Yoga for Trauma Artwork
Season 1 - Episode 6

Quick Tools for Anxiety

15 min - Practice


Kyra shares tools to help us tap into anxious emotions and mobilize the flight-response, freeing any stuck energy in the body.
What You'll Need: Chair

About This Video


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(water lapping) Welcome. These are some quick tools to help you deal with the high levels of energy that can be running through the system, that kind of express, like, anxiety, and most of us have had some experience with anxiety, it's rarely a comfortable feeling, there's tightness, it can be in the chest, you can feel knots in your stomach, things are shutting down. If it gets really severe it can feel like sharp knives in you or even a sense of chaos, where all of the energy's kinda flying up and out and it's hard to get a sense of, like, where's center? Where am I? Anxiety is also rarely about the present moment, for most of us our fears are coming from experiences we've already had or our perceptions of what the future could be like that would bring us an uncomfortable situation and it's hard to feel those feelings.

But those feelings are anxiety is actually giving us a lot of information, it's often a sign of an incomplete flight response, where maybe there was something in our past that we had an experience with that felt really overwhelming and we couldn't get away from it, and that might've been big like a potential attacker or it also might've been smaller like standing on stage with stagefright and not being able to move. These tools today are gonna be able to help us tap into some of that energy and see if we can mobilize that flight response, so it's not so much stuck in us and hopefully bring us back to present time where we have more of an awareness of the neural pathways that are actually okay and easy and grounded and calm. Okay. So whenever you're ready, find a seat that feels comfortable. Uhm, I'm gonna recommend sitting in a chair for this, you can do this standing as well, but I personally find that it's a little bit more comfortable to be either in a chair or on the floor.

But this first exercise is just noticing how your body experiences anxiety. Does it get tight? Does it feel chaotic? How's the heart rate or your breath? Is it mostly in the mind, is the mind just spinning like a hamster wheel?

Or is more kind of in the belly, like butterflies? And so remember, using our tool of curiosity and permission let's just notice what we notice, without attaching too much of a story and just see what happens as you notice the body. Mhm. And now as you're able to dip toe into, like, where the uncomfortable feelings are and sensations are, let's connect to ground. You've got 6,000 miles of earth underneath you, take a moment to feel anything that's supporting or that's supported by that earth.

So your legs, your hips, (inhales loudly) you might imagine just yielding to gravity a little bit and also say take off your socks and shoes, if possible, wiggle your toes, aha, if you're near the ocean, go to the sand, go to dirt, all right? Feel free to actually even put your hand down on the ground and spend a moment just pausing and feeling yourself here and supported. (breathes loudly) As you track, this notice if anything shifting, you might also bring in an image or a symbol of something that feels really kind of weighted or stable, like tree roots, an anchor, kind of like heavy bags of sand, and let your mind go into those details and just notice your own body's response. So the next tool is orienting, because with anxiety our attention is often not in the present moment, it's really helpful to have our brains just be reminded that there is a present moment, okay? So it's important to do this slowly, but let your head and neck, not just your eyes, but your head and neck and shoulders to turn and look around your own space, look up, look behind you, right?

When a dog runs into a room, what's the first thing that they do? They sniff, they get to know everything, they wanna know that it's safe, all right? Allow your own body to do that. Aha, and you might notice that just as you're looking around you may have just taken a breath, mhm. But now look for three things that are purple and take a moment to actually find them.

Mhm. Yeah. And just check out your awareness, notice if it's a little bit more here. Now let's work a little bit with this flight response, right, of just needing to get away. Okay, so, if you're in this chair, position yourself comfortably, if you're a little shorter make sure you put a pillow or a blanket so your feet touch, I don't want you to be straining for this.

But imagine that a lion starts to chase you, you're walking out in the woods, I don't know why a lion's in the woods, just go with this for a second. Okay, but we are walking around, and the lion starts to chase you and you hear it, and you start to run, and so what I want you to do is I want you to actually run, run, run, run, run, run, run, run, run, run, run, run, run, run, run, imagine you're running away from the lion right now, go, go, go and go all the way up and there's rocks right in front of you, start to run up to the rocks, run and climb, climb, climb, use your legs, use your legs, go and go and go, and now the lion gets bored and lazy, it doesn't want to climb up the rocks, so he turns around and you're going to safety (exhales loudly). And let your legs start to slow down, yeah (exhales loudly). And imagine yourself watching the lion go back away (exhales loudly) and you're high up on the rocks and you sit down on a warm rock, you might even put your hand on your chest (exhales loudly), and just notice how the body starts to calm (inhales loudly). Mhm.

And you might have an instinct to look around again, do that orienting thing as your body actually puts the brakes on a little bit (exhales loudly). And see how that is. You're welcome to go back and do that again and make that a little longer and even a little slower, to really mobilize your thigh muscles, right. Feel free, but give yourself time to rest and to release. Okay.

Here's a tool that'll help bring you back towards center, or could help you bring back toward center. You can do these seated, but you can also do them on the back, right? Pretty much getting into any of the kinda traditional belly work stuff or core work. Today I'm gonna demonstrate sitting in the chair, I'm gonna hold on to the bottom of the chair and bring my shoulders on my back so I'm not trying to do this work for my shoulders and my face, but rather getting into the lower abdominals. Make sure the feet are under the knees, and then you'll reach the right leg out, keeping your back as upright as you need to.

So if lifting the leg makes you hunch, lower the leg a little bit. See if you can press your butt bones into the ground or into the chair and then lift the belly muscles and then change (exhales loudly). Do that two more times on each side. Yep, so press, I'm pressing my right leg, I'm lifting through the belly (inhales loudly), breathing (exhales loudly) and down. Now this time see if you can pay attention to where center is in you, if there was a center, where would it be?

Mhm. Good, one more time, if there was a center, where would it be (exhales loudly)? Pressing into the lower body, lifting through the abdominals and down. (inhales loudly) Take a moment to find where you feel center most, if anywhere. If nowhere, imagine that there is a center someplace and place your hands.

(breathes loudly) Take a moment with us. (breathes loudly) Okay now we're gonna come to standing, okay? So, you can move the chair aside, but give yourself plenty of space. In this next one, gets a little weird, but I didn't make it up, somebody did about 5,000 years ago, okay? And it's been a time-tested practice, okay?

So it's called The Shakedown (laughs) and you can take any variation of this that you'd like, but I want you to imagine that there's like a little tremor that starts to come up through your legs. Ah, yeah. And then the little tremor comes up through your hips and then you might be shaking things you don't wanna shake, but see if you can let that go, 'cause really, at the end of the day, the bad and the good news is is nobody cares that you're shaking right now, okay? And then let it go up through your belly and through your fingers and through your arms. Oh, oh yeah, and feel free to get a little weird with this, let the shoulders go and let the face go, and maybe even (lips trill) through the lips, (inhales loudly) keep the breath.

All right, but keep going. (lips trill) Yeah. This can be especially good if you're having a lot of energy in your system, giving it some outlet and also for younger kids (exhales loudly). Kids diagnosed with ADHD, extra kinda behavioral stuff, give them The Shakedown, go ahead. And now, for 10 more seconds feel free to, like, let it loose, you might even shake down, jump a little bit, but remember, we're not doing Jane Fonda here, we're doing like 5,000-year-old Chinese man, shake and shake and shake.

Six, five, four (inhales loudly), three (exhales loudly), two and on one let's just stand still, don't do your hair, your clothes, your sweat, just pause (inhales loudly). (exhales loudly) Ah. How's that? (inhales loudly) Mhm. Good.

Anybody feel that buzz (exhales loudly)? See if the buzz starts to move into any sort of kind of consistent stream or you might even notice yourself start to rock, totally normal, everybody has an internal kind of rhythm and pulse that they move to. (inhales loudly) (exhales loudly) Great. Another tool that kinda vaguely comes from the ancient martial arts tradition is more kind of a Tai Chi moving hands. Okay.

So this actually taps into the rhythm, anxiety tends to feel really up, chaotic, doesn't have a really steady flow, this tool can help re-establish your flow and rhythm. (exhales loudly) On the exhale, make sure your hips go back, rather than under you, I just want your knees to be as safe as they can. Aha, we're gonna inhale as if you're kind of moving your hands through water (inhales loudly), and then see if you can (exhales loudly), if the breath is okay, see if you can exhale (exhales loudly) the hands down. So we're actually just moving with the rhythm of the breath, allowing the breath to be a little longer and smoother. That's it (exhales loudly).

That simple. This time the hands will come up (inhales loudly) and allow them to move forward just as if you're moving through water (exhales loudly). Great, all the way to the end, there's no rush. Back to center (inhales loudly), and you might go out to the side (exhales loudly), check out the energy in the arms, if you need to put a lot of pressure, do it, if you need it to be lighter, do it. Back to center.

(inhales loudly) And then push (exhales loudly). This is really freeform, the body might fold a little (exhales loudly), but just slowing down (inhales loudly) to move in rhythm (exhales loudly). With breath (inhales loudly), reconnecting to your flow. (exhales loudly) Good. Would recommend doing this for maybe three to five minutes (inhales loudly) mhm, it can help shift the nervous system, particularly with the breath.

And when you feel done (inhales loudly), bring the hands, one hand on heart, one hand on belly (exhales loudly), consider closing the eyes or lightly focus on one place, (inhales loudly) and notice home base, notice here (exhales loudly). Great. Okay, and lastly, let's come down into the chair (exhales loudly). This next tool is, can be particularly useful, like in public, especially if there's a lot of, like, social anxiety. It's called the heart hug.

Bring your right hand, and my hand's gonna be opposite yours, but bring your right hand into your left armpit, so it's over heart, okay? And actually, like, make some contact, even if it's kinda like warm and moist in there, go ahead and make some contact. Okay, and take the other hand and bring it across, you're gonna grab your opposite shoulder, walk the hand down the arm until you find that, like, right space over here, like, yeah, this is where I wanna be. Good. And then just hug.

You get to find the right pressure, so if a lot of pressure feels good, do that, and if a little pressure feels like, "Oh, that's nice," do that. (inhales loudly) Mhm. If this doesn't work for you, it doesn't work for you, don't do it, but if it does, check out how the chest responds, if any of those knots or those butterflies calm a little. (exhales loudly) Hm. Yeah, spend some time with this and feel free to come into it whenever, but just really let the mind's awareness be on how it feels to have this connection and this pressure in your own body.

One more variation is called, like, the thumbs up, it could have a different effect for you, so, reach the arms forward, thumbs up, turn the thumbs down and now cross one wrist over the other, doesn't matter, interlace your fingers and bring your arms into the chest (exhales loudly). Go ahead and same thing as a heart hug just kind of squeeze in and see what pressure is right for you. (inhales loudly) And one more time, just in case you didn't get that, thumbs up (exhales loudly), thumbs down, one wrist over the other, interlace, and then hug on in. (breathes loudly) May you find center and ease and calm.


Zoe Ho
3 people like this.
Thank you! The tools are amazing especially the running/flight was effective for me! 💖
Michelle B
1 person likes this.
A Phenomenal gift.
Thank you.
Kate M
1 person likes this.
Thank you for these tools!
Gwen W
1 person likes this.
Loving this. Thank you!
Kyra Haglund
So glad this is helpful in some way. *-*
Hoda G
2 people like this.
Much gratitude. I appreciate your show.🙏🏽🌟
Kyra Haglund
1 person likes this.
Hi Hoda, I'm happy you're practicing with us.  would be great to hear what's working for you.  gratitude for you today!  
Beth F
1 person likes this.
Thank you so much for all these quick tools videos, Kyra. I'm reviewing them again - the wiggle wiggle shake shake has been very helpful and I've come back to watch again to help integrate the others into my daily life.  Thank you!
Eileen N
Very effective.  Looks like something children will enjoy.  thank you!
1 person likes this.
Definitely will try this with my kids too and when I have anxiety creeping up. Thank you x
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