For students with Generalized Anxiety Disorder, simply lying down and being told to “relax and breathe” can trigger Relaxation Induced Anxiety.  But deepening the breath is one of the best ways to calm the nervous system.  Marisa notes: “What’s helped me a lot are the things that actually have nothing to do with asanas. I’m a pretty shallow breather. Now that I have a regular yoga practice, I find myself automatically breathing more deeply in stressful situations.” You can help students like Marisa connect with the breath by adding a physical movement to the breathing exercise, which will keep the brain busy while simultaneously facilitating deeper breathing.  Try Yoga Tune Up® Bridge Lifts with especially anxious students (shown in the video below).  They’ll get the benefits of more breath, without the stress of having to lie still.

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John Watson

It can be very difficult and even stressful for some people to be still and attempt relaxation techniques. It’s great to offer movements like this to achieve the goals of a mindfulness practice but while ‘doing something’. This removes the pressure of trying to ‘achieve’ relaxation and reduces the risk of causing further anxiety by feeling like a ‘failure’ at relaxing. It’s almost like tricking people into meditating.

David

Interesting idea! Never would have thought of adding a backbend to compliment down regulation and breathing. Backbends are tough for me and often bring up anxiety. I always feel like I’m forcing or trying to “convince” myself to breathe in them. Every practice is so different individually – I am curious to try this with some of my students.

Alison Quinn

I often use bridge lifts at the beginning of my sequences but I never thought of the connection between the speed of the movement and allowing a student, who may otherwise not have access, to be able to down regulate. Pacing the breath in this fashion would allow a distraction from the anxiety through movement – amazing!

Steven Custodio

I love bridge lifts and adding breathing to it, feels so relaxing. Lately one of my yoga teachers did the bridge lift at the end of a class in a meditative way adding the mantra So Hum. So on the lift and Hum on the way down with your arms, feels simply amazing!

Michelle Clemens

This is a great reminder that breath and relaxation is a continuous practice. Bridge pose is a great way to “bridge” breath and relaxation. Thanks!

Suzanne

Movement and breath to reduce anxiety ….. tuning into your breath while releasing your body . Excellent !

Amanda Rassam

Interesting! I recently read a similar article from the YTU blog, discussing how this position can assist for a greater stretch in the diaphragm. Perhaps it is also contributing to the deeper breaths!

Eva Roig

Nice post! I’ll keep bridge lifts in mind to help release. Thanks

Siewli Stark

Hi Ariel, Great information! I think sometimes teachers are unaware that it’s hard for many dealing with Generalized Anxiety Disorder to be still and be told to relax and not being able to is frustrating for the participants. I love doing this in the beginning of class or towards the end, as this is great for warming up the hips yet very calming to my nervous system.

Leslie

Great post! This is another reminder why I love bridge lifts and how it does wonders for my anxiety. I feel very grounded and connected to my breath whenever I work this.

Cheryl

I had not heard of Relaxation Induced Anxiety and how it can be triggered in students with Generalized Anxiety Disorder. My focus is always on down regulating the nervous system so I appreciate this opportunity to gain some awareness of Relaxation Induced Anxiety. Thank you for sharing the method of adding physical movement to breathing exercises in order to keep the student’s brain busy and help avoid the stress of lying still.

Lita Remsen

Since the Level 1 training I have loved doing bridge lifts just to get started in the practice, It’s been very helpful in starting the practice; getting to know the projects

Emma

I definitely find the Bridge Lifts to be particularly soothing and calming. I think the combination of breath/movement coordination and the simple supine position provide a wonderful outlet for a student to begin down-regulation of the nervous system. It has just the right amount of simplicity and complexity to keep Yoga novices and experts alike tuned in to the body and breath.

Cat Murcek

Thanks, Ariel, for this nugget! I didn’t even realize Relaxation Induced Anxiety was a thing, so that’s a real lightbulb for me. I have a student who I am definitely going to try this with, and I might just try it for myself when I’m getting too stressed out too! 🙂

LIZ TYBURCZY

I just love this for me and some of my students. When we come to the end of a class, I may not be ready to release into total relaxation. Bridge lifts with arms moving slowly with the breath, may just be what the doctor ordered. I might play with a block under the sacrum to make the movement a little less.

Patricia Lamontagne

I reallly do like ths exercise, it feels so good. I’m happy to read that it’s also a good tool to fight anxiety. Thank’s a lot for sharing this video !

Line Bernier

Un excellent truc que je pourrai utiliser avec mes élèves en yogalates qui étiudient à l’université et qui ont besoin de calmer leur anxiété! Merci beaucoup!

Alisa Fairbanks

I find this bridge flow very relaxing as well. Even though I am able to lay still, I sometimes need a little bit of gentle movement to get myself out of my head and bring more balance between my head and body.

Alexandra L

I have been teaching for a little over a year now and definitely agree with this article. I get a lot of students who deal with anxiety and making them stay in long held poses only adds to their anxiety, I appreciate poses like bridge lifts, that help link breath to movement. It is so calming to the mind. Thank you for sharing.

MICHELLE

As someone who constantly suffers from anxiety, I find Yoga asana a weight to acknowledge when It is happening try and work with it. Bridge lifts are a great way to distract the mind to connect with the breath and movement, I will be trying this the next time I am feeling anxious!

Elizabeth Bond

Thank you for writing this article. It was such an aha moment when I heard about Relaxation Induced Anxiety during the Yoga Tune Up Level 1 Course. For years I had witnessed many students and myself have lots of trouble with long held, relaxing poses and savasana. The pressure of having to relax and not being able to makes the situation worse! Bridge Lifts minivini seems like a great alternative to students that have this issue in savasana.

melissa Harris

Very interesting. I love Marisa’a take on savasana in the last article “it’s a vulnerable position, thoughts rush in and swirl around, and it’s called ‘corpse’ pose, for Christ’s sake!” How true! Although I don’t suffer from anxiety on a large scale, the time it creeps in most often is when I’m winding down at night and those “big life questions” creep in. So I can see how for someone who has GAD the idea of stillness might be too much at first. I will definitely keep this in mind for students and massage clients dealing with anxiety.

Claire

My daughter has aniexty and I’m always looking for natural ways to help her maintain her own aniexty. Researching this pose it also has so many more benifits that make it a win , win to do the breathing and pose together. Stretches the chest, neck, spine, and hips.Strengthens the back, buttocks, and hamstrings.Improves circulation of blood.Helps alleviate stress and mild depression.Calmsthe brain and central nervous system.Stimulates the lungs, thyroid glands, and abdominal organs.Improves digestion. Perfect for me and my sixteen year old daughter, thanks for connecting the dots!
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Caitlin

The breath is such a valuable tool in dealing with anxiety. I know this first hand. So many who suffer have no connection with breath. I find this video really inspiring and plan on not just sharing it, but doing it myself!

Mary Eileen

It is amazing how people cannot let go and just RELAX. Did these last night with my students and they loved it.

Michelle Corbeil

Thank you for the reminder that a relaxing pose might not be relaxing to everyone and giving motion to accommodate those that experience anxiety. I wish I could just be still but I notice in every day life I doodle so that I can concentrate my attention, this is very much like that in that movement allows focus where sometimes stillness allows distraction.

Aracelly Latino-Feliz

Relaxation induced anxiety can take the focus out of a soothing session or pose and be very distracting and uncomfortable to students that may have this. I like the functionality of this pose and I’ve never tried it this way. The position of the arms really helps to slow down the movement and brings awareness to the breathe. By slowing down the breathing rate, it also helps regulate heart rate thus calming the body. Useful tools for everyday use. Thanks for sharing.

Mary Eileen

What great advice for those with anxiety. Sometimes just attending a yoga class is stressful enough for beginners.

Gabriela

As a person with a history of anxiety attacks, I truly enjoy this bridge variation. Firstly, the combination of the motion (hips and arms lifting) provides a great way to pace the breathing, secondly, I can go deeper on the breathing as you should be doing this movement slowly, carefully and really aware of what’s happening. Whenever I feel anxious either on yoga class or on every day life, I do this pose. Also, i use this pose a lot when I am teaching a late afternoon yoga class, at the begging part of the class. It helps people pace… Read more »

Angelika

That is interesting point of view and interesting answer for our “WHY”. However many people, espacially women, practicing yoga or dance, are very flat in their thoratic spine. That is my example. In that case I would suggest to lay downe prone with a midium soft ball under the chest. The ball pres to the chest and forces me to bring my breath to the back of my ribs. It is really great way to work on a breath and thoratic flexion as well.

Miriam Rigney

Bridge lifts are great to teach many aspects of yoga from anatomical cues to breath awareness. I have come across students however, that really do not like bridge pose ( static version) – describing feelings of exposure/ ‘ just don’t like it’. The dynamic bridge lifts are a less threatening option to work toward slowly with these students.

Erin Hoien

I have a good friend who would always leave before savasana. The anxiety he felt, even knowing he was about to be still overwhelmed him. Now, we do a technique like this when ‘savasana’ has small linked movements. It’s been an amazing learning experience.

sara

Is there a particular advantage to using bridge lifts as the movement component for reducing anxiety? Do you find that movement sequence as a non threatening way to transition in to lying in savasana? Thank you!

Missy

I am a firm believer in the power of breath to reduce anxiety. I have worked in the mental health field for 15 years; many of my clients have been diagnosed with anxiety disorders or PTSD; teaching relaxation techniques, especially breath control, is an extremely helpful intervention. Many clients with history of trauma have difficulty remaining in the present moment and live most of their life in a state of high-anxiety. The feedback from these clients has been that practicing breath control, learning to take long, deep breaths, has allowed them to feel more calm overall.