How to craft a yoga sequence to help anxiety

A short personal practice can make all the difference to a student with anxiety. Here's how ...

I recently wrote a blog about teaching yoga to students with anxiety. Most of the yoga teachers I’ve been speaking to since then have told me that more and more students are experiencing the symptoms of anxiety.


These students are coming to yoga classes to help them manage their symptoms and while many find temporary relief during a group yoga class, most find it challenging to maintain the same feelings of well-being after they have left the yoga room. 


So, how can we help our students with anxiety to manage the symptoms while they are going about their daily lives?

For many students, the answer is to do a daily personal practice.


Both yoga teachers and students often shy away from a personal practice because they think it means finding 90 minutes each day to do the same kind of workout that would be offered in a general yoga class.


That could not be further from the truth. An effective personal practice, especially for students experiencing anxiety, can take no more than 10 or 12 minutes. It doesn’t have to be complicated and students will actually benefit more from a simple practice that is easy for them to do at home. They don’t even need a yoga mat, let alone a special yoga space, in order to do a practice that can make all the difference to how they feel during the day.


A personal practice for anxiety


A personal practice helps you as the teacher to be sure that the student is practicing in a way that is helpful for managing their anxiety. While there are many yoga techniques that can be supportive in managing anxiety symptoms, there are other techniques that can actually exacerbate those symptoms. A short and carefully targeted practice can make sure your student is getting exactly what they need.


While the practice needs to be tailored to the needs of each individual student, it is a good idea to incorporate physical movements, breathing practices, and concentration/meditation techniques in a practice for managing anxiety. 


Start by meeting the student where they are at - people with anxiety often have very busy brains, and so a practice that starts with more active components can be helpful for keeping the student engaged. 


Through the process of synchronising movement with breath and focusing the attention on that process, students can begin to settle their thoughts, relax the body, and regulate the breath. For example, a simple vinyasa such as cat to cow or standing and raising the arms, then folding into a standing forward band can be a great way to begin a practice.


You can also ask a student what their favourite postures are so that you can incorporate practices that they enjoy into their routine, giving them something to look forward to! Of course, if your student’s favourite posture is a very strong pose such as a headstand or full wheel backbend, you may want to ask them to choose a more gentle posture. This short therapeutic practice is not designed to prepare students for demanding poses.


When the process of moving breath and body together has started to settle a students mind, they may feel ready to engage in a simple pranayama practice to regulate the breathing. This is not always necessary, especially for students who feel anxious when they focus on their breath.


However a simple pranayama such as nadi shodana can be helpful if the student enjoys it. For students with anxiety, a more active meditation can sometimes be helpful. This might be a mantra or a moving meditation or even a simple chanting practice.


While there is no one size fits all yoga practice for all students living with anxiety, there are some common principles that can help you to craft a sequence that is supportive of them. 


If you would like to learn how to safely teach students with anxiety, you can join Adore Yoga founder - Nikola Ellis, for a LIVE Online Workshop that will introduce you to the key techniques and principles of teaching yoga for anxiety.

The FREE Yoga Therapy for Anxiety workshop is live at 9:30 am to 12:30 pm (Sydney time), Sun 11 April.

To reserve your spot (places are limited), follow the link below. 

Sign up now