Too Tight to Stretch Artwork
Season 2 - Episode 11

Relieve Anxiety

35 min - Practice
34 likes
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Emily guides us in a slow and gentle practice to relieve anxiety. We focus on conscious breathing and easy movements to help calm any anxious energy and quiet the mind. The practice results in feeling more relaxed, peaceful, and centered.
What You'll Need: Mat, Blanket, Block

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(gentle ocean sounds) Welcome. Today we'll be practicing a short practice for anxiety and this is a practice that I've developed because oftentimes when I'm feeling anxious myself, I notice that even though I think I should be doing calming and quiet yoga poses, and calming breath practices, that I need to prepare myself in order to do that. And this practice uses breathing, movement, and counting the breath to focus the mind and allow you to shift into some more calming yoga poses and breath practices. And this is a great practice to practice not only when you're feeling anxious, but also just to have in your back pocket for when you do. So you can practice it when you're feeling calm and learn it a little bit more so that you can use it when you really need it.

So we'll start out laying on the back and I'll have you use a blanket underneath your neck for a little bit of extra support. I'm gonna lay down and just have the knees bent and the feet hip-width apart. And just give yourself maybe even a little roll to support your neck. And then take your hands and place your hands on your low belly. Allow your eyes to close and begin to sense into your body and feel your spine elongating on the floor, space between your tailbone and the crown of your head.

Notice sensations that you may be experiencing in your body. And then begin to deepen your breath and start to draw the breath down into the low lobes of your lungs and beginning to feel your abdomen expand as you breathe in. And release to the floor as you breathe out. And we'll just take a few rounds just like this, inhaling, expanding the abdomen, and exhaling, allowing the belly to drop back down towards the Earth as you exhale. The next time that you inhale, inhale for a count to three.

Inhaling one, two, three. Pause with the breath held in for one, two, three. Exhale for three. One, two, three. And pause with your breath held out for one, two, three.

Inhale for three. One, two, three. Pause for three. One, two, three. Exhale for three.

One, two, three. And pause with your breath out. One, two, three. Inhale for three. One, two, three.

Pause. One, two, three. Exhale for three. One, two, three. And pause.

One, two, three. So this next round we'll grow the breath a little bit longer to a four count. But if that, for any reason, feels uncomfortable for you, you can keep with the three count or you can even go a little bit lower to a two count. So we'll start again inhaling into the low belly. One, two, three, four.

Pause. One, two, three, four. Exhale. One, two, three, four. Pause.

One, two, three, four. Inhale. One, two, three, four. Pause. One, two, three, four.

Exhale. One, two, three, four. Pause. One, two, three, four. Inhale.

One, two, three, four. Pause. One, two, three, four. Exhale. One, two, three, four.

Pause. One, two, three, four. And let that go for a moment. Bring your arms down to your sides. We'll use that same four-part breath now but we'll add in some arm movements so we're going to focus a little bit more coordinating our breath and our movement.

As you inhale, start to raise your arms overhead for one, two, three, four. Pause. One, two, three, four. Exhale. One, two, three, four.

Pause. One, two, three, four. Inhale. One, two, three, four. Pause.

One, two, three, four. Exhale. One, two, three, four. Pause. One, two, three, four.

Inhale. One, two, three, four. Pause. One, two, three, four. Exhale.

One, two, three, four. Pause. One, two, three, four. Now, remove the blanket from underneath your head and just set it off to the side. And bring your head back down to the floor.

And now we'll add in with that same breath, we'll add in lifting the hips up into a very gentle bridge pose. So, we'll keep using the four-part breath. As we inhale we'll lift our hips and our arms together at the same time. Inhale. One, two, three, four.

Pause. One, two, three, four. Exhale, lower arms and hips for two, three, four. Pause. Two, three, four.

Inhale. One, two, three, four. Pause. One, two, three, four. Exhale.

One, two, three, four. Pause. One, two, three, four. Last round. Inhale.

One, two, three, four. Pause. One, two, three, four. Exhale. One, two, three, four.

Pause. One, two, three, four. Then just let that whole breath practice go. Now return to your natural breath and just let your hands rest on your belly one more time and just take a full breath in through your nose. Fill up your abdomen here.

Exhale, open your mouth, and just sigh the breath out, just letting go of any control over the breath for this moment. And then from here, draw your knees in towards your chest. Take your hands and place them on your knee caps with your fingers pointing down towards your toes. Take an inhale here and as you exhale, gently draw your knees in towards your chest, just until you feel a comfortable stretch on your low back. As you inhale, allow the knees to move away until your arms are straight.

Exhale, draw your belly back and draw the knees slowly in for that full length of your exhalation. Inhaling, knees move away until your arms are straight. Exhale, draw the belly back as you draw the knees in. And as you're doing this your abdominal muscles are working just a little bit more each time than your arms and your hands. So your hands are just resting very lightly as you draw the knees in.

And you're drawing your belly back for this action. And then as you inhale, the knees move away, just until you feel that comfortable opening in your abdomen for your full breath. This is the last one. Exhale, draw the knees in one last time and then just pause here and you can keep your hands over your knees or you could even wrap your arms a little bit more around your shins. And then just start to rock a little bit from side to side.

And then next time that you rock over to your right side, just rock all the way over onto your right side and use your hands to bring yourself up to your hands and your knees. Now you may find that you'd like to place a blanket underneath your knees for a little bit of extra padding. Spread your fingers really wide apart and line your knees up underneath your hips and your wrists underneath your shoulders. And then on your next exhale, just allow your head to lower and stretch your hips back towards your heels. And you may just go halfway back or you may go all the way back as far as you can comfortably go.

And then with your inhale, gently pull with your hands to bring yourself back up to hands and knees. And when your shoulders arrive over your wrists just lift your heart just a little bit here. With your exhale, head lowers, and then you're stretching your hips, maybe halfway back, maybe all the way back towards the heels. Let your neck go. And then as you inhale, gently pull with your hands to bring yourself all the way back up to your hands and knees.

And let's just do that together for three more breath rounds. Exhaling, stretching the hips back, lowering that head, really let your neck muscles relax. Inhaling your way back up to hands and knees, gently pulling with the hands and slightly lifting your chest. Exhale as you stretch back. And inhale your way forward.

Get that nice opening in the center of the chest at the top of that inhale and then last time. Exhale, lower the head, stretch the hips back towards the heels. And with your inhale, gently pull with the hands to bring yourself all the way back up. And then from here, we'll try a half downward facing dog. So you'll back your knees up about six inches.

And walk your knees a little bit wider apart. And then just tuck your toes under. Stretch your hips back until your hips line up over your knees and then walk your hands forward. Allow your forehead to drop down towards the Earth, and it may rest on the floor. And then just see here if you can start to deepen your breath just a little bit more.

Feel your side body expand. As you inhale your abdomen expands and then as you exhale emptying out completely. And just feeling this grounding pose as you let your forehead drop down towards the Earth below your hips. Feel the Earth beneath your hands, your knees, your feet. You can stay right here, or else, if you'd like to join me for downward facing dog, you'll make your way back up to your hands and knees.

Crawl your knees back forward underneath your hips and place your wrists over your shoulders. Spread your fingers nice and wide. Roll the upper arms away from one another. Drop your head. Tuck your toes under.

Reach your hips halfway back towards the heels and then lift your knees and lift your hips. And then just keep your knees bent here so you can really give your hamstrings and your calves a little bit of space. Allow your head to hang as you press the Earth away from you with your hands. And just take a few really nice full breaths here. (breathing sounds) On your next exhale, set your knees down on your mat and you can pad underneath the knees with your blanket, if you'd like, here.

You're gonna walk your knees apart and keep the big toes touching one another and then just stretch your hips back towards your heels, towards widening child's pose. Stretch your arms forward. And you may find that you want to just prop yourself on your elbows here if coming down too far isn't comfortable for you. You can just let your head drop again. Or else, you can start to walk your arms forward.

And again, let your forehead come down. It may or may not touch the ground and either way is absolutely fine. Just finding a place where you can completely relax and so letting the elbows bend and rest on the ground and allowing your hips to get a little bit heavy. And then returning back to those really nice full deep breaths. You'll feel how with your knees apart you have a lot of space for your belly here so as you breathe in continuing with these belly breaths, or diaphragmatic breaths, these calming, cooling, relaxing breaths.

Feel the support of the Earth beneath your legs and your arms and notice how the Earth just rises up to meet you. That you can start to surrender a little bit more. (breathing sounds) Let's stay for two more breath rounds here. (breathing sounds) And then as you take your next inhale, just crawl your way back up to your hands and knees. We're gonna make our way back down onto our backs.

And I'm just going to turn around so that you have a better view. So, I'll just shift my body around and here you're going to want to grab your block and shift your hips forward. Have your block where you can reach it as you lay all the way down. And then once you're here, you'll lift your hips and just slide the block so that it's on the lowest side underneath your sacrum, which is that triangle of fused bones right at the base of your spine. And once you feel like you have that in a comfortable spot you'll just let your arms come down alongside the body and allow the eyes to close.

So for a moment, just tune in and let yourself just feel this new shape. You can also notice as you raise your hips above your heart that you're really allowing the body to begin to start its own auto-regulations, its own practice of beginning to slow things down a little bit. And we'll work with one more pranayama practice here, or breath practice. Coming back to our diaphragmatic breath, the belly breath. We'll be adding pauses at the bottom of each exhalation and we're going to grow this pause a little bit longer each time, but if for any reason this gets to a length that isn't comfortable for you, you can always shorten up your pause until you feel comfortable and safe.

So as you feel ready, just begin to take your first nice, free belly breath. As you exhale, follow the breath with your awareness all the way out. At the bottom of your exhale, pause with the breath suspended and count one. Inhale. Fill up free breath.

Empty out completely. Follow the breath all the way through to the end. Pause on empty. Count two. Inhale freely.

Exhale slow, steady, stream, following that breath all the way through. Pause on empty. Count to three. Inhale freely. Exhale following the breath all the way out to the end.

Pause on empty and count to four. Inhale freely. Exhale everything out. Pause at the bottom of your exhale and count to five. And then just return back to that belly breathing letting go of any pauses and just feeling the effects of that breath practice on your nervous system, on the mind.

You can continue with that practice on your own anytime you'd like and continue to grow the pauses a little bit longer. But for now, we'll take an inhale and we'll just lift the hips enough that we can slide the block out from underneath. Lower all the way down onto the back and then just set the block off to the side. And then from here, one more time, just draw your knees in towards your chest, place your hands on your knee caps with your fingers pointing down towards your toes. And then as you inhale, gently move the knees away until your arms are straight.

And as you exhale, draw the knees in towards the chest. And let's just do that for five more breaths. Inhaling knees move away until the arms are straight. And exhale, draw the knees in towards the chest. Continue like that with your breath three more breaths here.

Exhale brings the knees in. Inhale means move away. Exhale, knees draw in. And inhale, gently moving the knees away. And last round here as you exhale, draw the knees in.

And as you inhale, move the knees away one more time and then just set your feet down on your mat. And we'll set up for final relaxation and you may find that you'd like to return that blanket to underneath your neck. So you can slide your blanket over and bring that right underneath your head one more time. You can add a little roll if you need a little extra support for your neck. Laying all the way back, let your arms stretch down alongside your body.

And you may choose to remain in this position with your knees bent, or else you can stretch your legs out, opening your feet just a little bit wider than your hips. Take a full breath in through the nose and allow the breath to expand your abdomen, your rib cage. Open your mouth, exhale, sigh your breath out. Allow your body to get heavy and just do that one more time. Inhale through the nose, filling up the belly and the rib cage.

And then opening your mouth sigh the breath out. Allow your body to get heavy. Allow your body to drop down into the ground beneath you. Feel the Earth rise up to meet you, to hold you. And allow yourself to surrender.

Let go of any control of your breath and allow your breath to return to your natural rhythm. Allow your entire body to relax. Allow your entire body to let go. Feel the grounded energy of the Earth supporting you here. You're welcome to stay here for as long as you would like.

Or else, you can join me in slowly beginning to awaken your fingers and your toes and deepening the breath a little bit. And very slowly bending your knees and slowly making your way over to your side. And once you arrive on your side just pause for a moment just allowing yourself just a little more time. And then with as little effort as possible, begin to make your way up to a comfortable seat. And you can slide your blanket back underneath your hips.

And close the eyes for a moment. And just feeling your breath and your body. Feeling the space that you've created in your body and your mind. And drawing your hands together to that heart center. And just taking a moment to honor yourself for taking this time to take care of yourself.

Thank you for sharing your practice. Namaste.

Comments

1 person likes this.
So relaxing, wow! The time clock disappeared, 30 minutes felt like a moment of joy and peace with my body. Thank you Emily! Om Om
I am so pleased that you found this practice relaxing, Darya! Thank you so much for your kind words. Namaste, Emily
Thank you! I feel ready to face what I kmow is going to be a busy day!
That is wonderful, Catherine! I hope you feel grounded and calm! Have a beautiful day!
1 person likes this.
I think I could do this every day of my life! So calming. Thank you!
I am so glad you found this practice helpful, John Jackson Thank you, Emily
First time doing this, and I really appreciate your slow, careful directions ;) I didn't have a block handy, so I used a small cushion. That felt good for my lower back which is often sore Is it necessary to have support that is very firm, or a certain height to lift the hips up?

Jacqueline I am so happy you found this practice helpful. I think that using the cushion is a great substitute for the block as long as it feels good and it sounds like it did. The intention for this particular bridge is to have your hips higher than your heart and head to help down regulate the nervous system, but other benefits include decompression of the lumbar spine and stretching the psoas. I think the height with a cushion should work well and you can always add a hard cover book if you need more height!
enjoyed this practice this morning  :))
Fabian H I am so glad you enjoyed it! Thank you for letting me know! 
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