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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Ariel Kiley

Ariel Kiley is an NYC-based yoga and meditation teacher, teacher trainer, published author, and IAYT certified Yoga Therapist. Ariel is spokesperson and program designer for Equinox Fitness Clubs Regeneration classes. She created the 2018 "Yoga Fundamentals" program on She is a lead teacher trainer for the fitness therapy system Yoga Tune Up®. Ariel also is co-creator and co-director of the Dou Yoga 200-hour teacher training. Ariel has published numerous posts and articles on the topics of yoga, meditation and yoga therapy. Additionally she co-authored the book Smitten: The Way of the Brilliant Flirt about self-realization and dating (Chronicle 2013). She has been featured on Extra!TV, CNN, NY Daily News and has worked as yoga consultant to the TV show The Affair. Ariel specializes in stress reduction and Somatic Experiencing® trauma resolution.

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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.

Jen F.

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!

Abigail Stevenson

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!

natalie JP

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.

gabrielle archer

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!

Linh Taylor

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!

Nadjiba Medjaoui

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

Amanda M

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.

pam everson

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.

Alicia Martinez

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 Psycho\Social 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.

Kevin Nguyen

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.

Sophie Maranda

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!

rebecca miller

So today in TT of YT we explored muscles. The antagonist muscle is psoas & quads vs active muscle psoas & glutes max.

Nicole Quibodeaux

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!

Frances Rothenberg

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.

Michelle B

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!

Allison Shapiro

I love the sensational of whooshing the hips up with a powerful breath. It’s an awesome sensation – very uplifting. Just like you, Ariel!

Michelle Dalbec

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… Read more »

Marilyn gibson

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.

Amanda Joyce

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… Read more »

Anna-Marie Lawrence

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… Read more »


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.

will cristobal

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.

Yoga Nidra for Kids - How to Teach Your Kids Yoga Nidra | Yoga Tune Up

[…] How to reduce anxiety – Read the article. tweetmeme_url = ''; 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… Read more »


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.

Sharon Stockla

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!

pete lee

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!

Alex Ellis

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!

Allison McCready

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… Read more »

Terry Littlefield

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… Read more »

Luke Sniewski

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.