As the number of COVID-19 deaths continues to rise and people remain in quarantine — our lives on an indefinite pause — we may find it difficult to untangle our thoughts and tackle resulting anxiety and depression. Perhaps some cardio, coffee with a friend, or chatting with coworkers used to be effective tricks to managing stress and anxious feelings, but now it’s all on us; we are our own solution. Practicing yoga every day can help us achieve some inner calm that many of us need in between those conference calls and the frantic grocery store runs in our makeshift masks.  

According to a Harvard Medical School publication, yoga modulates stress response systems, which in turn reduces heart rate and lowers blood pressure to healthier levels. The practice can reduce perceived stress and anxiety and it functions as “self-soothing techniques” like relaxation, exercise or socializing. 

In the midst of the virus, the uncertainty of tomorrow has left us in a bleak reality. Unfortunately, we sometimes speak negatively, think pessimistically and convince ourselves we are unsafe during this time.   

The problem is that repetitive negative thinking is linked to depression and anxiety, according to a study cited by the National Institutes of Health. Worry is a form of this negative thinking, and excessive worrying is a critical facet of generalized anxiety disorder, research shows. Ruminating on negative thoughts following stressful events has been linked to the onset of depression in adults, according to the study. To tackle these issues, this several thousand-year-old tradition that works on the mind, emotion, body and energy may lend some help. 

As a certified yoga instructor, I’ve learned how each pose can stimulate a muscle, a mood or an entirely new mindset. In a time when nearly every fitness center is shut down, pulling out a mat and turning up that meditative playlist can deliver a benefit or two. If you’ve never practiced yoga, the steps below can guide you on some basic but critical moves for relaxation and detoxification.   

Clear Electronics and Other Distractions from Your Yoga Space 

Place a yoga mat in a comfortable space and minimize distractions. If you don’t have a mat you can fold a bath towel.Staying off your phone and computer is essential or you’ll rob yourself of the peace. If you need gadgets for the music, then turn up the volume, place it away from view and silence notifications. 

Close your Eyes and Meditate. Focus on the Present and Your Spiritual Energy

Sit on your mat with your spine tall and hands on knees. Alternatively, you can lay flat on your back, in savasana pose. After a few minutes, open your eyes, slowly transition up to a seated position and inhale and exhale slowly and deeply three times.  

Begin Small, Slow Movements to Wake Up Tense Muscles  

Rest your chin on your chest and slowly roll your head clockwise, making as big a circle as you can. Then inhale as you lift shoulders up toward your ears and then push back creating a half circle motion. Allow shoulder blades to scrunch together and meet in the middle of your back. As you exhale, bring shoulders back down and forward to regular level, and repeat. 

Move into Stretches with Sun Salutations

Downward facing dog pose has been found to strengthen abdominal muscles. For this pose get on all fours, with your knees and hands on that mat. Keep knees hip-width apart and slowly move your feet back to increase your length. Keep hands firmly on the mat, flex your toes and lift knees off the floor. 

Continue lifting them as your drop your head downward and find a new gaze somewhere between your legs. Try not to recall your schedule for the day; instead focus on thinking positive thoughts and planning for the distant future. 

Stretch those calves and push your heels into the earth. You can feel the heat as your core strengthens. 

Upward Pose to Lift Your Core 

To transition to upward facing dog pose, place knees back on the mat, then rest your entire frontal body on the mat. Place palms on the mat shoulder width apart, and lift torso and knees upward, keeping only your hands and feet on the mat. Follow your gaze from the floor to the sky. Hold the stretch for at least five seconds. 

Fast and Rigorous or Slow and Still? Your Choice 

Venture other poses if you’re feeling creative. But if deep breathing and basic moves are enough to clear your head, then you can end where you started, in a seated position or savasana. Whichever poses you work on and for however long, the key ingredient is removing yourself from electronics and stress, and instead granting yourself private space and time to hone in on your practice.