Anxiety (Depression and Stress)

Yoga Poses for Anxiety and Depression

When anxiety takes hold it can be difficult to find a way to refocus your mind.

Thankfully relief from the symptoms of common mental health conditions is just one of the many benefits of yoga.

You’ll discover in this article, the best asanas for anxiety backed up by recent studies and insight from experienced yogis.

Don’t let anxious feelings take over your life, put yourself back in control.

Pose 1: Butterfly (Baddha Konasana)

1. Butterfly (Baddha Konasana)

If you’re looking for a relatively simple posture that grounds you in the moment when you’re feeling anxious, then try this one!

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

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

Baddha konasana also encourages you to enter a meditative state, allowing you to enjoy all the health advantages of meditation.

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

Pose 2: Extended Triangle (Utthita Trikonasana)

2. Extended Triangle (Utthita Trikonasana)

Experts recommend this simple asana as a yoga exercise for beginners, as it’s seen as a pose 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.[1]

Yoga Journal recommends including it as part of a sequence to train your brain to relax.[2]

Extended triangle is one of a number of asanas that are designed to access the parasympathetic nervous system.

This part of your 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)

This powerful inversion opens up space around your heart, creating more freedom for you to focus and think more clearly.

Inversion postures in general 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.[3]

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

YouTube video
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.

It’s a cooling one, encouraging a calm and soothing energy to enter your body and making you relax.

Also, we have a tendency to slouch when we are low.

This movement opens the whole front of your body, allowing you to enjoy the advantages of good 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 legs-up-the-wall.

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

Firstly, the classic form of the 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 ideal for anxious people.

Secondly, there is the bolster variation:

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 balasana “provides a sense of calm and stability”, ideal if your anxiety is impacting on your sleep.[4]

However don’t assume because it’s a calming exercise 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 balasana could impact on cardiac parameters.[5]

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 it not only helps to relieve feelings of stress, but also deal with the associated symptoms such as tiredness and headaches.[6]

Pose 8: Cow (Bitilasana)

8. Cow (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 uncontrollable worry it can be useful to connect to your breathing to feel calmer.

This form encourages 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.[7]

As you breathe deeper and deeper, the slower the motion becomes and the calmer you will be.

Pose 9: Cat (Marjaryasana)

9. Cat (Marjaryasana)

You typically practice by going between cat and cow 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 form:

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:

YouTube video
Pose 10: Standing Forward Bend (Uttanasana)

10. Standing Forward Bend (Uttanasana)

You can enjoy many physical perks particularly for your neck and lower back with this one!

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

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

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.

Pose 11: Camel (Ustrasana)

11. Camel (Ustrasana)

Ustrasana is a powerful yoga pose for back pain, however it’s also seen as great for dealing with your emotions.


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.[8]

It also opens up the heart chakra, helping to release your emotions, with many people finding they start crying when practicing the exercise.

Pose 12: Fish (Matsyasana)

12. Fish (Matsyasana)

Use this motion to release any pent up emotions, as it’s also a heart opener.

Yogis explain how during the motion it’s essential that you keep your breathing even to experience a sense of calm.[9]

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

Pose 13: Staff (Dandasana)

13. Staff (Dandasana)

One of the most popular reasons people start yoga is to cope with stress, according to the latest yoga statistics. Staff can be particularly useful.

Yoga practitioners describe how practicing this posture regularly, can decrease stress hormones within your body.[10]

If you struggle with tiredness as a side effect of your disorder, the position is thought to give you a boost of energy.

Worries keeping you awake at night? There is evidence to show that dandasana is a great asana for sleep.

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 form for 30 seconds with your eyes closed to experience the full benefit.[11]

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

Pose 15: Tree (Vriksasana)

15. Tree (Vriksasana)

Tree is a balancing pose that requires your full concentration, which can be a welcome distraction.

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

Research into the impact of yoga for back pain looked at how a number of postures, including vriksasana, could help people with their condition.[12]

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 has a number of different merits, including helping those with mild symptoms of depression.[13]

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

Watch the video below from Yoga with Adriene to learn how to master the exercise:

YouTube video
Pose 17: Corpse Pose (Savasana)

17. Corpse Pose (Savasana)

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

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

Corpse triggers the relaxation response within your body and begins to cool your mind.[14]

Sleep well tonight…

Is your anxiety keeping you awake at night?

If so, start nodding off faster and waking up fresher with one of our yoga poses for sleep.

Laura Smith


Laura Smith

Associate Editorial Manager

Specialist health & wellbeing writer, passionate about discovering new technologies & sharing the latest research.


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  2. Eichenseher, T. (2016). A Yoga Sequence to Train Your Brain to Relax [Online]. Yoga Journal. Available from: https://www.yogajournal.com/practice/yoga-sequences/yoga-sequence-train-brain-relax/ [Accessed 14 July 2023].
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