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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I often use bridge lifts to help my clients turn on their glutes muscles and fell the difference in glute contracting in the pose and hamstring contraction/activation. I love the idea of rolling the spine and flexion in shoulders, add some upper body movement to work on coordination. This is also brilliant for those who cant work on breathing while being still, will have to use this with my athletes.
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.
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.
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!
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!
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!
Movement and breath to reduce anxiety ….. tuning into your breath while releasing your body . Excellent !
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!
Nice post! I’ll keep bridge lifts in mind to help release. Thanks
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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! 🙂
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.
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 !
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!
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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!
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!
It is amazing how people cannot let go and just RELAX. Did these last night with my students and they loved it.
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.
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.
What great advice for those with anxiety. Sometimes just attending a yoga class is stressful enough for beginners.
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 them selves on breathing, grounding them after a full day at work.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
Great blog! It’s a great way for me to begin classes with my students linking breath to movement. Thank you, for writing and sharing.
I have “self-medicated” my anxiety with this pose for years. At times when I’ve been sick or felt weak, this was my yoga. It is one of my favorite things to teach, as it is accessible for everyone from toddlers to senior citizens.
One of my favorite poses! This is a great way to calm, slow down and relax young students with emotional or behavioral issues. Thank you for the post and video!
Bridge has always been one of my favorite poses because it both energizes me and gives me great relief! I am a New Yorker and tend to lean towards the anxious side more times than I would like and adding the Yoga Tune Up version of bridge lifts to my at home practice would be beneficial to my sanity. I am going to try some now. Thank you!
One of my favorite poses!
I’m newly exposed to tune-up and the struggle I’m having is how to integrate it into a flow based practice. I still see a place for flow yoga practices, and bridge lifts can be used to coordinate movement with breath, and I agree, busy the mind, to not only calm anxiety but to encourage letting go of unnecessary thoughts which hinder abilities to intuitively feel their physical body.
I teach prenatal yoga and new moms are mostly all, very anxious about their pregnancies and the birth of their child. they do need to practise breathing while supine, in the event that they birth this way and some moms are freaked a bit by the vena cava — which is subject to a whole other blog! Thank you for this great idea — I can have my moms breathe, de-stress, open up some space, maybe even turn a breech baby all in one go!
Dynamic bridge is such a great anxiety reliever and a great way to help students connect with their breath. I like doing this pose with teens and cueing a slow rise in the body matched to the slow rise in the breath, a slow controlled release of spine to mat linked with a slow release of the breath. Amazing how quickly it calms them down and focuses their attention – also reinforces that breath control is a great calming skill in their toolbox for use whenever they need it.
I very much relate to the benefits of linking the breath with bridge lifts to reduce anxiety. I personally suffer from generalized anxiety disorder and this is one of physical ways I am often able to calm my body and bring my mind back to the present moment! Thanks for the interesting article!
I have students in Power class who always leave right before savasana, so I told them that it’s going to be an active and conscious savasana, so they stayed to check it out. I walked everyone through complete yogic breathe during savasana for several weeks in a row and haven’t lost those students early since then.
Combining movement and breath specifically for people who have anxiety problems and experience stillness as discomfort is a new approach to me. I had never heard of Relaxation Induced Anxiety before and will certainly educate myself further around this topic. Thank you for sharing!
That’s a great way to teach breathing for anxious students…it is right that just the idea of being still stress some people. thank you
This makes so much sense, the combination of breath and movement provide focus, being able to open the front of the body, while maintaining the support of the back body and being inverted is a wonderful combination to ease anxiety.
I’ve noticed this in myself when holding planks, I tell people I don’t like t hold planks because it gives me too much time too think and anxiety comes out during these moments. I much prefer doing planks with movement, similar concept to these bridge lifts.
I tried this after I saw the video, and it totally helped me to relax! I will try this now when I can’t sleep!
sometimes stillness can be the very source of one’s anxiety especially if a student does not have a regular meditation practice. Thoughts can creep in to the mind and deter from the breath; keeping a steady movement while practicing breathing can open up the mind and clear those anxious thoughts as well. Thank you for the article.
Thank you Ariel for this post!! I love this YTU pose. I love how much it has helped me. I’ve suffered from anxiety dysorder for many years, struggling to breath in stressful situations. This has given me an amazing tool to control my breathing, listen to my body and calm myself down. When I started practising yoga, lying down still was very challenging for me, and I had little focus to my breathing, the movement in Bridge Lifts helps me to connect with it and focus.
This makes so much sense! I often put fluid bridge-lifts into my classes when I feel there is an anxious energy/bhav in the room or when I myself feel a little anxious. I knew that breathing can help with anxiety but I did not know that lying down and being still can actually bring up anxiety, very eye opening, thanks!
Bridge Lifts are absolutely fantastic. During the inhalation segment of this pose, looking at the connection between the Psoas, the Diaphragm, and the Intercostals, this dynamic pose is a gold mine.
As for breathing and anxiety, YTU techniques and Yoga in general have the potential of becoming an ally for PsychoSocial approaches in alleviating this symptom of anxiety.
A little less anxiety is better than a little more. The ability to manage the direction of the change? Priceless.
Thanks for sharing.
This pose actually not only that it warms up my whole body but it helps me to breathe more deeply since the spine is in extension, the diaphram is more open to have more freedom of movements. I feel more revived after doing this asana.
I wonder if Bridge Lifts are also beneficial for anxiety-ridden practitioners because it lengthens the abdominal muscles? Knowing that anxiety is often expressed through nauseous stomach, this activation might release this feeling? Thoughts? I know that using the YTU Coregeous Ball is useful in relieving trigger points in the abdomen, helping to release any adhesions in the diaphragm and the psoas – thus facilitating breathing. Every high school-aged teen should have this practice..
This is an excellent way to focus attention on the breath and to regulate and keep it linked to the movement. Perfect for people with anxiety who might need the overt physical focus to remain present with their breath. This is straightforward and makes a lot of sense.
This is an excellent way to focus attention on the breath and to regulate and keeping it linked to the movement. Perfect for people with anxiety who might need the overt physical focus to remain present with their breath. This is straightforward and makes a lot of sense.
Bridge lifts with uddiyana bahnda is my “new” favorite YTU pose. Damn! My abs have been all rusty crusty and land locked since a c-section 6 years ago. I have ONLY felt “normal” upside down (so I do a lot of handstand and tripod headbands in my practice) but this pose…well , I can’t lie down now without my body craving this deep freedom in the diaphram/TVA,,,with out thinking, I did it at my aunts country club this week…on the beach…you should have seen the look on her face…hahahaaaha!
So today in TT of YT we explored muscles. The antagonist muscle is psoas & quads vs active muscle psoas & glutes max.
I absolutely love this movement with breath and incorporate it into my classes often. I use it to teach breath/movement pattern (vinyasa) but I didn’t look at it from the perspective of alleviating stress or the idea. Thanks!
I find that linking breath to movement is very calming to most students. I frequently use “moving bridge” in my gentle yoga classes to get the students to connect their breath to movement in a dynamic and integrative way prior to moving into more static postures.
So many people come to yoga to heal, especially if they have problems with anxiety and catching their breath in a panic attack. Lying still (especially in a hot yoga room with lots of other bodies) used to make me anxious. Once I was able to connect the movement to my breath, and focus my attention the anxiety went away–in class and in life!
I love the sensational of whooshing the hips up with a powerful breath. It’s an awesome sensation – very uplifting. Just like you, Ariel!
Ariel – Thanks so much, I LOVE this article! I love this moving pose, and I am loving the YTU Level I training. We did this move the other day in practice and it brought me right back home. I teach Kripalu yoga and this is a move we use frequently. Breath coordinated with movement is a hallmark of Kripalu Yoga, I describe it to my students it’s a moving meditation. The body is always in motion, with every breath the body is expanding and contracting, rising and falling, it’s our human nature. For me when I combine a gentle repetitive movement with a conscious slow deep breath it is bliss.
Ariel; I have always liked this pose. Now i have a better understanding of why. I have always felt very calm when i am in this pose and following this pose. Now i know why and can share it with my students.
Hi there! I was so happy to read this blog! I think subconsciously/intuitively I’ve figured out this trick of adding movement to breath with some of my clients in the past, however, it feels good to read this and have validated what I thought just kind of worked in those moments. I’ve also sometimes felt I was softening the blow of what I thought could be perceived as “hippy dippy” breathing stuff (by those not exposed to pranayama or necessarily open to Yoga techniques) by accessorizing it with movement. I’m not very knowledgeable about General Anxiety Disorder and knowing now that introducing breathing techniques can be a trigger for some people, I’ll better be able to keep an eye out and have movement as a tool! Wooop! Thank you!
Any one who knows me well would have to say that I don’t know how to sit down for a moment. I have almost mastered the art of multi-tasking, and yet I enjoy practicing yoga. I am full of contradictions, and perhaps this is what keeps my perfectionistic anxiety riddled brain on some level of calm throughout the day. If I am not able to manage at least 30 mins. of practice a day I feel it. I don’t sleep well, my body aches even my allergies act up, so perhaps this is my secret to success and I didn’t even notice. Thanks for the reminder.
Resting one’s back on the floor – automaticly puts you at ease releasing stress. Now to invite this breath work and to coordinatie it with hip raises is even better. Because when you are anxious you want to calm down but sometimes just remaining still is not enough. This excersie allows both movement and rest play via breath work – the perfect convo.
i love this exercise! it goes soooo naturally with the breath. i love teaching this and cueing it as “do the wave at a ball game.”
The simplicity of linking breath and movement can be so challenging to participants who are very disconnected from their bodies – Bridge lifts offer a gentle way of organizing the body, strengthening and balancing the body – and opening it with the breath – and the repetition of the pose allows for expansion of the breath each and every time as the pelvis presses through a little more. NIce.
[…] How to reduce anxiety – Read the article. tweetmeme_url = 'http://www.yogatuneup.com/blog/2011/04/22/yoga-nidra-kids/'; Share Bookmark on Delicious About This Author Jill is the creator of Yoga Tune Up®. Having studied Yoga, Dance, and Body Movement for more than 24 years she created the Yoga Tune Up® format to help people find and heal trouble areas before debilitating breakdowns occur. Jill teaches workshops and retreats internationally, is a longtime faculty member of the Omega Institute, and has traveled nationally choreographing programs for Discovery Health Channel. The L.A. Times calls her "kinetically arresting”. For more info on Jill go here. View RSS feed […]
What a great trick! I’m so happy to find a way to slow it down, relax and breathe while still feeling like I am getting some physical benefits. I will definitely use this in my practice as well as share it with others.
This is a great idea. So many times when you’re stressed out, or anxious, people will just tell you to “relax.” I’ve been there, and it only makes your anxiety increase. I’ve learned that focusing on my breathing helps to calm down a lot. A simple exercise like this is great and I am excited to give it a try next time.
Along with all the great benefits of this exercise, this is a creative way of allowing students to work on their breath without getting bored or anxious about it. And for those people who come to yoga for fitness, they may be happy that they are doing more than just breathing.
Lying still has always been a challenge for me. I could not agree more that the breathing accompanied by movement is an excellent way to distract the brain and reduce anxiety. I’ve found that while doing bridge lifts the rainbow action of the arms helped to deepen and lengthen they breath. I particularly love that after a few repetitions my body and breath feel as if they’re floating!
This is wonderful! Thanks for sharing this, Ariel! This is a like a dynamically restorative pose accompanied with a deeply grounding pranayam. The posture itself – starting in ardha savasana then bridge lifts offers a really nice and gentle inversion, nourishing the heart and upper channels through the brain. The feet being on the floor is already grounding. Then, the breath carries and distributes the goodness all around. All that, plus the flexing of the shoulders creating an energetic aura cleanse, releasing tension and anxiety, then grounding back onto the floor. It’s a beautiful and moving meditation. Thank you Jill!
This is such a great idea of tricking people into relaxing! I know of many people who are absolutely terrified at the thought of Savasana, yet asking them to breathe and move may be more approachable. Thanks!
This is a great article about teaching breathing through movement. I have not had the opportunity to work with students that have specific anxiety disorders, but I know that when teaching any student, especially beginners, how to breath, movement is essential. The movement helps to open the breath and the whole exercise becomes a moving, breathing meditation as the student begins to understand the importance of linking the movement to the breath. I have used this particular dynamic pose quite often, but didn’t know it had a name – I just always call it moving in and out of bridge with the breath! 🙂
I have heard this pose called dancing bridge and I love it. I never realized it was a great pose for anxiety issues. I just know it feels good and people in my class enjoy doing it. It’s nice because all levels of practitioner can do this successfully. By sneaking in deep, conscious inhales and exhales, this pose becomes a must for anyone stressed out, which is everyone I know. I also like that this pose can be done anywhere with or without the props. I know a lot of people that struggle with anxiety issues and this is a great pose for me to teach them when they get more anxious thinking they have to practice yoga an hour and a half every day to begin to find relief.
More testimonial stories like this need to be here to truly show the drastic impact YTU is having on the lives of so many people. Thanks for sharing this one with the community.
…what a beautiful combination of breath and movement.
I can see many yogis appreciating this sequence, whether anxious or not.
So true. Many people I know who quit yoga quit because they feel anxious or annoyed that they can’t relax. Deepening the breath allows the parasympathetic nervous system to kick in and relax the body to decrease the anxiousness that usually causes people to give up.
I love this! I taught this at the end of class tonight and it had a surprising sedative affect on them for savasana. Thank you for this post and video clip!
Genius! A lot of people come to yoga looking for relief from stress or anxiety. The worst outcome would be even more stress! This is a slick way of using a movement that can be nicely timed for slow, deep breath.