Whether you prefer to work out in the morning or evening, these exercises are a great way to begin or end your day stress-free. Each calming move helps to release built-up tension in your body and clear your mind while you unplug and enjoy some much-deserved “me” time. Learn the five different moves to incorporate into your next workout to decrease anxiety and live a healthier and balanced life.
Lateral Lunge and Twist Opener
Reverse Lunge to Warrior 3
Sumo Squat and Half Salutation
The Move: Lateral Lunge and Twist Opener
How to: This move helps to loosen any tension in your neck and back muscles, which is where many people tend to hold a lot of tension during times of stress and anxiety. Make sure you breathe through this movement to help calm your mind while you calm your upper-body muscles through the rotation.
Start by stepping out to the side and sitting into a single-leg lunge. Place the opposite hand toward your lunging foot and release the other hand up to the sky as you exhale. Repeat this same exercise on the other side, switching arms and legs and continuing to create an opening twist in your torso.
The Move: Inchworm Chaturanga
How to: The combination of the forward fold and the chaturanga will help to ease tension in tight joints and muscles in the body, calm your central nervous system, and ease your mind through breathwork within the exercise. Allowing your mind to drift into the focus of this movement can move it away from the stressors or anxiety that can be holding you back from taking a big, deep breath and releasing endorphins through movement.
Start with your feet shoulder-width apart and bend forward, placing your hands on the ground in front of your toes. Walk your hands out to a plank position and slowly bend your elbows to lower your body to the floor. Exhale as you press into the floor and lift your chest up toward the sky. Inhale and lift your hips to the sky into a down dog position. Walk your hands back to your toes from here and stand up to return to start.
The Move: Superman, known in yoga as Viparita Shalabhasana
How to: This movement challenges your breathwork as well and is best done by including a pause in the resting position to allow space for a deep inhale, then exhaling as you lift. The benefits of this move include massaging the spine and keeping the back supple, as well as stretching the chest muscles, which can get tight when we start to lose focus on our posture in times of anxiety, and improving blood circulation to help us think clearly in our time of anxiety.
Lying on your stomach, take a deep inhale to fill up your lungs. As you exhale, engage your glutes and back muscles to lift your arms and legs off the ground. Lower everything back to the floor as you finish your exhale and repeat this movement, focusing on lifting the chest and legs higher through your breath each rep.
The Move: Reverse Lunge to Warrior 3
How to: This combination movement helps you focus on what might be missing to cause your anxiety: balance. This exercise challenges you to step back into a lunge and focus on the control of the forward warrior 3 transition. An added pulse at the top of the movement provides an extra challenge for your balance, and you benefit in this move by strengthening your abdominal muscles, back, and shoulders and improving your overall balance, posture, and coordination.
Starting at the top of your mat, step back with your left foot into a reverse lunge. Press the weight into your right foot and float your left leg as you lower your torso, bringing your body parallel to the ground. Reach your arms out away from your body and flex your left foot. Reach out through your heel as if you are trying to tap something behind your body with your heel. Keep your core and your legs strong and add a pulse to the top of this pose for an extra challenge. Return to the starting position and repeat.
The Move: Sumo Squat and Half Salutation
How to: This exercise is all about opening your heart and mind to deep breathing. Sometimes the overwhelming wave of anxiety shortens your breath, increases your heart rate, and activates your parasympathetic nervous system, also known as your fight-or-flight response. By sitting down into a very balanced sumo squat stance and opening up your spine and lungs with deep inhales and exhales, you are calming your mind and body through movement and therapeutic breathing. Start this exercise with your legs wider than your hips and your toes pointed slightly outward.
As you sit down, engage your core and shift your weight back and down for your seated position. Pause at the bottom of your squat and take a big inhale as you release your arms upward, then release your arms back down to start with a powerful exhale. With each squat, pause at the bottom for a full inhale, reach up, and fully exhale to relax down before standing.