Have you ever been lying in bed and suddenly think, ‘I’d like to be doing half moon right now.’

Or, sitting  on the couch just watching tv and think, ‘A handstand would feel great at this exact moment.’

Or, how about sitting at work and suddenly getting the urge to get into a forward fold.

I don’t know about you, but it seriously happens to me all the time. Then it occurred to me, since I really cleansed my internal body and eat only pure foods, any cravings tend to be a sign of what my body is lacking. Is it possible the same relationship translates to yoga. When you’ve trained your body about the power of yoga, does the mind crave certain postures that it knows would ease whatever is ailing you??

With that theory, I started thinking about the different postures I was yearning to do and the benefits of each, then sought the common denominator. And, lo and behold, not that it was any surprise, but they all have been praised for their benefits of easing anxiety.

In addition to the ones above

  • Standing forward fold
  • Half moon
  • Handstands

here are a few other ones:

  • Bridge pose (lay down, bend your knees, lift your hips)
  • Cat/Cow
  • And, of course, the mother of all calming poses, seated forward fold (Paschimottanasana)

Now, because I’m often the master of the obvious, I’ll point out that just the postures alone won’t do the trick. Just doing something may get the ball rolling, but then there’s the breath and really focusing on the pose.

WHY THEY WORK

The way I see it, Cat/Cow, Half Moon and Bridge, share the element of heart opening. The more open your heart, the more you’re able to breathe deeply, which then creates a sense of calm.

And the more you focus on opening and breathing, the more effective the postures will be. So here are a few tips to get the maximum opening benefits…

Cat/Cow:

  1. With the wrists under the shoulders and the hips over the knees, focus on elongating the  spine from the heart to the crown of the head and from the heart back to the tailbone.
  2. As you lift your chest for cow, think about sliding the shoulder blades down the back and pulling your heart through your arms while you inhale and fill your lungs. Keep the neck pulling back and the crown of the head reaching for the sky. Keep the arms active energetically drawing towards each other and the thighs rotating inward to open the hips.
  3. On the exhale round your back and draw the tailbone and crown of the head toward the earth. As you do, keep your shoulders away from your ears and expand the back body. Your arms should still be drawing towards each other energetically and the thighs internally rotating.
  4. Continue with deep inhales and exhales.

Half Moon

  1. It’s always easiest to get into this from Trikonasana. Jumping ahead and assuming you’re in the posture, starting on the ground, ground all four corners of the foot. You might find a microbend in the knee of the standing leg will help with stability.
  2. Moving up the body, stack the hips on top of each other as if you’re standing between two panes of glass.
  3. The leg in the air should be in line with the hip as if you were standing on the wall. Keep the foot flexed and engaged. Despite there being nothing actually to push against, imagine you are standing at a wall and pushing against it. That will engage the entire leg.
  4. Moving back up the body, once again lengthen the spine – heart to tailbone and heart to crown of the head.
  5. Now, the part for me that’s most powerful, opening the body and heart…. Reach the hand you’re not using for balance toward the sky to brighten the pose. As you do this, keep turning the heart to open the body. Make sure as you reach the fingers skyward, that you’re keeping your should engaged in the shoulder joint and shouldblade is moving down your back. You will feel so much more room to breath and continue to expand the body.
  6. It’s easy to let the side of the body closer to the floor to shorten, don’t forget to continue lengthening the side body too.
  7. TIP: If you’ve never tried this with your floating foot against the wall, give it a shot. It’s surprisingly awesome – and with the extra support, you may just get that bottom hand off the ground too!

 Bridge Pose

I always forget how great this feels, until I do it in a class.

  1. It’s so easy to just lift your hips and then do nothing, but then the benefits will be, well, nothing! One key for me, the shoulders. Wiggle them under the body, and, if you can, clasp your hands. Continue to pull your shoulders under you to open the chest.
  2. Don’t forget, there’s another half of your body too that needs attention. Keep the thighs engaged and pulling towards each other. They’ll naturally rotate internally by doing this, which means more room for the tailbone. Tuck it under.
  3. Then there’s the feet. No duck feet here. Keep them straight on and pushing into the earth.
  4. TIPS: If you have any concerns about your neck, put a folded blanket under your shoulders.
  5. AND, try a block between your legs, you’ll be forced to squeeze them together to keep the block in place, making the posture incredibly energetic.

So, next time you’re feeling anxious or stressed, get off that couch or out from behind the computer and try one of these postures.

They work. I promise.

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