10 Stretches That Relieve Anxiety And Stop Overthinking

10 Stretches That Relieve Anxiety And Stop Overthinking

The hectic, busy, stress-high lifestyles we lead contribute to the development of various serious physical, emotional, and mental health issues. While we all experience stress from time to time, it can become a serious problem as soon as it starts to interfere with daily life.

Nowadays, the anxiety rates are on the rise, and the findings of a 2018 poll released by the American Psychiatric Association (APA) showed that 40% of respondents felt more anxious than a year ago.

The national anxiety score this year is 51, which is 5 more than last year. Millennials were found to suffer from anxiety than Gen X or baby boomers.

In America, anxiety was linked to all five tested areas, health, safety, finances, relationships, and politics. Overall, 39% of people admitted to being more anxious this year than last year. Therefore, it is of high importance to learn more about anxiety and understand it in order to be able to properly prevent and treat it.

The Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA) reports:

  • Anxiety disorders develop from a complex combination of factors, such as personality, genetics, brain chemistry, and life events.
  • These disorders are the most common mental illness in the U.S., with 40 million adults (18.1% of the population) age 18 and older suffering from them annually.
  • Anxiety disorders respond very well to treatment, but only 36.9% of patients seek and receive treatment.
  • People with an anxiety disorder are 3-5 times more likely to go to the doctor and six times more likely to be hospitalized for a psychiatric condition than those who do not suffer from it.


Here are the types of anxiety:

General anxiety disorder( GAD)

It affects about 6.8 million Americans, and it involves excessive and persistent worry about various things. These people face difficulties to control their worries, and always think of the worst scenario in order to mentally prepare themselves. It is diagnosed when a person cannot control these worries for over 6 months. People with GAD often suffer from symptoms like stomachaches and headaches. GAD is believed to be caused by stress, family background, or genetics. Women are twice more likely to develop it, and it can begin at any age, usually between childhood and midlife.


Social anxiety disorder/ Social phobia

This disorder affects 15 million adults in the U.S. and is characterized by immense anxiety in social situations, hyperawareness of oneself, and fear of judgment and rejection.

These people worry about their appearance, mannerisms, and ability to converse with others. The most common symptoms include stuttering, blushing, stumbling over words, or freezing during a conversation, as well as physical symptoms like sweating, panic attacks, an increased heart rate, and nausea.

Most people develop social phobia by their teen ages, and it can seriously interfere with their life. They avid working with people, miss social engagements with friends, and in more severe cases, they avoid going to work, school, shopping, job interviews, fail to maintain their relationships and friendships.

They have an increased risk of depression and substance abuse problems.


Panic disorder (PD)

Panic disorders affect about 6 million American adults and are diagnosed in people with frequent, spontaneous panic attacks, who live in fear of an upcoming attack. This disorder usually develops after age 20, but panic attacks can also be experienced by children too. Women are more susceptible to this disorder, and panic disorders disrupt the life of a person. If the patient suffers from agoraphobia as well, the symptoms increase.

Many people are afraid or ashamed to talk about their panic attacks, and isolate themselves and avoid discussion about their problem.


Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)

It affects about 3.5% of the American population, and it is developed by people after a traumatic event, that triggers flashbacks, nightmares, or intrusive memories.

This disorder is severe and debilitating and usually lasts for months and years after the event. The tragic events usually include a sexual assault, death of a family member, a natural disaster, motor vehicle accident, terrorist attack, combat, sexual assault, or other near-death experiences.

Women are twice as likely to suffer from it as men, and it often co-occurs with anxiety disorders, substance abuse, and depression.


Specific phobias

They affect 19 million adults, and the term covers the fear of various things, like heights, spiders, driving, flying, elevators, etc. Patients do their best to avoid the triggers of their irrational fears, which makes it hard to carry out their daily tasks. This lowers their self-esteem and productivity and puts a huge strain on their relationships. While some phobias are developed early in life, most of them happen unexpectedly, during teenage years or young adulthood.


Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)

Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) affects 2.2 people in the U.S. across the world. It is characterized by obsessions (intrusive thoughts or images that cause extreme anxiety) and compulsions (behaviors performed by the person in order to cope with their anxiety). In most common cases, these obsessions are linked to hygiene, impulses, the need for symmetry, and contamination.

Yoga has been found to be of great help in the treatment of anxiety disorders, since it stimulates the release of feel-good hormones, and creates a state of harmony between the body and mind.

It lowers stress, releases the build-up the tension, soothes the muscles, and relaxes.

According to Katharina Star, Ph.D.:

“Despite the challenges of panic attacks and other anxiety symptoms, there are many self-help strategies that can assist you in coping with anxiety. Numerous self-care activities and relaxation techniques are available to help you feel more calm, peaceful, and in control. Some of the most common relaxation strategies include breathing exercises, progressive muscle relaxation, and visualization.

These techniques have been found to reduce anxiety and may even help you manage your panic symptoms. Yoga is an activity that actually encompasses all three of these common relaxation techniques.

Additionally, yoga has been known to help ease stress, reduce feelings of nervousness, and enhance mindfulness. For these reasons, yoga has been considered to be potentially beneficial for people with anxiety disorders, including panic disorder.”


She adds:

“Yoga is believed to have originated in India over 5,000 years ago. Derived from the ancient Indian language of Sanskrit, the term yoga means “to yoke” or “unite.”

Yoga practice involves a joining of the body, mind, and spirit. Through breath work, meditation, movements, and relaxation, yoga can help restore a sense of personal balance.

Yoga has become a popular way to renew the body by increasing strength, improving balance, and enhancing flexibility. Many people are devoted to the yoga lifestyle that includes a practice beyond physical exercise.

Numerous non-exercise aspects of yoga, such as breathing exercises and meditation, can help calm a busy mind and assist in letting go of stress. Given the many stress reductions benefits of yoga, it is not surprising that yoga can also be helpful in managing fears, panic, and anxiety.”


Moreover, Timothy Burgin, a Kripalu & Pranakriya trained yoga instructor, explains:

“Besides the calming effects of a general yoga practice, restorative poses, inversions and forward bends are especially calming to the body and mind, helping to reduce and prevent excessive anxiety.


The following poses are known to be especially calming: child, shavasana, crocodile, supine bound angle pose, seated forward bend, and seated head to knee. Simple inversions such as downward dog, standing forward fold, standing yoga mudra, shoulderstand, plow and supine staff pose create a temporary rise in blood pressure in the head which triggers the body’s natural calming mechanisms, dilating the blood vessels and lowering heart and breathing rates.


If symptoms of fatigue, depression, and heart palpitations are present, the qi or energy of the heart center may be weak, and heart opening poses such as Cobra, Pigeon, Fish, Boat, Bow, and Bridge would both strengthen and calm the heart chakra.


Emotions play a large role in anxiety disorders. An excessive feeling of fear, worry, irritability, anger, and depression can all add and exasperate our level of anxiety.


Twists, hip opening poses, and sidebends will all help to balance the emotions, and thus help reduce feelings of anxiety. Twisting and hip opening poses harmonize the nervous and endocrine systems, the two primary systems that regulate our emotional health, and side bending poses activate the Liver meridian, the energy channel known in Chinese medicine to regulate the emotions.”


Here are some beginner yoga poses that can help you relieve anxiety:

1. Camel Pose (Ustrasana)

This pose is good for stretching your abs and back. It'll also help with your flexibility.

  • Kneel down onto your mat. Take your hands and put them on your hips. Keep your shoulders and knees lined up. The bottoms of your feet should be facing the ceiling. Breath in and arch your back. Reach down and grab your feet while keeping your arms straight.
  • Don't put strain on your neck. Only reach and bend as far as you can naturally go. Don't force it. Hold your pose for up to 1 minute.


2. Bridge Pose (Setu Bandhasana)

This pose is good to stretch your chest, back, and neck.

  • While laying on your back, bend up your knees. Have your feet hip length apart and keep them flat on the floor. Keep your ankles and knees in line. Breath in and raise your back up off the floor. Bend slightly forward to lift your shoulders up. Your chin will rest on the top of your chest.
  • You will now lift your torso as high as you can and hold this pose for up to 1 minute.


3. Butterfly Pose (Baddha Konasana)

This is a great pose for stretching the groin area and the inside of your thighs.

  • While sitting up straight and tall, stretch your legs out. While bending your knees, pull your heels back toward the pelvic area. Press the soles of your feet together and allow your knees to drop to the sides. Hold this pose up to 5 minutes.


4. Seated Forward Bend (Paschimottansana)

This is a great one for your anxiety. It's also good for stretching the hamstrings and your back.

  • Sit up straight and tall with your legs straight out in front of you. Flex your feet by using the muscles in your foot and pulling your toes back toward your body. Hold your hands up high overhead and stretch. Breath in and bring arms forward in a slow manner. Reach as far forward as you can.
  • While stretching, breath in again. When you breathe out, bend forward even more and slightly lift your head up. Repeat this stretch 3-4 times. Then, rest your head onto your legs and stay in this pose as long as you can or would like to.


5. Staff Pose (Dandasana)

This pose is great for strengthening your core.

  • Sit up straight and tall with your legs out in the front. Keep your feet pointed up. While keeping your head straight, anchor your buttocks and heels to the floor. Place your hands on your hips. Inhale and exhale very deeply while pressing into the floor and holding this pose.
  • You can hold this pose up to 30 seconds.


6. Triangle Pose (Utthita Trikonasana)

This is another one that is good for lowering your anxiety and stress levels.

  • Stand straight and tall with your legs roughly 48 inches apart. Your right foot will turn to the outside of your body at a 90-degree angle and your left foot will be at a 15-degree angle. Line up your right heel with the arch on your left foot.
  • Breath in deeply. When you breathe out, bend to the right side. Be sure that your waist stays straight. Reach down with your right hand to the floor and reach up towards the ceiling with your left. Both arms should be in a line.
  • If reaching the floor is too much of a challenge, you can use your shin or ankle instead. Don't put any strain on your neck.
  • Relax into the pose as much as you can. Take deep breaths. Exhale when coming out of the pose. Repeat on the other side.


7. Cow & Cat Pose (Marjariasana)


  • You'll need to get on your hands and knees on the floor. Hands will need to be placed directly under your shoulders and your knees will need to be hip length apart. Look forward. Take a deep breath in and push your tailbone up. Hold this pose for a couple of breaths.


  • While remaining on all fours, breath out. Your chin will need to bend forward towards your chest. Arch your back. Hold this pose for a couple of breaths.
  • Repeat both of the stretches up to 6 times.


8. Child's Pose (Balasana)

This is an ideal stretch for the neck, back, and shoulders.

  • Kneel on the floor with your feet underneath your buttocks. Place your big toes close enough together to touch. Take your arms and stretch them forward. While stretching, lean in a forward direction and spread your knees to hip length apart. Place your torso down between your thighs and rest your head onto the floor.
  • If you can't go all the way to the floor, go as far as what feels comfortable. Stay in this pose as long as you would like to.


9. Bow Pose (Dhanurasana)

This one isn't really for a beginner so if it's too challenging, stop.

  • Lay on your stomach with your legs behind you hip length apart. Bend your knees in and reach towards your ankles behind you. Pull your legs and lift up with your chest and legs.
  • Hold this pose for up to 20 seconds.


10. Corpse Pose (Shavasana)

This is a great way to end your stretches and give your peace.

  • Lay on your back with your palms facing up. Breath in and out deeply. Let all your thoughts clear your mind.
  • Stay in this pose for up to 12 minutes.

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