Sometimes emotions can feel incredibly overwhelming. It’s part of being human. Fortunately, yoga gives us tools to navigate these states. You can meditate on, breathe through, and flow with your emotions, and use your practice to mindfully decipher your feelings’ underlying messages. Your practice can create a space of inquiry where you can authentically show up for yourself and affirm a healthy relationship with your inner world.
Yoga teacher Juanita Borges, creator of the sequence that follows, shares her experience with yoga in this realm: “Years ago I remember looking up ‘yoga for anxiety’ and ‘yoga for panic attacks‘ because I was searching for relief. I wanted to better understand how stressors exist in my body. I noticed how I tend to hold tension in my hips and in my shoulders. Finding yoga poses that helped me release these areas also made me aware of my relationship to the stressors themselves. Understanding the rise in energy from a panic attack or the holding of stagnant energy revolutionized my yoga practice.”
For this sequence for managing emotional overwhelm, unroll your mat with the intention of listening to what your body is truly longing to be liberated from. Allow this interlude of introspective movement to reveal and release any stimuli that are limiting you. These poses are designed to ease the weight off of your shoulders, the tension from your hips, and to help you let go of any energies no longer serving you. Explore this sequence in a quiet, peaceful space that helps you feel comfortable with your vulnerability.
Three-Part Breath (Dirga Pranayama)
Start in Sukhasana (Easy Pose) or Baddha Konasana (Bound Angle Pose), and place one palm over your heart and your other palm over your belly. Close your eyes and notice the ebb and flow of your natural breath and heartbeat. After observing this natural state of your body for a minute or two, take a deep inhale first into your belly, then into your ribs, and finally, into your heart space. Exhale slowly to empty all of this air through your nose, drawing your navel toward your spine as you breath out. Repeat this 3-part breath for about 7 rounds at your own pace.
Place your palms onto your knees. Begin to circle your upper torso in a clockwise direction. Use your breath to guide the pace of this movement. Try to move your body forward as you inhale, and move your torso backward as you exhale. Move through 7 to 8 breath cycles in this direction, then take 7-8 more cycles going counterclockwise. These movements offer you a chance to notice the energy you are cultivating.
Prasarita Padottanasana (Wide-Legged Standing Forward Bend)
Start in Tadasana (Mountain Pose) at the center of your yoga mat facing one of the mat’s long edges. Slowly walk your feet apart until they’re slightly wider than hip-width apart. Your feet can be parallel to one another or slightly turned out. Inhale and lift your chest toward the sky. Exhale and fold forward from your hips. Ground your hands on the floor beneath your shoulders. Lengthen your torso, relax your neck, and keep a small bend in your knees. You can stay here, or bend your elbows to lower your head toward the mat to experience a deeper hamstring stretch. Stay for 5 breaths.
Utthan Pristhasana (Lizard Pose)
From Prasarita Padottanasana, keep your hands grounded as you walk or hop your feet close to one another. Turn toward the short edge of your mat and unfold your body into Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward-Facing Dog Pose) with your spine lengthened and feet hip-distance apart. Inhale and shift your body forward as you place your right foot outside of your right hand. Exhale and ground your left knee down. Just for this practice, stay in this variation of Lizard Pose with a long spine. Try using your breath to release tension in your hips and legs, and setting your gaze at the top of your mat. Hold this pose for 5 breaths. Return to Downward Dog. Repeat on the other side.
Begin in Down Dog. On an inhalation, shift your weight forward as you place your right foot in between your hands. Then, heel-toe your right foot over toward your left hand and lower your torso until you can comfortably ground your shin onto the mat. You may find comfort with your shin completely parallel with the top short end of your mat or your knee could be centered between your hands. Exhale to extend your left leg back with your toes untucked. Now place a pillow, bolster, blanket or block underneath the lifted right hip to offer more support. Bring your forehead down to the mat or a prop. You can stretch your arms toward the top of the mat or place one hand on top of the other to form a pillow for your head. Melt into this pose for 5 breaths. To move to the other side, unwind your body into Tabletop, then shift into Down Dog. Repeat on the other side.
Setu Bandha Sarvangasana (Bridge Pose)
Lie down on your back with your feet firmly planted on the ground and hip-distance apart. With knees pointing toward the sky, roll your shoulders back and down to open the space underneath your neck. Inhale to lift your pelvis off the floor as you clasp your hands under your tailbone. Keep your chest broad and your knees stacked over your ankles. Stay in this pose for up to 1 minute. Gently exhale to slowly roll your spine back onto the mat to release this pose.
Viparita Karani ( Legs-Up-The-Wall Pose)
Feel free to prop your legs onto a wall for this practice, but you can also get into this pose as shown in the picture. While lying on your back, have your feet planted on the mat with knees lifted toward the sky. Keeping your hands to the sides of your body for support, inhale to slowly lift both knees into your chest before straightening your legs to the ceiling. If possible, stack your ankles over your knees, and your knees over your hips. Flex your feet as if you were walking across the sky, then release any tension in your belly. Close your eyes and release into this pose for 10 breaths. When you’re ready to bring your legs down, exhale and draw your knees into your chest before planting your feet back onto your mat.
Savasana (Corpse Pose)
Come to a reclined position with your feet extending toward the bottom corners of your mat. Roll your shoulders back and down to release the back of the neck. Allow your hands to rest effortlessly to the sides of your body. You can place your palms up to receive energy or keep your palms down for grounding energy. Release your tongue from the roof of your mouth, smooth the space between your eyebrows, and close your eyes to the outwards gaze. Stay in this pose for at least 5 minutes. To release from Savasana, gently roll to your side on an exhalation. Inhale to slowly rise into a seated pose of your choice while keeping your eyes closed or your gaze soft.